VisitMO editor's note: This article reprinted with permission of Missouri Life Magazine; to see the original content, please click here.
Columbia is the perfect destination for foodies, says Linda Kissam, a board member for the International Food, Wine, and Travel Writers Association. “Trendy, urban, flavorful and innovative come to mind when I think about Columbia,” she says. “It’s definitely the type of place foodies love. This hip city has a strong sense of self, emphasizing ‘local matters,’ especially when it comes to culinary offerings. It’s worthy of your time.”
Visit the Producers
The friendly farmers at Chert Hollow Farm, an organic vegetable farm just north of Columbia, and Pierpont Farms, a small family farm, pride themselves on growing food people love. Both farms, which are happy to host visitors, produce quality ingredients for Columbia’s restaurants, and Pierpont Farms even has a successful partnership with Boone Hospital. Patchwork Family Farms, a group of 15 hog farmers, raises hogs the traditional way, without antibiotics or growth hormones and with plenty of access to fresh air and sunshine. Their pork products are sold in locally owned natural food stores. Columbia’s best chefs create delightful dishes with Patchwork Pork.
But that’s not all. Columbia offers scrumptious, locally produced goods. Patric Chocolate, a craft chocolate company, has been churning out wonderful batches of handmade chocolate-bars since 2006. Patric makes chocolate from scratch – directly from the cocoa bean. In 2010, Food & Wine magazine recognized Patric Chocolate as the “Best New American Chocolate.” Patric is considered one of the top artisan chocolate makers in America. Another chocolate contender is The Candy Factory, a Columbia favorite since 1974. The Candy Factory makes small-batch confections such as chocolate-covered strawberries and gourmet truffles.
Columbia even has its own coffee roaster. Lakota Coffee Company hand roasts small batches of coffee beans every day, offering the freshest coffee possible.
Also, the Columbia area has gourmet cheese and honey. Goatsbeard Farm crafts several artisan cheeses from its herd of 50 goats. Try the fresh, creamy goat cheese; also, the Walloon–an aged, hard cheese with a nutty flavor. Walk-About Acres is a small farm that produces and sells honey and honey ice cream.
Visit the Markets
Then you can buy all these great, locally grown and produced items at farmers markets and local natural food and specialty stores.
The Columbia Farmers Market has more than 90 vendors selling meats, vegetables, fruit, canned goods, and other items Saturday mornings, April thru November, and Monday and Wednesday evenings, May thru October.
Clovers Natural Market sells organic produce and gourmet goods. In the North Village Arts District, the Root Cellar provides a diverse selection of Missouri products.
Also, Columbia has a selection of ethnic food stores such as Chong’s Oriental Market (701 Locust Street), which sells specialty Asian ingredients, from meat and seafood to produce and dried goods. For Mediterranean and Middle Eastern fare, check out the Olive Café and Food Store (21 N. Providence Road). This charming market & café serves freshly prepared meals and sells packaged goods from the Mediterranean and Middle East.
Visit the Restaurants
But the best way to discover Columbia's food treasures is by tasting them. In Columbia, it’s not just our high-end restaurants that use fresh, local ingredients; it’s also found in our cafes, diners, and brewpubs.
Café Berlin is a favorite breakfast spot known for its locally sourced organic menu. Try the “Butch” Jones, a small pancake-burrito stuffed with sausage made with apples, garlic, red onion, Patchwork andouille sausage, cinnamon, and maple syrup. Head to Lucy’s Corner Café (522 E. Broadway), which serves Patchwork pork alongside pancakes the size of a dinner plate. Fresh bread and pastries are baked daily at Uprise Bakery, plus they serve soups, salads, and sandwiches worthy of your attention.
For healthy food to feel good about, try Main Squeeze Natural Foods Café. You’ll find organic, vegetarian and vegan fare sourced from more than a dozen farms within 50-mile of Columbia. Try the Buddha Bowl: rice, tofu, cabbage, broccoli, carrot, scallions, sesame seeds, and sprouts.
At Murry’s Restaurant and Jazz Club, the extensive menu includes delicious sandwiches, such as the Philly Cheese Steak, and juicy hamburgers made with Show-Me Farms beef. Everyone likes the thinly sliced Mom’s Onion Rings, and Brock’s Green Pepper rings–battered green pepper slices, topped with powdered sugar.
If it’s beer you are looking for, you’re in luck. Columbia has two brewpubs. Broadway Brewery is a local favorite, and it’s no surprise why. The brewpub has a rotating seasonal menu that uses ingredients from local farmers to craft dishes such as pulled pork made with slow-smoke Patchwork pork, Goatsbeard cheese, and house barbecue sauce. Plus, you’ll find a variety of house-brewed beer from the Pale Ale and Wheat Beer to the Extra Special Bitter and Porter. Flat Branch Pub & Brewing brews an ever changing array of craft beers such as Katy Trail Pale Ale, Honey Wheat, and Oil Change Stout–there are always at least 10 on tap. The beer is always fresh, and the food is always good. Flat Branch has a large, shaded outdoor patio.
Though Sycamore Restaurant doesn’t brew its own beer, its beer menu is refined and extensive, and the restaurant offers multi-course beer dinners. Sycamore is committed to crafting culinary creations from local and wholesome food. Sycamore prides itself on serving seasonal, market-driven foods, providing local produce, cheese, meat, and other products from the Columbia area. Also, 44 Stone Public House, an English-style gastropub, hosts beer dinners; its beer list offers a plethora of domestic and imported craft beers. The menu is inspired by the food one might find in an English, Irish, Scottish or Welsh public house–more refined than standard pub food.
For wine lovers, nothing beats an evening at Les Bourgeois Bistro Restaurant, perched atop a bluff overlooking the Missouri River, 15 minutes west of Columbia. You’ll find dishes such as the hand-rolled orecchiette pasta with lamb sugo, almond lamb sausage, herb whipped feta, and braised kale; that and the gorgonzola cheesecake pair beautifully with Les Bourgeois’s estate bottles wines. Norton is a favorite robust red, and the LaBelle is a crisp white wine. The real winner is the Brut Sparkling Wine, a 2011 gold medal winner at the Tasters Guild Wine Competition. In downtown Columbia, enjoy a candle-lit dinner at the Wine Cellar & Bistro, another wine-inspired gem with more than 1,000 bottles of wine in-house. The Wine Cellar & Bistro serves a market-inspired menu using local ingredients whenever possible.
You are sure to enjoy Bleu Restaurant & Wine Bar any day, or night, of the week; and it is a great spot for your next special occasion. Though Bleu has an inventive, upscale menu that is sophisticated and the atmosphere is big city, you’ll find the restaurant to be approachable and casual as well. The large patio is very inviting.
Columbia is a tasty place, that's for sure! From our farms to our
markets, and especially our restaurants, we define ourselves through
fresh food, produced locally with care and attention. Discover your own food treasures...in Columbia.