In keeping with my "small plates as dinner" theme, here are a few words on my recent experience in Columbia, Missouri:
(I apologize for the lack of detail, but the trip was over a month ago, so my memory is a bit vague.)
We tried three dinner places & had appetizers-only at all three:
Village Wine & Cheese
Sophia's is doubtless the most traditionally-upscale of the three, & probably resembles most-closely our former favorite spot in town (now closed, so sad!), Dali's. It's a young crowd, young staff, modern decor & menu, not-cheap prices, impressive (& mid-priced) wine list. Sophia's strikes me as the closest to a hip big-city restaurant experience offered in Columbia.
Chris McD's was the hidden gem of the three -- based on its unassuming location in a VERY unassuming suburban strip mall, as well as its unassuming interior, I probably wouldn't have stayed if my dining companion hadn't already been there & promised me good things. He was right, Chris McD's was indeed a pleasant little surprise. True to their "wine bar" name, there is a features wine list each night (all under a certain price), & the menu was wide-ranging & interesting. I recall we had excellent crab cakes, a fabulous French batard (fancy name for a loaf of bread), & good crème brulee.
Village Wine & Cheese is a neat little downtown spot, more like a European sidewalk cafe, also offering a retail wine selection which you can buy & then drink in the restaurant for a small corkage fee. My dining companion has gotten to know the lovely European woman who owns VW&C whom you'll typically see running around the restaurant, chatting with customers, checking on her waitstaff, etc. -- although she has made the unfortunate decision to turn her cheese market into a bar/lounge area! (Not sure downtown Columbia needs another bar/lounge spot, but alas...) The menu is limited but all excellent -- & includes what my friend refers to as "the cheese plate that ate Columbia." It is ENORMOUS, & GOOD.
Oh, & before I forget, probably our best "find" was a downtown coffeehouse whose name I cannot remember -- something basic, like, Coffee Works or 4th Street Coffee Shop? Anyway, it offers traditional coffee but also Mediterranean/Greek/Turkish varieties, & breakfast food along the same lines. I would've loved to try their Mediterranean omelet. And although I am a Starbucks girl by heart (franchise be d*mned), the coffee I ordered was unbelievable, so rich as to almost be sweet without sugar. We did return for gyros at lunch, which were also excellent, & I suspect their side dishes (including hummus & spinach pie) would be as well. They did a brisk lunch business & so are obviously not as "unknown" as they were to us, but I'd love to return for either meal.
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