Overlooked Columbia

On KFRU’s Morning Meeting today we talked “Overlooked Columbia,” the places and products you may not be familiar with, but should be. Obviously, any number of restaurants could have been included in this list, but this being radio we had a limited amount of time. I kept it to four. Same with grocery store and farmers market products. Without further ado, here they are. Be sure to tell me where I went wrong.


Mississippi Fish Shack
2200 W. Ash St.

That garish yellow facade downtown is a distant memory and Kim Perry’s family restaurant is now housed (tastefully, I will add) in a Phillips 66 station out by Macy’s on Stadium Boulevard. The fried catfish is still good, and aggressively seasoned. But I rarely order it, hewing more to the juicy, pepper-flecked fried chicken (perhaps the best in town) and the oyster po’ boy (order the sauce on the side and add carefully).

Chinese Wok Express
Corner of 5th and Broadway

I’m sure the Chinese side of the menu is good, but I’ve never had it. Go Vietnamese at this formerly-dingy, always friendly little hole in the wall. The #14 and #30 are excellent, but their gateway drug is #17, a bowl of noodles in a little broth, topped with fresh vegetables and marinated grilled beef. You’ll be hooked (for less than $7)

Saigon Bistro
912 E. Broadway

This is already pretty familiar with Columbia eaters on the lookout for something new, but if you’ve given Saigon a chance in the past and been unimpressed, try it again. The service is speedier and the dishes meaty and well-executed. I like the pho, spring rolls and tofu with curry.

Lonnie Ray’s Cafe
81 E. Sexton Street – Harrisburg, Mo.

True, it’s not in Columbia, but Lonnie Ray’s barbeque is – no contest – the best ‘que in the area. Plus, it’s close enough (20 mins) to count. The brisket may be the best I’ve had and the pulled pork and ribs aren’t far behind. Ditto with their tamales (when you can get ’em). Charros (spicy, meaty beans) round things out.

At the Grocery Store:

Maestri Pastai dried pasta

Initially occupying just a small slice of real estate in the dried pasta section at Hy-Vee, this Italian pasta seems to be taking over. No wonder, because it’s light-years ahead of the competition – better, even, than many high-end pastas – in terms of taste and texture. Try the bucatini.

Blue Diamond almonds

Absolutely 100% addictive. Should come with a warning label. Try the wasabi and soy or chili and lime.

Belleruche Cotes du Rhone

One of the better bottles out there for under $10. Excellent lightly chilled with grilled meats.

Schnucks mozzarella

The cheesemonger section of Schnucks is now making their own fresh mozzarella. Milky and clean-tasting, it’s on the salty side, but still delicious. Try it with sliced tomato and basil.

At the farmers market:


Farm eggs cost twice as much as the regular kind but are at least four times better. Fry ’em, scramble ’em or turn them into pasta (roughly 1 egg per 100 grams of flour); you’ll taste the difference immediately.

Blade Runner knife sharpening

My tired old Cutco knives got a tune-up while I shopped at the market a few weeks ago. At about $7 for a chef’s knife, few things can improve your cooking (and your enjoyment of cooking) as a really sharp knife. Then come home and slice a tomato – marvel.


Gerard Craft (of St. Louis’ Niche restaurant empire) quarters radishes, briskly sears them in a skillet and then serves them on toasted bread with some chopped radish leaves on top. Simple and surprising, it’s nothing short of brilliance on a plate.


Lamb’s popularity over the past few years have driven its prices to previously unheard-of heights. Susie (of Susie’s Grassfed Meats) has cut back on selling at the market, preferring to go directly to wholesale markets. She’s still there occasionally, but if not, don’t worry. Goat is milder in flavor and much, much cheaper.

Bonus Tip:

Culinary Arts Program at the Columbia Area Career Center (just north of Rock Bridge High School)

If you’re not buying stock, cured meats and prepared foods from the Culinary Arts Program, you are missing out on an invaluable resource. A number of the best chefs in town buy veal demi-glace, prosciutto and more from here. Sure, students are involved, but a) they’re really good students, and b) Brook Harlan, Carrie Risner and Jeff Rayl oversee every process from start to finish. Try the pork stock, Spanish chorizo or prepared soups.


Bruschetta with Sautéed Radishes


1 tablespoon olive oil plus additional (for brushing)
15 large radishes with leaves, trimmed, quartered, leaves thinly sliced
Coarse kosher salt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
8 1/2-inch-thick baguette slices
1 garlic clove, peeled

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in medium skillet over medium heat; add radishes. Sprinkle with coarse salt; sauté until tender and browned in spots, stirring often, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in lemon juice. Season radishes to taste with coarse salt and pepper. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm before using.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place baguette slices on rimmed baking sheet. Brush with oil and sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper. Bake until golden brown around edges, about 8 minutes. Rub garlic over toasts.
Arrange toasts on plate. Spoon radish mixture over. Sprinkle radish leaves over.

Read More http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2010/09/bruschetta_with_sauteed_radishes#ixzz1NWLoIiIW

3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds ground lamb
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Shape into approximately 16 ping pong-sized balls and grill or broil 3-4 minutes on each side until just cooked through. Serve with grilled pita bread and plain yogurt mixed with diced cucumber.
Servings: 6-8.
— Recipe adapted from Jack Knorek of Oak Moon Farm, Mich., and published in “The Grassfed Gourmet,” 
by Shannon Hayes

Author: Scott

I am a married father of two. I graduated from Rock Bridge High School and then Mizzou before spending six years in the Washington, D.C. area. We returned to Columbia, Missouri in 2006.

3 thoughts

  1. eating those Bruschetta Radishes at Taste 2 years ago was one of those trans formative food moments for me; Something you knew, but had never tasted this way before. Sooooo good!

  2. I was told that the reason for Susie’s higher prices is that her breeding stock from New Zealand (or maybe it was Australia) was wiped out by a natural disaster. I didn’t hear this from Susie, but I did hear it from a market person who was told this by Susie. Is that not true, or is really the popularity?

  3. Went to Lonnie Ray’s on Friday for the first time. Best…brisket…ever. Even the sides are great, which is a refreshing change for a BBQ shack. Plus they give you enough to feed an army: 5 take home boxes for 4 people! You could donate the 6 lbs of leftovers to charity, or selfishly keep it all and eat on it all week. We chose the later.

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