Posted by The LunchMen Friday, October 22, 2010 4 comments

The rumors, sadly, are all too true. Nice n’ Natural, a Columbia tradition for over 28 years, is closing its doors. Long an oasis of nutritional lunch options for the health conscious living and working around the USC campus, Nice n’ Natural appears to have fallen victim to the stagnant economy and will be shutting its doors for good Friday, October 29, 2010. We learned of this sad news earlier today while enjoying a Friday Lunch on a perfect autumn day in the capital city. All of the Lunchmen (including frequent guest blogger Frodo) encourage all of you to head out to Nice n’ Natural next week for your last chance at their chicken salad, a fruit, nut and yogurt plate, or my personal favorite meatless Rueben. No word yet on the fate of Cool Beans Coffee, located directly above Nice n’ Natural (and home to totally legit lunch options in its own right). Thanks for 28 years guys, you’ll be missed.


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Posted by The LunchMen Thursday, October 14, 2010 0 comments

From time to time, people (including Mrs. Tank) question 1) whether beer and lunch really go together and 2) whether I should order a beer at lunch on a random Tuesday.  My answer: 1) of course they do, and 2) of course I should.  I’m not suggesting that you should drink three beers at lunch - unless you are about to go play 18 holes instead of going back to the office.  However, one beer should not throw you off your game unless you have the fortitude of Frodo (i.e. a 15-year-old girl).  In Frodo’s case, beer for lunch is a game changer, and he should avoid it at all cost to prevent professional humiliation.

Most people don’t scoff at wine and food pairings, and beer should be no different.  Rather, I’d bet that most things you eat at lunch in our fair city would pair better with beer than any wine.  Turkey sandwich with Pinot Gris?  Blah.  Turkey Sandwich with Shiner Bock?  Delicious.  Try having your beer brought out at the same time as your food at lunch, not before, so that you don’t chug it prematurely and so that the temperature stays right.  If you’ve got a lunch including of a lot of cheese or bread, you’ll be glad to have a beer that brightens it up instead than a sugary soda or a sweet tea, I promise.   Below you will see my top 25 beer for lunch pairings, in reverse order (unlike my companions, I can commit to a meaningful order).  This list focuses on pairings that are available at lunch, and I admit my list would look pretty different if we were talking Columbia dinners.  If you know of any good beer for lunch pairings I have not tried, shoot us a line so I can give it a go.

25.       The Kingsman: Grilled Beef Tips paired with Killian’s Irish Red Ale is a fine order when the pork chop special is not available at the Kingsman.

24.       Liberty Tap Room: Try the Dixie Chicken Sandwich paired with Liberty’s Unfiltered Wheat if you want to experience one of Liberty’s house beers.

23.       Mr. Friendly’s: Lowcountry Shrimp & Grits paired with Thomas Creek River Falls Red Ale is an excellent business lunch option with a local focus.

22.       M-Cafe: Sizzling Flank Steak paired with Sapporo lager is the best non-sushi beer for lunch pairing at M-Cafe.

21.       Casa Linda: I go for Soft Chicken Tacos paired with Dos Equis Amber – and I like lots of both.  Dos Equis is an easy session beer, and it makes you more interesting.

20.       Blue Marlin: Try the Southern Crispy Chicken Salad paired with Stella Artios lager, right after you enjoy a cup of the best she-crab soup in town.

19.       The Pizza Joint: Carnivore Pizza paired with Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale is a delicious duo, but it will ruin your diet and put you in a post-lunch coma.

18.       Carolina Ale House: Ordering the Greek Chicken Pita Wrap paired with Hoegaarden Belgium White Ale is a nice meal to enjoy on the outdoor top deck.

17.       Vella’s Restaurant and Tavern: Vella’s Beef Patty Melt sandwich paired with Sam Adam’s Boston Lager is the perfect play at an unpretentious spot like Vella’s.

16.       Panjabi Dhaba: Lamb Korma paired with Kingfisher lager is my favorite Indian meal – don’t be scared to turn the heat up on the korma and order an extra Kingfisher to douse the flames.

15.       The Mouse Trap: The Boneless Chicken Breast lunch special with Yuengling Lager is great.  However, you’ve got to stay on top of the lunch special calendar to know when to go.

14.       Cock-N-Bull: Tavern Wings paired with Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale is the top wing pairing you can make for lunch in Columbia (until the Publick House decides to do lunch).

13.       Solstice: Having a side of the Skillet Baked Smoked Gouda-Applewood Bacon Mac & Cheese paired with Chimay Blue is an indulgent experience – you’ve got to have it once.

12.       Delaney’s: Fish and Chips paired with Warsteiner Verum is a masterful play if you want to take advantage of the BOGO lunch at Delaney’s.

11.       Thirsty Fellow: Prosciutto and Fresh Mozzarella Sandwich paired with Franziskaner Hefe Weiss is a refreshing pairing, and its much quicker than waiting on the pizza at the Fellow.

10.       Pawley’s Front Porch: Going for the Fripp Island Burger paired with a Shipyard IPA combines the best of South Carolina’s and Maine’s coasts.

9.         Dano’s: The White Calzone w/ meatballs paired with Bass Ale is the only lunch order I have made at Dano’s in a long time.  They are slow in the prep, but the 'zone is worth it.

8.         Golden Chopstix: To my knowledge, the excellent pairing of Green Curry paired with Laotian Beerlao can only be found in town at this West Columbia institution.

7.         Tio’s Cafe: Tio’s Wet Burrito paired with Modelo Especial is delicious and sure to give you hours of heartburn.

6.         Sly Fox: The Smothered Steak Sandwich paired with Highland Gaelic Ale will be best enjoyed on a cold winter lunch, so wait for it to cool off some more.

5.         TakoSushi: Try the Unforgettable Roll paired with Kirin Ichiban – the Kirin cuts nicely through the cream cheese in the roll making for a balanced experience.

4.         Mojito’s: The Chimichurri French Dip paired with La Tropical Cuban pilsner is a perfect fit in the relaxed, island atmosphere of Mojito’s.  I like to face the “ocean” while it enjoy it.

3.         Flying Saucer: The sinfully excessive Saucer Bratzel paired with Ayinger Brau-Weisse is only for the truly bold at a lazy Friday lunch or while watching a late night football game.

2.         Hunter Gatherer: H-G’s Burger topped with Beer Cheese and paired with H-G’s house ESB is about as good as beer pairing gets in Columbia.  

1.         Julia’s German Stammtisch: Julia’s killer Reuben Sandwich paired with Spaten Optimator Dopplebock transports you straight to Munich, saving you lots of $$$ on airfare.

- Tank

Rabbit's Top 25 Lunch Salads in Columbia

Posted by The LunchMen Tuesday, October 12, 2010 9 comments

This, as you would expect from the Rabbit, is a list of 25 of my favorite lunch salads in Columbia. The list is in no particular order, and I have had to reluctantly leave off a few good ones out there (The Consumption Salad at Immac comes to mind, but it is already on the Publican's list). A few more disclaimers – (1) some places have a couple of remarkable salads, but only one will make the list. (2) A few of the restaurants may be considered “chains,” but they are locally owned franchises so hopefully the Publican will let it slide. Finally, (3) a few salads may not appear on the current versions of their restaurant’s menus, but I bet Tank’s upcoming bonus that they’ll make you one if you ask the waiter nicely. If you have suggestions to add to this list, or a gripe about a current selection, leave a comment, we’d love to hear about it. As always, happy dining.

No Name Deli
House Salad with Grilled Chicken
Garden Bistro
Summer Salad with Grilled Chicken
Hampton Place Café
House Pasta Caesar Salad
Gourmet Shop
Tuna and Penne Salad
Cobb Salad with Chicken
Andy's Deli
My Dear's Salad Bowl
El Burrito
Salad with Chicken
Mediterranean Tea Room
Salad with 5oz Grilled Chicken
The Other Store
Tedder Salad
Hoolie's House Salad
Mr. Friendly's
Friendly Salad
Pawley's Front Porch
Fried Oyster Salad
Salty Nut
Caesar Salad with Mahi
Supreme Chef
Tony's Downtown
Super Greek Salad
Mathias Sandwich Shop
Chef Salad
Zoe's Kitchen
Tossed Greek
Hampton Street Vineyard
Seared Scallop Salad
Motor Supply Co.
Grilled Asparagus and Brie Salad
Blue Marlin
BBQ Salmon Salad
Tako Sushi
Cucumber Salad Appetizer
Black n' Blue Salad
Greek Boys
George's Pasta Salad with Chicken
Nice n' Natural
Tuna Salad Plate
Turkey Bean Salad

The Publican's Top 25 Lunch Rankings

Posted by The LunchMen Wednesday, October 6, 2010 0 comments

In a new series, The Lunchmen rank their top 25 favorite lunch meals in Columbia.  There is only one rule: 1) No chain restaurants unless they originate in Columbia. 

This assignment caused me considerable consternation, because I'm notoriously indecisive and particularly so when it comes to ranking my preferences.  As a result, the order is somewhat arbitrary and has just as much to do with my feelings about the restaurants as the quality of the dish.  Additionally, I'm sure I left out one or more lunches that would take the place of some in this list; so we would invite you to comment on your favorite lunches in Columbia, and we will post a comprehensive list of reader favorites at the end of the series.  Also, feel free to lambaste us for our choices or praise our exceptionally good taste as you see fit.

With that in mind, here are The Publican's Top 25 Lunches:

1)       End Zone Grill f/k/a Jerry Kellys: chicken Mojo sandwich, curly fries
2)       The Kingsman: pork chop special, green beans, macaroni, rice and gravy, roll
3)       El Burrito: beef burrito, hot and deluxe (sour cream, lettuce and tomato), add fresh peppers, onions and extra hot salsa
4)       Tonys Downtown: meat lasagna, garlic bread, salad w/ thousand island dressing on side
5)       Miyos: mu shu pork, white rice
6)       Grouchos:  STP, chips (oh, how I miss those Wise potato chips...), half and half tea with LOTS of crushed ice
7)       Café Millwood (weekend brunch): country fried steak, two eggs over medium, grits and biscuit
8)       Immaculate Consumption: immaculate salad with honey mustard, side of pita bread
9)       Nice-n-Natural: chicken salad sandwich, gazpacho (summer), black bean soup with cheese (winter)
10)    Blue Cactus: bee bim bop, spicy pork, fried egg
11)    The Other Store:  greek turkey, chips, cookie
12)    Palmetto Pig:  buffet – pork, extra hot vinegar sauce, slaw (1-1 ratio to pork), green beans, hash and rice, hush puppies, pickles (dill and sweet), white bread
13)    Yesterdays:  salmon and grits, collard greens, corn bread
14)    Rockaways:  Rockaway burger, side salad with thousand island dressing
15)    Al Amir: Damascus hummus with chicken and vegetables
16)    Cock and Bull: shrimp burger, fries, beer
17)    Bangkok: green curry chicken
18)    Hunter-Gatherer: cheeseburger with horseradish cheddar, hashbrowns, ESB
19)    Hooligans: French dip, fries, sweet tea with LOTS of crushed ice (steal a chicken finger from an unsuspecting dining companion)
20)    Lizards Thicket (Sunday only):  turkey and dressing (extra cranberry), macaroni, green beans, sliced tomatoes, corn bread
21)    No Name Deli: chicken salad on toasted wheat with lettuce and tomato, fries or vinegar pasta
22)    Muchos Margaritas: sopes
23)    Danos:  1 slice Sicilian pizza, 1 slice pepperoni, house salad (comes with loads of mozzarella...)
24)    Carolina Café: Winston-Salem on toasted everything bagel, chips, pickle, orange slice
25)    Greek Boys:  chicken tips, rice, greek salad

As the great Charles Barkley would say, "suck on that, Anthony."

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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.