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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Downtown food - Uptown prices: Eating out in the 'breadbasket' of America

Columbia Missouri is a town of about 100,000 people and many college students. The downtown area, adjacent to THE University of Missouri main campus of 30k students, has historically been where all these students work, live and shop. There have always been several eateries and shops there, along with theaters and other entertainment opportunities.

Although there are a few student-oriented restaurants and music venues, nowadays downtown's nature is rapidly changing. For the most part, it is becoming an upscale dining room and haberdashery for the gentry living in the outskirts of town, while students who are more mobile often go to stores, malls and restaurants farther away or run up the Visa card downtown.

This post is about the food and drink. The whole area next to THE U is increasingly populated by 'emporiums' full of 'artisan' 'fare'. Beer has a 'finish' and a 'bouquet,' as well it should when a glass of stout ran me $7 last week while I was shooting a local musician (with a camera). Salads are now called mixed greens and are full of endive covered with vinaigrette; baguettes, pates, remoulades, lattes, chais, frappuccinos, 'legacy' ham, 'artisan' cheese, gnashes and gnocchis abound. After all, if you give it a foreign name - it must be worth more. The blue-collar hash joint is almost extinct here.

There are a couple of reasonably-priced places to get a tasty breakfast for maybe five bucks; but if you want your eggs over-easy with hash browns and sausage without a 2nd mortgage you'll have to search 'em out. Lucy's Cafe, The 9th St. Deli and D&D Cafe are three reasonably-priced places to eat; lunch about $8 and breakfast maybe $5-6. After that, it's a landscape of fast food and/or high-prices where you can break your fast (and your wallet) for maybe $10-$15 - if you're lucky.

There are a couple of cafes left in town.
Best breakfast in town
Best breakfast in town
The menu below has an egg (read 1), piece of 'legacy' ham and bread for $8.50 (with a spot of pate and a pickled onion, of course). Probably diet food - add a 3-dollar coffee and a tip and you'll be about $14 lighter when you stagger out the door.  A friend, who just took the train to Dallas, TX, said these prices are "Amtrak prices'" and that prices in Columbia are about the same as Dallas and other major metro areas.
An egg-salad sandwich is $7.50 (sides $3 extra, see menu)
The Upscale Menu - Slice o' bacon $3

On New Years eve, Sherry and I went to see the shows and have dinner. We stopped at a small Italian place on 9th Street (nice to have an Italian restaurant here for a change). The server handed us a card with the "special" - $33 for a large steak (pretty high, but survivable), so we decided to split the dinner and have a snack later. At the bottom, in really small print, it stated

"$5 for an extra plate." 

I think it's OK to jack the prices a little for the holidays; but "customary" isn't always "right"; I don't mind $50 with Cokes and a tip for a holiday dinner with my gal, but $5 to share it is just over-the-top. We didn't bite ;-)
Steak - right & wrong

So, we went down the block and had a couple of burgers for $28 (no Cokes) and stopped for two pieces of candy for dessert ($5).  
By God, we showed 'em.  

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