When it comes to high-concentration dining areas, Columbia has limited destinations. Downtown can take care of you whether you’re in the mood for sushi or whether it’s a steak-and-potatoes kind of day. It’s got variety and, because of that, is our go-to venue when we want to go out for dinner but can’t make up our minds on exactly where.
But I hereby nominate the Peachtree area south of town for second place. Often overlooked at the southwest corner of Grindstone and Providence — in a maze of weird side streets and dead-end parking lots — is some of the best food in town.
44 Stone Public House is settling in its second year. The beer menu has shot way past its initial — and in my opinion, dreary — focus on English beers. Taps now feature some of the best American craft brews out there, and the food is holding up its end of the bargain as well. The burgers are among the best in town, but their always-changing specials and “Chef’s Features” are what I head for. It could be a lamb stew with mashed potatoes or a smoked pork porterhouse. Check out 44stonepub.com for the latest. The “Sunday Roast” is their Sunday brunch feature, changes weekly and turns into a family affair for regulars and newcomers alike.
I’ve written about them before, but I believe Chim’s Thai Kitchen is one of the top restaurants — with any kind of food at any price point — in Columbia. The address is 3907 Peachtree Drive, but hey, in this labyrinth, waypoints are better than street addresses. Turn south off of West Nifong at the Break Time gas station, veer immediately right into the strip mall housing the B-12 Bar and Grill, and you’ll find Chim’s in the stand-alone building in the middle of the parking lot. Instead of pad thai, order any curry dish, the cucumber salad, tom yum soup or the pad see ew, which is a sweet and spicy noodle stir-fry with collard greens and your choice of meat. Thai food is a blast but can be overwhelming for the uninitiated. Start by ordering a relatively tame “3″ on the spicy scale and build from there. For the chili-heads, “8″ is authentically Thai-spicy.
A little north and east of Chim’s — near Bank of America — is La Terraza, a newish Mexican restaurant now finding its sea legs enough to be opening another location (in the former La Jimador, up by Schnucks) next month. Think outside the burrito and go with their tacos, sopes (like a soft taco, but on a thicker version of a tortilla) and the molcajete, a roiling cauldron of awesomeness that deserves billing as one of the best entrees in Columbia — and is meal enough for two.
I’ve only highlighted three great reasons to spend more time south of town, but there are others. The indispensable World Harvest Foods has the best cheese, spice and olive oil selection in the area. Fans of runny, fragrant cheese will love the Brie-like d’Affinois, while goat cheese fanatics will dig on the “Purple Haze,” a new offering from Cypress Grove that marries lavender with fennel pollen. The Culinary Arts program of the Columbia Area Career Center (just north of Rock Bridge High School) should be a regular stop on your freezer pantry run for stocks, cured meats and prepared meals. And finally, Shakespeare’s will be opening a third location in the former Southside Pizza space soon.
I don’t know if something’s gotten into the water down in the Peachtree area, but things are definitely moving. Time to scope out some new options in an underappreciated part of town.