Columbia’s local businesses are bustling and plentiful, especially in its assortment of dining options. For college students on a budget, putting away your Tiger Cash and rummaging through your wallet for a night out might seem like a punch. Luckily, the downtown district of Columbia offers students some top-notch restaurants that are worth dipping into their savings.
The food scene in any college town would be ridiculously invalid without good pizza. Columbia offers various options for a delicious and comforting slice, but none is more iconic than Shakespeare’s pizza. Although Shakespeare’s has three locations across Colombia, its pizzeria on 9th Street is a favorite with students and locals any day of the week. As you walk through its bustling atmosphere, there is a palpable sense of community that has turned this restaurant into a cult favorite. Shakespeare’s, with its thick, cheesy pizza, has been Columbia’s definitive staple since 1973, serving generations of students who sport its mugs, stickers and shirts with local pride. Enjoying its belly-warming food has become a rite of passage for all Missouri Tigers and will surely continue far beyond current students.
While Shakespeare’s is undeniably iconic, Pizza Tree’s fresh flavors have sparked heated debate over Columbia’s top slice. Located at 909 Cherry St., Pizza Tree offers an assortment of more modern and quirky menus with its own exceptional reputation. The restaurant offers a savory crust that owner John Gilbreth experiments with, with creative toppings redefining the pizza experience. From macaroni and cheese pie, to kimchi pie or even a simple pepperoni, Pizza Tree offers a refreshing alternative to hungry college students and locals alike. The boutique, or “The Treehouse”, opened in 2014, creating its own cult following. Whether you’re stumbling out of Harpo’s or hungry after a screening at Ragtag Cinema, Pizza Tree’s convenient location and window service make its delicious slices almost irresistible.
While pizza is essential for a true college diet, a good breakfast is a perfect remedy for mornings when waking up is a challenge. Columbia offers a myriad of options for a memorable breakfast experience, from quick bites to authentic dinners. One option you can’t ignore is Cafe Berlin, located at 220 N 10th St. Its spacious, ornate interior and friendly staff provide an enjoyable dining experience before customers are presented with a menu. Open from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. every day except Tuesday, Café Berlin is the premium brunch destination for any hungry Colombian resident. Its menu includes enticing classics like huevos rancheros and cookies and gravy, as well as large buttermilk pancakes – which will make your mouth water. The charms do not stop there since their menus, both for breakfast and lunch, aim to give a touch of freshness to typical dishes. Their spicy “Schyler Sandwich” and “Anonymous Tacos” are to die for. If its delicious menu isn’t enough, Cafe Berlin doubles as a live music venue, hosting live local music throughout the month. When you see a queue outside its doors, don’t be surprised – it’s a restaurant well worth the hype.
While revamped classic menus can be found at Columbia’s top restaurants, there’s no shortage of exceptional staples. A perfect example is Columbia’s oldest restaurant, Booches Billiard Hall. This historic restaurant, bar, and pool hall is steeped in city history, serving burgers under the Booches name since 1884 (its downtown location opened in 1928.) Located at 110 S. 9th St ., it’s hard to get through its doors as burgers are spilled in the front window, alongside cheeky signs proclaiming ‘no spitting, no swearing, no lying (fish stories excluded.)’. It is an atmosphere full of character. As patrons sit on small wooden chairs, all it takes is a scan of the room to notice the charm of this tasty time portal. Their menu is kept cheap, simple and quite satisfying. Booches has almost perfected his craft; their burgers maintain remarkable quality at a modest price, earning them a slew of repeat visitors. For a restaurant approaching 140 years in business, Booches is more lively and inviting than many new burger joints in the area.
Columbia may be a small pocket in the middle of Missouri, but those who live here know just how diverse the atmosphere truly is. While the staples of American cuisine are well represented, it’s the wide range of international cuisine that makes this region special. From Syria to Thailand, the local culinary scene allows for abundant exploration of the palate. One restaurant that offers such a diversity of flavors is Cafe Poland, located at 807 Locust St. Cafe Poland brings an authentic taste of Europe to Columbia residents. Her building, just off 9th Street, has a relaxing, warm atmosphere reminiscent of your grandma’s kitchen. Whether you have visited it before or not, you feel like part of the Cafe Poland family. It’s a definite small business, serving a simple menu of Polish classics like pierogies, goulash and pancakes, run by owner Iwona Galijska and her eldest son. Their dishes are steeped in authenticity and at a price that leaves your pocket feeling good. At any restaurant you visit in Colombia, keep an open mind to explore and you’ll soon have a feast of new favorites.
Edited by Lucy Valeski | [email protected]