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CAFE STRUDEL - 118 State Street, West Columbia, SC

Posted by The LunchMen Monday, August 2, 2010

As you all know, the Lunchmen never eschew to a chance to visit our friends across the river, and last week was no different. It was our new clerk The Jolly Green Giant’s first day in the office, so we allowed him the honor of making an inaugural bold lunch call. We were all expecting the typical wing joint/bbq/sports bar request, but were pleasantly surprised when he threw out the idea of heading over the bridge to CafĂ© Strudel, anchor of the “Vista West” area of town.

Just about all of us had been to Strudel on Sundays for brunch, so we were all eager to give it a shot for a lunch hour destination. No doubt many of our readers are also familiar with the Sunday Brunch here, most likely having tried the “Hangover Hashbrowns” in an effort to soak up the previous night’s mistakes. This, however, was on a Monday, so no one had “tied one on” the night before (except maybe Kali).

For those of you who have never been there, Strudel is located in an older two-story building that obviously was not intended to be a restaurant. The rooms are small and crowded with seemingly randomly placed tables. We had a group of nine, and did not hold out any hope of being able to sit together. I think we ended up with a table of four, three, and two. However, the place is so small you are basically sitting at the same table with anyone on your floor.

Lunch is busy at the Strudel, and diners would be wise to order their food along with their drinks and save their harried waitress a second trip to your table. The management seems to realize how busy the staff is, as they provide the largest glasses in town for your beverages, ostensibly to cut down on the need for refills. Unfortunately for them, I drink un-sweet tea like Lindsey Lohan drinks rum punch, so even with the large glasses I still had about four helpings before the food was out.

Speaking of the food, this place really does make an effort to do everything well. They feature daily specials, some of which have become quite popular – such as the chilled peaches and cream soup and the BBQ Turkey Melt on and English Muffin. While a little on the artsy side in terms of atmosphere and clientele, the menu designers do not shy away heartier fare such as hotdogs, a taco burgers, and the aforementioned hashbrowns. Members of our group also tried the famous Martino Sandwich, a couple of salads, and the California Wrap.

As I mentioned, our party size forced us to split into 3 tables. Now, when this happens, many diners will try to choose a table based on location, comfort, and conversation potential. Not this guy. When we have to split up, I ALWAYS try to sit with Tank. Why? Simple, really: his proclivity to order and share items off the dessert menu. This outing offers a classic example. When we ordered our drinks, Tank asked for a piece of carrot cake and three forks “as an appetizer.” Soon thereafter our waitress brought in what appeared to be about 5/8 of an actual cake. It was bigger than Captain Understatement’s ego after a successful tennis match. My table, ever thankful for Tank’s boldness when it comes to sweets, dug in vigorously, happily spoiling our appetite in favor of this monstrosity of a dessert.

Unfortunately, the food that was to be our actual meal was admittedly underwhelming after we finished the carrot cake. It would be sort of like if KISS had to open for another band instead of headlining. How could the main act hope to follow such a performance? It, like our entrees, would be destined to pale in comparison. That’s not to say they can’t stand on their own, but no one should have to follow the Gene Simmons-esque awesomeness of a multi-pound slab of carrot cake appetizer. Next time we’ll know better and hold off on the cake until after the meal – or at least just make the cake the meal itself.

-Rabbit

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Rabbit, Tank, and The Publican are three dudes just trying to get through the work week here in Columbia. Rabbit is a Columbia native, Tank is from Charleston, and The Publican hails from Greenville. Rabbit's favorite lunch spot is the No Name Deli on Elmwood, where you may find him putting down a grilled chicken salad and a side of vinegar pasta. The Publican usually wants to find food to cure his all-too-common hangovers. Tank claims no favorite lunch spot - he lives for the thrill of the hunt.

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