The System

In the 1960s, social psychologist Stanley Milgram proposed a social-networking theory stating that any two individuals could be connected through a chain of six people. Since then, six degrees of separation has inspired a play, a movie and a game called Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. You can even search Wikipedia articles in a six degree fashion. For a tasty take on this theory, Vox tried to follow the trail of bread crumbs connecting servers, bartenders, chefs and owners in Columbia restaurants.

A restaurant closing up shop is a tale of heartache, and hunger. Though favorite dishes disappear, favorite seats are ripped up, and favorite regulars move on, some stomaches still grumble for food from restaurants past.

A restaurant’s business is more than making a good slice of pizza or a delicious plate of pasta. It’s about creating an atmosphere — a unique mood made up of quirks that a customer can’t find anywhere else. An antler hat rack or an empty beer bottle on the mantel can reveal a lot about a place’s history.
Sometimes a customer never discovers the reason behind a restaurant’s oddity. Someone could only know this privileged information if he or she had the lowdown.

Becoming a regular takes training. They have insider status cultivated by years of hard work, flawless attendance and money in the till. The other diners look at the regulars and think they know the food, get the perks and sit in the prime locations. In the words of Napoleon Dynamite, “Luck-eey!”

The secret to a great restaurant is in the ingredients. Uniqueness is the base; it rarely works if someone in town has the same idea. Mix in a heavy heaping of hard work, a handful of quality and a dash of style, and the result is a top-notch eatery. But with so many restaurants in town, Vox set out to answer the burning question: Which restaurants have this recipe, and who follows it best?

We’re letting you in on some of the hottest deals around. No matter the day of the week, there are always deals around town from appetizers and drinks to coffee and sweets. Hopefully after trying some of these, you’ll be able to keep your wallet full with cash to spare. So now just ask yourself: deal or no deal?

Addison’s at 10:20 p.m. on a Saturday is what late night eating should be. Diners sample chocolate martinis and munch on pepper jack cheese fries. Trendy women dressed in patent leather headbands and matching pumps sip on oversized glasses of blush wine. Casually dressed guys sit at nearby tables and nurse pints of beer. The buzz of conversation that mixes with Weezer’s “Buddy Holly” and the clinking of glasses, plates and silverware create an upbeat atmosphere that would make anyone want to order a cocktail and settle in.

You’ve listened as the waitress recounts her harrowing life story. At times, you’ve told your own tragic tales to the bartender, who might not really listen. Sometimes you befriend the jovial restaurant owner who lets you sample works in progress and special wines. Sad as it is, stereotypes exist for a reason, and knowing what to expect of certain restaurant personalities can help you strategize to make the most of your night out.

Behold the rise of the franchise.
Just east of the intersection of Highway 63 and Broadway lies a muddy developing landmass, complete with two restaurants less than two years old — an Applebee’s and a Culver’s Frozen Custard and ButterBurgers. The two eateries stare at each other, red versus blue, only a single street dividing them.

Sidewalks in July. Front row seats at a concert. A free lunch. These things are hot, and we all know why. But what makes that one table in your favorite restaurant so smoking? Is it the cute server who always keeps your beverage of choice topped off? Is it the view of the oversized TV? Or is it something else you haven’t even thought of? We’ve done the legwork to fill you in on some of the most coveted seats in and out of town.