Sunday, August 2, 2009

Jeff City Lunch Joints

I have a lot of friends from Columbia who ask me, with genuine curiosity, for recommendations about places to eat in Jefferson City, and often I struggle for ideas, because I know what they are accustomed to. “Healthy,” “fresh,” “light,” “unique” . . . even “open for business” can sometimes be hard to come by, in a town notorious for restaurants featuring diner food, canned, heavy, unchallenging, and closed in the evenings and Sundays.

For thirteen years, I worked weekdays in Columbia, which has (compared to Jefferson City) a universe of diverse places to eat. Because I was in Columbia during the day, I naturally never sampled the lunch spots in Jeff. And because I was still in Columbia when it came time to think about supper, I naturally got carryout from Columbia places, too. Or just stayed in Columbia for supper. What a wonderful life.

But now that I’m freelancing at home, I have opportunities to truly explore what Jeff City has to offer, especially for lunch. And unlike the State Workers (capped, because around here they are a large, well-tended, and distinct class among Jeff City’s citizenry), I have time to mull over my lunch, at lunch, and let you know what I think.

First, a disclosure of bias: I really don’t care much about chain restaurants, and Jeff has plenty of them. Chain restaurants don’t need my help getting “buzz.” And I almost always prefer to eat at a locally owned place. I appreciate how much hard work goes into running a restaurant, and I admire and respect the people who are driven and generous enough to do it, without the support of a multinational corporation behind them.

There is another issue with Jeff City’s downtown restaurants: Many of them are only open during “work hours.” Breakfast and coffee, then lunch, but usually they’re closed by 6 p.m. Most have even shorter hours for Saturday and are closed entirely on Sunday (which around here is the Lord’s day, the day to eat fried chicken or roast beef with your family).

So as far as most of Jeff’s downtown restaurants are concerned, State Workers and other people trapped there during work hours are obviously their bread and butter. No wonder I never ate here much when I worked in Columbia—I couldn’t.

But now I can, and as I explore, I will tell you what I find.


Anonymous said...

Hi, Julie! I am catching up with your blog! Ok...when I was, for a season, one of those "state workers," we frequented Ari's of course. But you should know about a tiny joint to the west of the capitol. On that road that goes down the big hill and then up again to give you access to the bridge on-ramp. It is/was on the north side of this road. Believe it was called hmmm--I can't remember! A guy's first name, perhaps, like "Bill's" or some such. In any event--a tiny tiny place with unremarkable chow. But, if I remember correctly, Mom told me Grandpa Renner used to go there sometimes. So, I felt a family connection when I went. Not a culinary wunder, but about as anti-chain as you can get. Hopefully, Mom and Dad can direct you to it, if it still exists. My state worker buds and I visited it in the mid-eighties. I loooove your blog, mein Schwester!!!! -Paul

Julie said...

Ohhhh you're thinking of "Pat's Place," which is now renamed "Paddy Malone's"--it's an Irish pub now, and it's gotten somewhat classier than when Grandpa R used to go there after work:

Historian Gary Kremer has written about this building, which has been a saloon since the time of the Civil War, I think.