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Ten new Columbia restaurants bring fresh tastes to town

Vox spills the beans on 10 new food joints in town

August 25, 2011 | 12:29 a.m. CST

Everyone does it. It’s too easy to slip into that habit of going to the same few restaurants over and over, sitting at the same table and ordering the exact same thing each time. Why mess with a good thing, right? Despite the feeling of betrayal it might evoke, sometimes trying a new restaurant can spice up what has become a dreary routine. Columbia has recently attracted a variety of new kitchens that can help satisfy the itch to step outside the box, each offering something slightly different and unexpected. Consider these 10 featured options for the next time a slightly adventurous streak takes over.

Food Facelifts

Coming Soon
Good things are worth the wait. Watch out for these four venues soon to be added to CoMo’s restaurant menu.

Velvet Cupcake
This bakery is set to open next to the Tiger Hotel and will serve handmade cupcakes and wedding cakes.

Crazy Noodle
The owners of Kampai Sushi Bar & Restaurant plan to open the sit-down noodle restaurant in November on the ground floor of Grove Construction’s new apartments at 904 E. Broadway. Patrons will be able to customize their meals by choosing noodles, spices and toppings.

Sunflower Waffle Company
CoMo’s food truck fleet will grow with this unique addition. The stand will soon be spotted in the city, serving up waffles.

Salty’s Bar and Grill
Located in the old Memoir building, the new Salty’s Bar and Grill boasts about its signature cocktails.
Address: 1100 Locust
Call: 256-2011

Sometimes a new location or a facelift is the missing ingredient for a restaurant.

The Pasta Factory
Moved to: 3103 W. Broadway, Suite 109
Call: 449-3948

Jazz, a Louisiana Kitchen
Moved to: 217 N. Stadium Dr., Suite 100
Call: 443-5299

International Café
Moved to: 26 S. Ninth St.
Call: 449-4560

The fine dining restaurant in the Holiday Inn closed for renovations this summer, but is scheduled to reopen in early fall.


Sake Japanese Bistro
The sushi joint hopes to reopen, but there is currently no date set for the restaurant to begin rolling again.

After 12 years, the chain Mexican restaurant on I-70 Drive closed its doors after the franchise owners filed for bankruptcy.

Flavor Factory
The Asian restaurant closed earlier this month, and Red Thread, a Chinese eatery, opened in the same location.

Babbo’s Spaghetteria

Where: 1305 Grindstone Pkwy.
Hours: Mon. – Fri. 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.; 5 – 9 p.m.
Sat. 5–10 p.m.; Sun. noon – 8 p.m.
Call: 442-9446

For many people, the extent of Italian food fixes come in the form of some jarred marinara sauce, off-brand noodles and, if you’re feeling extra fancy, canned Parmesan cheese on top. For those wanting a step up from the typical (and for other Italian aficionados), Babbo’s Spaghetteria cooks up fresh and homemade Italian food. The Columbia location opened May 19, and under the guidance of owner Michael Del Pietro, the restaurant serves time-honored family recipes. “I’m the third generation of these recipes,” Del Pietro says. “My mother’s and father’s family recipes blended together.”

Del Pietro’s interest in food and six restaurant openings in Columbia and the St. Louis area can be attributed to his parents, who owned their own restaurant and frequently cooked for the family. “This was dinner,” Del Pietro says. “Relatively simple Italian food was made nightly.”

Customers often stick to the classics; spaghetti and meatballs and lasagna are the most popular dishes. As Del Pietro says, “If there isn’t one on each table, there’s two.” Del Pietro hasn’t altered the staples at Babbo’s, such as the sauce, meatballs and dressing, but certain items he offers have a newer, more updated take. The mushroom pizza, for example, includes a bit of truffle oil. In the two and a half months since its opening, Babbo’s has exceeded Del Pietro’s expectations, and if anything, he wishes he had opened it sooner.

— Ashley Carmen

Mad Cow

Where: 503 E. Nifong Blvd.
Hours: Mon. – Sun. 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. 
Call: 214-0393 

Don’t let the name deter you. “Our cow’s not sick, he’s pissed,” says Don Turner, operations manager of the restaurant. “The name Mad Cow, you’re never going to forget it.”

The burger and fries joint opened July 11. The menu features almost exclusively those two items, though the burgers can be topped with cheese or bacon.

Burgers are available with one or two patties, and the servings of fries are generous — a regular order yields a paper lunch sack half full of hot, fresh fries. Also, watch out for the Mad Cow sauce, a tangy and sweet mustard-based dressing that serves as both a dip for fries and a condiment for burgers.

Mad Cow promises fresh ingredients and procures some items, such as the hamburger buns, locally. The fries are cut at the restaurant, and boxes of potatoes waiting to be sliced line the back wall near the counter seating.

Instead of a grand opening, Turner opted for a quieter start and is relying on word-of-mouth recommendations to expand the business. He says that every day they see new customers, and within two weeks of opening, more than 500 patrons had been served.

“In the restaurant industry, the burger is king,” he says. “A good burger is hard to say no to.”

— Emily Becker

Pem's Place

Where: 3919 S. Providence Rd. 
Hours: Tues. 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.; Fri. – Sat. 5 p.m. – 1 a.m. 
Call: 424-9055 

Burgers, beer, classic rock and country — Pem’s Place has it all. Taking over the former location of the Snorty Horse Saloon, this new bar is located just off south Providence.

Pem’s Place opened its doors and dance floor on July 1. Always on the lookout for a good dance venue, Darren Pemberton and his wife, Brenda, used to frequent some of the bars around town. Still, something was missing. “The problem we had with most other places in town was that they didn’t cater to their customers,” says Darren. “They wouldn’t take requests. They played what they wanted to.”

The couple wanted to create a friendly spot for anyone to enjoy. College kids and country dancers alike are welcome. For anyone looking to learn, free line dance lessons are offered at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays. Pem’s inviting dance floor plays country, classic rock and blues every weekend, but those tunes aren’t set in stone; the owners eagerly take requests. The bar also offers drink specials on the weekends, including buckets of beer, bomb shots and bowl bombs.

Drinks and dancing aren’t the only tricks up Pem’s sleeve; the bar also serves a variety of grill food. Pizza, nachos and “some of the best burgers in town” are always just an order away, according to Darren.
The bar is looking forward to hosting events, including live bands, Texas Hold ‘em Poker (beginning in mid-September) and its grand opening on Friday, Sept. 30. ­­

— Megan Farokhmanesh

Orange Leaf

Where: 2101 W. Broadway, Suite 101 
Hours: Mon. – Thurs. 11 a.m. – 11 p.m; Fri. 11 a.m. – midnight; Sat. 11 a.m. – midnight; Sun. 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. 
Call: 445-7722 

A chocolate base topped with a scoop of nuts, a sprinkling of graham crackers and a pile of — gummy bears? It sounds crazy, but frozen yogurt shop Orange Leaf doesn’t seem to mind.

Orange Leaf is the newest frozen yogurt place in town. The store is completely self-serve, which means all the treats are customizable; it offers a dozen different flavors that rotate monthly. Pick a flavor, and add any toppings. Frozen yogurt can be a healthier alternative to ice cream, but it still satisfies the sugar-starved devil inside.

The store might not be all mom and pop, but it’s far from a big-business chain. The shop’s roots are in Oklahoma City. Chris Earhart, Orange Leaf’s director of operations, says that great customer service and a delicious product is key to their company’s success. It has spread across the country with more than 80 stores, offering a friendly scoop of healthy edibles in places such as Arizona, New York and Kansas.

Although Orange Leaf is scattered across Missouri, this Columbia shop is a first. The frozen yogurt franchise made the jump to this town for its great atmosphere and bustling community — and its love of personalized dessert. Like Red Mango and Yogoluv, Orange Leaf encourages the courageously crazy. Who says cookie dough and kiwi don’t go together?

Columbians can go nuts with their own crazy concoctions inside Orange Leaf’s doors — and customers are encouraged to be the first to try something new. Earhart loves the creativity involved in the process and he believes customers will, too. “It’s really awesome to be able to make your own mixture and your own blend,” he says. “You’re not confined to what’s on the menu board.”

— Megan Farokhmanesh

Hickory Hills BBQ

Where: 1210 Prathersville Rd. 
Hours: Mon. – Sat. 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. 
Call: 356-6884 

This barbecue competitor turned pseudo-Kansas-City-barbecue joint emerged onto the Columbia foodie scene this year after growing popularity through regional cook-offs, including owner Bryce Guinn’s success at Roots ’N’ Blues ’N’ BBQ. Its trademark menu consists of barbecue classics including brisket, turkey, brats and sandwiches. For the savory, smoked delicacies with a side item, customers will only spend on average $6 for a hearty meal, which makes the price the best part.

While attending school in Kansas City, Guinn developed his love for the smoky Midwestern treat. “I got into barbecue when I lived in K.C.,” he says. “I was spending a lot of money on BBQ. I thought, ‘Surely I could produce this myself without spending my own money.’”

And he did. After using his military bonus to purchase a top-of-the-line grill, Guinn started competing in regional barbecue cook-offs in 2008. With his father on board and the support of friends and family, his team took 2nd place in the Roots ’N’ Blues ’N’ BBQ competition in the brisket division (under the name Bogey BBQ). Guinn loves barbecue and enjoyed competing with his father by his side.

After spending two years at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, one year at MU and two years at Linn State, he asked his father’s opinion on opening his own restaurant rather than using his degree in nuclear technology and instrument control. With his father’s approval and praise, Hickory Hills BBQ was born.

­— Justin Whaley

Five Guys Burgers and Fries

Where: 2703 E. Broadway Bluffs Dr. Unit 240; 233 N. Stadium Blvd 
Hours: Mon. – Sun. 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. 
Call: 777-4568; 777-4564 

Burgers and fries — there’s no combination more classic or satisfying. Lucky for Columbia, one of the most well-known burger joints around joined the restaurant line-up this summer with two new locations.

This simple burger joint got its start in Arlington, Va., back in 1986. Since its creation, Five Guys has received awards and shout-outs for its meaty prowess. The franchise now boasts over 750 locations in more than 40 states — it’s a burger phenomenon that’s hard to miss.

Five Guys serves the obvious, along with hot dogs for those not feeling a classic combo. But the beef is worth a bite because Five Guys can triumphantly claim it has the “Best Burger.” It proudly advertises its fresh food — you won’t find a single freezer on the premises. The website ensures that “there are over 250,000 ways to order a burger at Five Guys,” a mind-boggling mathematical promise.

Columbians can taste the difference for themselves at either the Broadway Bluffs location or the shop on north Stadium Boulevard. ­­

— Megan Farokhmanesh

Tasti D-lite

Where: 1105 Grindstone Pkwy., Suite 101 
Hours: Mon. – Thurs. 11 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.; Fri. – Sat. 11 a.m. – 11:30 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.–10 p.m. 
Call: 442-9661 

It might walk like frozen yogurt and talk like ice cream, but Tasti D-lite firmly holds true to none of the above.

“It’s a frozen dairy dessert,” explains Carissa Neimeyer, owner of the recently opened shop. “It’s not ice cream because it doesn’t have butter fat. And it’s not yogurt because there’s no live culture.” But Tasti D-lite appeals to lovers of both ice cream and frozen yogurt, especially those who want all-natural ingredients and reduced calories.

This dessert-in-disguise hails from New York. Back in 1987, it was the brainchild of a waistline-watching woman who eagerly sought a treat that satisfied without being calorie-heavy. Since then, this franchise has taken its tasties to a number of places, including a Columbia location in March. The company aims to open more than 500 stores across the nation.

Neimeyer was happy to bring Tasti D-lite to Columbia, which she believes is a very health-conscious town. For anyone still on the fence, there are plenty of options to lure dessert-lovers over to the lite side. Classics such as chocolate and vanilla are always on tap, but for a small fee, customers can request a different concoction at any time. The store offers more than 100 different flavors, a variety of toppings and even smoothies. Neimeyer recommends cake batter or cheesecake, flavors that pack on sweet satisfaction but not the pounds.

Lovers of any treat will want to pop into Tasti D-Lite to try a scoop. “There’s nothing like it,” says Neimeyer.

— Megan Farokhmanesh


Where: 22 N. Ninth St. 
Hours: Mon. – Sat. 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.; 4 – 9:30 p.m. 
Call: 442-7888

KUI, a Korean word that means barbeque grill, is a new downtown restaurant that gives residents a unique taste of Korean cuisine.

One of KUI’s owners, Mi Kyung Lee, says it is a special restaurant because they don’t have a lot on the menu. Rather, they choose to focus on what they do well: traditional Korean dishes such as bibimbap, a dish that includes bean sprouts, carrots, radish, spinach, egg and thinly sliced marinated beef on a bed of rice, and gimbap, a Korean-style seaweed roll that is like sushi but with only vegetables inside.

Lunch and dinner items come with soup, salad and unlimited rice, and each item is available with a choice of beef, chicken, pork or a combination of meats. The seating is limited, but all items can also be ordered to go.

The restaurant is located in the heart of downtown at 22 N. Ninth St., conveniently close to campus and other downtown establishments. Lee says she is very excited about the location. “I love downtown,” she says. “People are very kind, and a lot of people see us as they are walking. It is very popular. Everyone smiles and says, ‘hi;’ they are nice people.”

Lee emphasizes not only the availability of traditional Korean food but also the healthfulness of her cuisine.She cited kimchi, a vegetable-rich side dish traditional to Korean cuisine, as a particularly good option for those thinking about their health, especially for students. “My son has been here almost four years, (and students like him) are all living alone,” Lee says. “You want them to just eat good food.”

— Abby Eisenberg

Chim’s Thai Kitchen

Where: 3907 Peachtree Dr. 
Hours: Sun. – Thurs. 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Fri. – Sat. 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. 
Call: 777-8626 

With traditional Thai menu items, Chim’s Thai Kitchen brings classic Southeast Asian entrees to Mid-Missouri. The original location of Chim’s Thai Kitchen is at Cooper’s Landing, but owner, Chim Duncan, noticed the customers’ positive acclaim and decided to open another location just off Nifong Boulevard on Peachtree Drive. “The new location is working out very well,” she says, “and customers are very happy.”

Don’t be disappointed when your favorite Chardonnay isn’t on the menu. Chim’s has yet to receive a liquor license, so until then, it’s BYOB -- literally. Duncan says she wanted to allow customers to bring drinks into her restaurant to keep them happy. Although she doesn’t make any profit from letting people bring in their own alcoholic beverages, she’s all about customer satisfaction and loyalty. Even though the Columbia location is fairly new, Duncan says she still has more ideas to vamp up the restaurant once she has the appropriate help. “I want to make more specials than I have right now,” she says. “I want to do something special for the customers.”

— Justin Whaley


Where: Inside the Columbia Mall, 2300 Bernadette Dr. 
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. 
Call: 445-5760

Fulbeli’s in the Columbia Mall is not a typical food court establishment. They not only offer fast food fare but also homemade comfort food that is prepared and served by local owners.

On March 10, Don Smith and Evelyn Garcia opened Fulbeli’s, the only non-chain food court presence, which is located next to Barnes & Noble.

“It has been a huge learning curve,” Smith said of the transition. Since opening, they have adapted to the new environment by shortening their menu and making adjustments to help the food become ready faster.

Fulbeli’s menu includes offerings beyond the typical fast food staples. They do serve hamburgers, hot dogs and onion rings, but what sets them apart is their fish and chips, biscuits and gravy and other comfort-food-style dishes. “Our food is fantastic,” Garcia says. “Everything is homemade, and it’s made to order.”

Fulbeli’s offers all of this at a reasonable cost and an additional 10 percent discount for mall employees, seniors and students with ID. They regularly put out coupons in the Add Sheet and participate in the Holos Network, an online organization that supplies coupons and local deals to its users for $10 per year membership.

In addition to good prices, the couple says that overall, good customer service was very important to them. “We’re trying not to be just another fast food restaurant,” Smith says. “We get to know people, we learn their names, and they come back because we give them quality food. Like the name says, we want them to leave with a ‘full belly.’” ­

— Abby Eisenberg

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