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The Taste of Mid-Missouri

Local vendors serve up the best of Columbia

Photograph by Laura Petersen

Working the buffet at The Taste of Mid-Missouri in 2008, Kathryn Hackney grabs some sample-size portions at the salad table.

March 11, 2010 | 12:00 a.m. CST

Italian or American? Japanese or Mexican? No matter what you’re craving, The Taste of Mid-Missouri has you covered. Serving up samples of almost every style and flavor, the March 16 food extravaganza allows locals to explore the cuisine available around Columbia without breaking the bank.

For 25 years, the mid-Missouri chapter of the Missouri Restaurant Association has hosted the annual tasting affair as an opportunity for local restaurants and food vendors to showcase what they offer. Last year, the event featured 43 vendors, but Richard Walls, chapter president, is aiming for closer to 60 booths this year. He’s hoping this will encourage even more than the typical 1,000 - 1,200 community members to stop by for a bite. And to make things a little snazzier, the venue is moving from the Hampton Inn to MU’s University Club.

The Taste of Mid-Missouri

WHERE: University Club
WHEN: March 16, 5:30 to 8 p.m.
COST: $20 advance tickets or $25 at the door
CALL: 442-5123

List of companies partaking in the 25th annual The Taste of Mid-Missouri:

1. 1839 Taphouse
2. Addison’s
3. Bambino’s Italian Cafe
4. Beks
5. Billiards on Broadway
6. Bob Evans
7. Boone Tavern and Restaurant
8. Boulevard Brewing Company
9. The Bread Basket Cafe
10. Buffalo Wild Wings
11. Coca-Cola
12. Coley’s American Bistro
13. Culligan Bottled Water
14. Farraddays’ Bistro
15. Fechtel Beverage
16. Glazer’s Midwest & Sales Inc
17. Golden Corral
18. The Heidelberg
19. HoneyBaked Ham Company & Cafe
20. Jazz, A Louisiana Kitchen
21. JJ’s Cafe
22. JW Broadcasting LLC
23. KBXR
24. KFRU
25. La Siesta Mexican Cuisine
26. Les Bourgeois Bistro
27. Major Brands Inc.
28. Missouri Beverage Company
29. MU Hotel and Restaurant Management Program
30. N.H. Scheppers Distributing Co.
31. Nauser Beverage Company
32. Olive Garden
33. Pepsi
34. Ronnoco Coffee Company
35. Room 38 Restaurant & Lounge
36. Shakespeare’s Pizza
37. Shiloh Bar & Grill
38. Sir Winston’s Restaurant & Pub
39. Smokin’ Chick’s BBQ
40. Sophia’s
41. Stadium Grill
42. T.G.I. Friday’s
43. The Chef Connection
44. Buck’s Ice Cream Place
45. Tropical Liqueurs
46. The University Club of MU

The event started as a fundraiser for education resources in the MU Restaurant and Management program, but the philanthropy is what continues to be the driving factor for most vendors involved.

Scholarships are awarded to students each year based on the amount raised at The Taste of Mid-Missouri. Money also goes toward supporting the school’s needs by providing appliances such as kitchen equipment. Tickets can be purchased in advance for $20 at Boone Tavern, The Heidelberg, HoneyBaked Ham, Schnucks and Hy-Vee, but plan ahead, or you’ll pay $5 more at the door.

Philanthropy isn’t the only reason restaurants attend the affair; the owners are there for a good time, too. Bambino’s owner Brian Ash says the evening is one of the best events Columbia has to offer. As a restaurant owner, “you get to spend some time working the event and making the rounds yourself,” he says.

Establishments such as Boone Tavern and The Heidelberg have been involved with the tasting from the beginning. David Maxwell, owner of The Bread Basket Cafe, says they started 13 years ago to get their name recognized and have continued ever since. “I just believe in the education part of the program, and it continues to be a good way to meet my customers,” he says.

Following Maxwell’s lead, each year new restaurants attend to get their name out. Newbies to the event in 2010 include 1839 Taphouse and La Siesta Mexican Cuisine.

“It’s a great way for the people of Columbia to learn about the diversity of restaurants we have,” previous attendee June DeWeese says. Although the samples might be little, Walls says, “People come hungry and leave satisfied.”

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