While it’s easy to get stuck in a rotation of your favorite restaurants in Columbia, there are places out there looking to make your re-acquaintance. I’d love to have some other nominees for this “Comeback Player of the Year Award,” so weigh in in comments below.
My nominee, based on two truly sterling visits, is Chris McD’s. Tucked away in a strip mall with a constantly flooded parking lot and home to – let’s be honest here – a slightly older set, it’s easy to overlook the place. Also, there have been enough reports of mediocre food as chef-owner Chris McDonald explored other ventures, namely Sky Hi Bar and Grill. Having recused himself from those distractions he’s back on the line at his namesake restaurant. Things are going very, very well.
On my first visit I went ahead and violated my cardinal rule for dining in mid-Mo: No grilled tuna. Invariably, either the fish or I end up bored to death. It’s depressing. So I was challenging the kitchen a bit with the order, a little chip on my shoulder.
Well. What arrived put me in my place right quick. Peppery, perfectly-cooked and – gasp – flavorful, the tuna was the best I’ve had in ages. Accompaniments were equally well-executed. I turned to Mrs. SMEs’ KC Strip. It was also seasoned just right, cooked to a perfect medium rare and – being a strip – possessed of just the right amount of chew. Hell, even the kids’ spaghetti with tomato sauce was nice.
Wary of this being a one-hit wonder (and perhaps with some of that shoulder-chip still in place), I returned last week. Our meal wasn’t as good – it was better.
Small plates – Bayou shrimp and pepper-crusted sliced sirloin with gorgonzola cream – were unimprovable, delicious. The roasted chicken and fusilli pasta was a hit with my son (and nice leftover, too). A special of pan-fried walleye was cooked to within seconds of perfection – no easy task – and deftly seasoned, letting the fish stand on its own. Again, detail was paid to accompaniments like grilled asparagus and flash fried shredded carrots on top. It was a phenomenal dish.
The wine list – which thankfully ventures here and there beyond the usual suspects – is a good one. The menu is reliably old school, but creative daily specials keep things interesting.
As for downsides…well, table after table of elderly customers don’t exactly lend the place a hopping vibe, but it’s hardly their fault they like good food and know where to get it. Besides, the old folks were keeping the place open while you and I were seeing other people; let it go. The service was lively, good with kids and the place doesn’t feel stuffy. Gary Pinkel’s usually in the bar area meeting with boosters, so there’s that.
One other gripe: Despite the presence of Breckenridge’s Vanilla Porter, craft beers get short shrift.
Two very minimal cons to a whole host of pros. Chris McD’s is back y’all.