Best of Columbia 2013
It's here — the most anticipated announcement of the year.
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You Inside Columbia readers are an active bunch. You’re out there every day, tasting the food, browsing the shops, greeting your neighbors, seeing the sights, and passing judgment on what you like best about your hometown. That’s why we decided that you, our readers, have the superior qualifications needed to judge the annual Best of Columbia contest.
We put an entire town full of judges to work in November when we asked you to submit nominees in more than 60 award categories. After we narrowed the field to the top nominees in each category, we rolled out the final ballot. Throughout December and into January, you took time to vote. When the voting ended (and after a few ballot-stuffers were vanquished), our staff tallied more than a quarter-million votes cast across all categories.
Here are your results, Columbia. You did such a great job, we’ve put your names on our list to judge again when Best of Columbia 2014 nominations open in November.
FOOD & DRINK
Best Overall Restaurant
And the winner is … Flat Branch Pub & Brewing. With a total of five medals for 2013, it’s clear that the Fifth Street favorite is serving up good food and great beer. It’s the Chicken Philly. No, it’s the Tomato Bisque Soup. No, it’s actually the World Famous Chokes ‘n Cheese. Or maybe it’s the extensive menu of comforting pub fare and brews on tap — that’s what keeps Columbians coming back for working lunches, happy hours and late suppers day after day.
115 S. Fifth St., 573-499-0400
Silver: Murry’s Restaurant, 3107 Green Meadows Way, 573-442-4969
Bronze: CC’s City Broiler, 1401 Forum Blvd., 573-445-7772
Best Alfresco (Patio) Dining
The sound of metal chairs dragging across the flagstone patio at Flat Branch Pub & Brewing is somehow comforting on a sunny day. Grab a corner table under an open umbrella, arrange your chairs, order an IPA and keep your sunglasses on. Flat Branch’s patio is your patio, and the order-whatever-whenever atmosphere encourages Oil Change and Honey Wheat lovers alike to stay a while.
115 S. Fifth St., 573-499-0400
Silver: Bleu Restaurant & Wine Bar, 811 E. Walnut St., 573-442-8220
Bronze: Sophia’s, 3915 S. Providence Road, 573-874-8009
Tuck your napkin into your shirt and dig in. Buckingham Smokehouse BBQ retains the title of the Best Barbecue restaurant in Columbia for another year. Yes, the pulled pork is juicy and the beef brisket is thinly sliced. But the sides deserve some of the credit for this award, too. Spicy horseradish coleslaw, deep-fried corn on the cob and savory sweet potato fries are served up in generous portions with a side of hot sauce, barbecue sauce or ketchup.
3804 Buttonwood Drive, 573-449-1490
Silver: Lutz’s BBQ, 200 E. Nifong Blvd., 573-443-4227
Bronze: Smokin’ Chick’s BBQ, 4603 John Garry Drive, 573-256-6450
Best Breakfast Joint
Roll out of bed and head to Ernie’s Café and Steak House for breakfast, brunch and lunch. The ’50s-inspired diner is the premier place for a hearty, inexpensive breakfast beginning at 6:30 a.m. every day. Columbia’s best breakfast spot is only open until 2 p.m., though, and seating is extremely limited on weekend mornings. But the burgers, omelets, pancake varieties and vegetarian options make diners forget their 30-minute wait after their first bite.
1005 E. Walnut St., 573-874-7804
Silver: Café Berlin, 220 N. 10th St., 573-441-0400
Bronze: Broadway Diner, 22 S. Fourth St., 573-875-1173
It’s the oldest restaurant in downtown Columbia, and it doesn’t serve a single item on plates. Booches Billiard Hall retains the throne of the best burgers in Columbia. And like the old billiard tables, some things at Booches never change. Booches still only accepts cash, the burgers are still served up on waxed paper and there’s still not a single french fry to be found. Our craving for Booches lives on.
110 S. Ninth St., 573-874-9519
Silver: Flat Branch Pub & Brewing, 115 S. Fifth St., 573-499-0400
Bronze: Five Guys Burgers & Fries, 2703 E. Broadway, 573-777-4568; 233 N. Stadium Blvd., 573-777-4564
Sink into a chair, sip something hot and relax at Kaldi’s Coffee. For another year, Kaldi’s holds on to its title as Columbia coffeehouse champion. Kaldi’s wasn’t born here in Columbia ― the original store opened in Clayton, Mo., in 1994 — but the cozy couches, smiling baristas and oversized community bulletin board make it feel like home for local caffeine addicts. There are dozens of coffee varieties to explore or break out of your coffee habit for a day and sample a cuppa tea.
29 S. Ninth St., 573-874-2566
Silver: Lakota Coffee Co. & Roasters, 24 S. Ninth St., 573-874-2852
Bronze: Starbucks Coffee Co., 2500 Broadway Bluffs Drive, 573-442-4951; 304 S. Ninth St., 573-442-5802; 2901 W. Broadway, 573-445-0367
Favorite Frozen Treats
Pay no attention to the eclectic (some might even say creepy) paintings on the wall at Sparky’s Homemade Ice Cream. The artwork isn’t what keeps patrons coming back; it’s the varieties of homemade, eccentric but delicious ice cream flavors. From Pumpkin Pie to Les Bourgeois Ghirardelli Chocolate to Butterbeer and everything in-between, the ice cream masters at Sparky’s scoop up the top ice cream spot for another year. That’s a load of bulldog love.
21 S. Ninth St., 573-443-7400
Silver: Andy’s Frozen Custard, 610 N. Cooper Drive, 573-442-8866
Bronze: Cold Stone Creamery, 904 Elm St., 573-443-5522
Favorite Asian Cuisine
Bangkok Gardens is heating up. The downtown Thai food palace once again wins the prize for serving the best Asian cuisine in Columbia. We know you’ve tried the Phat Thai, but have you tried the scrumptious (and meatless) Vegetarian Fried Dumplings? Have you ended a meal with an energizing iced Vietnamese coffee? Have you sipped on a bottle of Singha Thai beer paired with Street Side Sa-tay? Study the menu; the endless array of appetizing options at Bangkok Gardens makes every dinner a far-out Far East experience.
811 Cherry St., 573-874-3284
Silver: Osaka Japanese Restaurant Sushi Bar And Hibachi Steakhouse, 120 E. Nifong Blvd., Suite A, 573-875-8588
Bronze: Chim’s Thai Kitchen, 3907 Peachtree Drive, 573-777-8626; 210 N. 10th St., 573-355-9590; 11505 Smith Hatchery Road (Cooper’s Landing), 509-295-3810
Favorite Italian Cuisine
Stretch your palate beyond spaghetti and meatballs with the upscale, modern Italian cuisine at Sophia’s. From antipasti to dolcé, Sophia’s serves satisfying southern Italian fare with international flair. Menu options such as the Mediterranean-style hummus plate, Moroccan Spiced Shrimp, and the Ravioli Carne all come together like an Italian family: lovingly, with a bold personality for a memorable meal. Oh, and order a glass of wine or two. Italian food is best with great wine, and Sophia’s wine list is one of the best in Columbia.
3915 S. Providence Road, 573-874-8009
Silver: The Rome, 114 S. Ninth St., 573-876-2703
Bronze: The Pasta Factory, 3103 W. Broadway, Suite 109, 573-449-3948
Favorite Mexican Cuisine
Dollaritas for everyone at El Maguey! We’ll take a lime on the rocks to celebrate another year of El Maguey’s spot as the No. 1 Mexican restaurant in Columbia. The restaurant owes much of its community love to its drink specials, featuring all-day $1.50 lime margaritas Tuesday through Thursday every single week. To pair with your tasty tequila, start with chips and salsa, end with fried ice cream and somewhere in-between order a Chicken Enchilada or Fajitas de Camaron. Hasta pronto!
901 E. Nifong Blvd., 573-874-3812; 21 Conley Road, Suite U, 573-443-7977; 504 Business Loop 70 W., 573-449-6558
Silver: Agave Mexican Restaurant, 901 Safari Drive, 573-256-5611
Bronze: El Rancho, 1014 E. Broadway, 573-875-2121