HEAD-TO-HEAD: Columbia Meat & Threes (Part 2 of 3)

Posted by The LunchMen Friday, September 10, 2010

In this second installation of our Columbia Meat and Threes Head-to-Head, we are going to highlight what was probably the biggest disappointment for me in this challenge. I was convinced that we had done a pretty favorable post on Compton’s Kitchen before, a West Columbia institution that has been serving up Southern home style food since 1977. If we’ve previously written a post on Compton’s, I can’t find it on our blog (pathetic, I know). Well, things did not go as well this time around...

COMPTON’S KITCHEN - 1118 B Ave., W. Cola

I didn’t live in Columbia in 1977 (or ’97 for that matter), but Compton’s appears to be a place that has not changed much in the past 33 years. That is what the Lunchmen love about Compton’s. Every time we show up, we look like a bunch of clowns - I’ve finally learned to leave my tie in the car. The friendly staff knows most of their regulars by name, and we aren’t regulars. However, the staff serves both regulars and clowns equal doses of Southern hospitality.

Compton’s is a classic meat & three. Each day, Compton’s offers a list of proteins the majority of which are fried, and a long list of “vegetables.” I have to qualify the term “vegetable” because even chocolate pie is treated as a veggie when you order the meat & three. Kudos, Comptons - sometime a man needs a meat & two and a slice of pie.

Rabbit goes for a four veggie plate every time at Compton’s. This trip, he opted for squash, green peas, cabbage, and tomatoes. Rabbit liked his veggies - they were a serious improvement over Nathan’s veggies and sides. There is nothing sexy about how these veggies are prepared, mind you; the peas and the cabbage were boiled, the squash was stewed with onions, and the tomatoes were just sliced and seasoned. However, that is pretty standard for a run of the mill meat & three, and the result is good comfort food.

The Queen of Frozen Cuisine and I had the macaroni. It was delicious - tasting just the way my mother makes it. As always, I also had the green beans. They managed to get some decent seasoning into these canned/frozen beans, beating Nathan’s in that regard. The Publican had the broccoli casserole, which is quite good comfort food at well, even if it is a little heavy on the canned soup binder. And Compton’s biscuits are second in town only to the Capital City Club’s flaky delights. 

However, Compton’s completely crashed and burned on the proteins. The Queen’s pork chop left her wishing we had gone to the Kingsman instead. The Publican’s fried chicken was passable, but compared head-to-head with the other options in this challenge, it was lacking in juiciness and seasoning. Pizza the Hut and I both had the county fried steak again. It was an absolute train wreck. Can you see the "juice" pooling in the picture!?!  The steak had the consistency of an old dish sponge. It had nearly no flavor at all. To compensate for the lack of flavor, Compton's buried it in what I can only assume was a bottled/canned gravy that was completely unappetizing. The lack of any crunch or texture left me extremely disappointed with this steak. After spending the past year hoping to become a regular at this place, maybe even during the ellusive breakfast window, the country fried steak left me wondering why that was ever my goal at all.

The Publican brought me back from the edge by reminding me that 1) the sides are generally very good for a meat & three, 2) the price is reasonable, and 3) the atmosphere makes you feel like you are in Mayberry rather than Columbia. He is right on all three counts. I’ll keep going back to Compton’s, but I’ll never order that terrible steak again. Instead, I’ll be like Rabbit and go “vegetarian” for the day - a slice of pie included.

- Tank


  1. jcamp78 Says:
  2. I have to disagree on the fried chicken. I have eaten at Compton's probably 10 times, all in the last year. I have always gotten the fried chicken and found it to be quite delicious, some of the best in Columbia.

  3. Bach Pham Says:
  4. I always wanted to try Compton's when I was in Columbia, but never got the chance. Thanks for the review though, I'll know what to get when I do go whenever I'm back in town!

    I thought Southern Skillet had pretty good chicken, but I'm not a huge fan of anything else on their buffet line. Zestos is a personal favorite for its cost.

    Looking forward to the final post!

  5. Ben Says:
  6. Compton's is one of my favorites in town for meat & three but I usually head over on Monday's for the Chicken Pan Pie. It is a real treat and by far my favorite thing on the menu.

    I also recommend the Southern Skillet and the Vegetable Medley with the nod going to the Medley. The Medley's location makes it difficult to get to regularly because I work downtown and only get an hour for lunch.

    PS. Just found your blog recently and really enjoy it. Keep up the good work.


  7. Sidney Says:
  8. You need to try different proteins! The stew beef and rice (hint: ask for gravy too) is so good, I rarely order anything else. But for variation, the fried pork chop is great. Depending on your mood, I'm also fond of the stroganoff, chicken & dumplings, and...the spaghetti. The spaghetti is spot on comfort food, but I'm not sure it meshes well with the meat and three conceit, so I get it with a meat and two. And one of the two is dessert. :)

  9. The LunchMen Says:
  10. Thanks for all the input, I've learned two valuable lessons today: We need to stop putting off our trip to the Southern Skillet, and I need to stop ordering country fried steak at every meat & three I go to. Chicken & Dumplings sounds like a strong call that I'll be making next time I go to Compton's.

  11. The Publican Says:
  12. Ben,

    Vegetable Medley is a strong call - bold indeed to head to Platt Springs from downtown. The Lunchmen haven't visited, but I used to make my way out there every few months. My main complaint with the Medley is, like many of its BBQ buffet brethren, you feel compelled to stuff yourself to get your money's worth. They have to jack up the price to cover the cost of feeding some pretty "healthy" customers. I just hate subsidizing the house painter whose gut doubles as an inverted catch basin for Sherwin-Williams and gravy...

    - The Publican

  13. Ben Says:
  14. Publican,

    The Vegetable Medley moved to behind the Barnyard Flea Market about two years ago. I do agree with you about having to stuff yourself to get your monies worth.


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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.