The restaurant scene in Columbia is as big and bold as the flavors of the local cuisine. With many locally owned restaurants, Columbia residents have plenty of options to choose from to satisfy their eager taste buds.
In this post, I’ll be awarding my “best of the best,” chosen from among several popular restaurants in Columbia and telling you what dishes make my mouth water.
Best Columbia Staple
Shakespeare’s Pizza gets my vote for “Best Columbia Staple” for its long and dedicated journey of providing hungry college students with a big slice of cheesy heaven.
Since 1973, this pizza joint downtown has been serving up Columbia’s favorite pizza. Located adjacent to the University of Missouri’s campus and on busy 9th Street in The District, Shakespeare’s brings in many students and other hungry locals.
What makes my mouth water? The “Masterpiece” pizza piled up with red onions, Canadian bacon, mushrooms, black olives, green peppers, Italian sausage and ground beef.
Most Diverse Cuisine
Room 38 wins “Most Diverse Cuisine” in my book for linking together savory selections – and the cultures they represent – from opposite ends of the globe.
This downtown restaurant offers what it defines as “modern global” cuisine; it takes flavors from all over the world and brings them together for a beautiful dining experience. Some might say it’s odd to have items like Shrimp and Scallop Po’Boy and Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps on the same menu, but no one in Columbia seems to care. Room 38 does it, and they do it well.
What makes my mouth water? My taste buds applaud the lobster mac n’ cheese and gooey butter cake topped with fresh strawberries.
Best Date Night Restaurant
Chris McD’s Restaurant and Wine Bar gets the “Best Date Night Restaurant” award for its elegant and bold food options and romantic atmosphere.
This hidden gem is located just a few minutes from downtown, on Forum Boulevard. Chris McD’s should be your next destination for a juicy steak or savory seafood dinner.
What makes my mouth water? I suggest the grilled beef tenderloin filet with sautéed rock shrimp and asparagus in a creamy Gorgonzola sauce. For dessert, the melt-in-your-mouth crème brulee tickles my taste buds in all the right ways.
Most Authentic Cuisine
Bangkok Gardens gets my nod for “Most Authentic Cuisine,” thanks to its bold, Thai-inspired flavors and bringing a little spicy to Mid-Missouri.
From steamed dumplings to coconut curry, Bangkok Gardens does not disappoint on the flavor scale. The large portions are easy to share and will disappear from your plate quickly.
What makes my mouth water? The green curry lo mein, made with onions, mushroom, lo mein noodles, green onions and basil.
Best Patio Atmosphere
I’m giving Flat Branch Pub and Brewing the “Best Patio Atmosphere” award for always giving me a comfy spot to sip a signature beer, eat until I’m completely stuffed and enjoy a beautiful Columbia afternoon.
Flat Branch is a local brewery with great food to complement great handcrafted beers. The outdoor beer garden is surrounded by curling vines and greenery, which separates it from the busy street and creates a tranquil dining atmosphere.
What makes my mouth water? My guilty pleasure is the Flat Branch burger, which is topped with chokes n’ cheese and served on a toasted artisan bun.
Historic Columbia Cuisine
I award Glenn’s Café for “Historic Columbia Cuisine” for bringing truth to the saying its “an oldie but a goodie.”
Glenn’s Café and Columbia have gone hand-in-hand since 1939. Although not in the original building, the original sign still serves as a beacon to Columbia natives, calling them in for delicious meal. Glenn’s Café serves up New Orleans style dishes like seafood gumbo and jambalaya.
What makes my mouth water? Secretly the best burger in Columbia, the 8th Street burger filled with braised beef short rib and smothered with bacon, cheese, tomato, greens and mustard.
Most Outdoor Fun
The Deuce Pub and Pit gets the “Most Outdoor Fun” award for bringing together food and sports, the perfect pairing in my opinion.
On the south side of Columbia, the Deuce Pub and Pit serves up fun with crispy bar food and outdoor activities to last through the night. The Deuce has two sand volleyball courts, bocce ball, washers and corn hole.
What makes my mouth water? You can’t go wrong with the “Best Damn Philly,” loaded with tender beef, pepper jack cheese, banana peppers and the special Deuce sauce.
Best Crossover Restaurant
In my book, Café Berlin gets “Best Crossover Restaurant” for serving both the early birds and night owls of Columbia.
Known for its delicious organic egg dishes, Café Berlin is a prime spot for breakfast. Recently, the restaurant has expanded and offered Columbia residents something just as delicious – a night menu.
What makes my mouth water? In the morning, try a pancake burrito, filled with eggs and bacon, served with maple syrup. At night, go for the pulled pork tacos covered in lime jalapeño cole slaw and a garlic tomatillo sauce.
I hope you didn’t drool all over your keyboard while reading about all of this delicious Columbia cuisine. Stop day dreaming and just take a drive to Columbia to taste it all yourself.
Written by Abbey Theban, Columbia resident and intern for the Missouri Division of Tourism.