Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Columbia Travel Guide

CoMO Travel Guide
This an excerpt from a post I wrote for KC Beer Blog as a guest blogger, and I thought I'd post here as a reference if anyone wants to link back to it.  

This is not an exhaustive list by any means of “The” bars or restaurants, but more of a quick guide to a great weekend. This is not a list for people with kids in tow--I’ll leave that to someone else to do the “family friendly” list. I didn’t go to Mizzou for school and I don’t watch sports, so you won’t find any of that here. I’m simply a person who likes good food and good beer and supporting my local establishments. I know I left many things out, including some fine restaurants that I would consider “special occasion” places, but are not part of my regular haunts. In fact there is such a turnover of restaurants that I can’t even keep track of what’s coming, going, or moving, so you should consult Show-Me Eats for that.

When to hit (or avoid?) Columbia

Right now is a great time to be in Columbia. The students just left, traffic has eased, and you can park in a comfortable distance of where ever you are going. I would avoid all MU football home games like the plague, especially homecoming. Nightmarish.

IMHO, the best time to be here is during True False film festival, the first weekend in March. It is incredibly busy and crowded but there is a fun buzz around downtown where everyone is discussing films, buskers play on the streets, and it feels like our own little Sundance. Warning: This requires advance planning. It is hard to get in the individual movies unless you get a pass, or are a volunteer.

If you are into music, the Summerfest concert series starts on Wednesday nights in June on 9th Street outside the Blue Note. Most of these are free, but there is usually a bigger finale to the series that requires a ticket. In September, the other biggie is the Roots n Blues n BBQ festival throughout downtown. One or two day passes are sold for this weekend festival.

A weekend in CoMo
If you are into art and discovering local artists, try to hit an Artrageous Friday if you can. The downtown galleries, like Artlandish Gallery and Orr Street Studio are all open late. Walk around, look at art, sip on wine and mingle. You never know, there could be a band playing or spontaneous fire spinning.



The natural thing to do after this is head to my local watering hole, Sycamore. It’s just around the corner from the North Village Arts District on Broadway. Excellent beer list (menu is updated online) and great taps (updates on Facebook and Twitter). Reservations are usually not necessary unless it’s Mother’s Day or graduation weekend. I just belly up to the bar because there will inevitably be other Columbia Beer Enthusiasts there. From 5 to 7, ask for their happy hour menu. One beer will be on special and some appetizers will be half price. It’s a great deal. They have a friendly and knowledgeable staff and are kind enough to let the CBE invade their space for our monthly tastings. They even serve beer in the proper glassware--kudos!

Watch for announcements about their weeknight beer dinners. These feature a different brewery each time, and 4 or 5 courses,  each paired with a different beer. Upcoming dinners include Boulevard (June 7) and New Belgium (July 14). Tickets are sold on Brown Paper Tickets about a month in advance, and they sell out very quickly. They always offer something special, like a glass to take home or a special release beer you can’t find elsewhere. Also, it’s a good chance to meet (i.e. nag) your local brewery rep.

Recommended: Parmesan fries with homemade ketchup, gnocchi, or pork belly sliders from the happy hour menu


Then, walk next door and check out Cool Stuff. It’s just a crazy store beyond description. They have jewelry, gag gifts, gadgets, games, oh, and homebrewing supplies in the back. Ran out of sanetizer? Broke a thermometer? Never fear. They have it.


It’s worth walking a couple blocks down 9th Street to Bluestem that supports local artists in Missouri and the surrounding states. This is a great place to find unique gifts for people that are hard to shop for.


Then, be sure to leave room for homemade ice cream at Sparky’s. They have interesting flavors and also alcoholic ice cream “floats” for the adults.

Recommended: Grasshopper float or Les Bourgeois wine & chocolate flavored ice cream


Depending on their schedule, you shouldn’t miss The Blue Note and/or Mojos for live music. The Blue Note is a local landmark that’s been around for 25 + years. I’ve been going to see shows of all kinds there since college. Not only do they get pretty big names, but you could also catch a local showcase for cheap, a dance party, or a burlesque show. The smaller stepsister of the Blue Note is Mojo’s, which focuses more on local and indie bands. They have an outdoor patio with happy hour specials. Niether place is really a “beer bar,” but it’s usually possible to find something you like in the line-up. The Blue Note has recently been serving Ranger IPA on tap and Mojo’s will have Lagunitas IPA, for example.



So, it’s not time to call it an evening yet, but you want something more low-key and quiet after your ear drums burst at the show. The Vault, located below the Tiger Hotel, is Columbia’s “speakeasy.” The bartender makes really excellent cocktails from scratch from recipes he develops. Fresh fruit, infused simple syrups, homemade sangria...it’s all delicious. Even I need a switch from beer sometimes, and you can’t go wrong here. There’s not a huge lineup of beer here, but what they do have is usually pretty cheap, like a $2 draft special. Follow them on Facebook to get the secret phrase for discounts on your drinks.

Recommended: Fancy Pants, Sangria


Now, it’s Saturday and you’re ready for a mellow afternoon. The best way to get going is at Ragtag. The Uprise Bakery is inside (as well as a full bar), so  you can get coffee, pastries, soups and sandwiches to eat there or take in with you to the movie. Ragtag is another local landmark known for showing indie, foreign and documentary films and is the home base for the True False festival. You can even buy your tickets online so you don’t need to rush over early. Take your time and play a game of Scrabble.

Should you want to begin drinking, this is another place with a fine beer selection. They have regular bottled and canned beers and taps are listed on a chalkboard. For example, during the Stone release party, the Uprise bar was one of the stops and had Double Bastard on tap. There will also be special beer releases or cask tappings, but you have to follow them on Twitter to be in the know. Or join the CBE.

In June, they have a new weekly “Homebrewed” film series linking independent filmmakers and craft beer. Come watch them with us and have a beer!

Recommended: Brie-apple sandwich and a Caldera IPA


Flat Branch Pub and Brewery is another Columbia landmark downtown. During the school year and on weekends it can get really crowded. I don’t have the patience to wait an hour for a table, so I scout out a spot at the bar to eat. They have a nice patio, but go at an off time to get a seat. Flat Branch has both regular and seasonal beers they brew on site. Local favorites include Katy Trail Pale Ale and the Green Chilli Beer. Their infamous Pumpkin Ale is usually gone before I can get a pint. It goes on tap around Halloween. They list the rotation on their website and Facebook, and you can take home a growler of your favorite. Their menu has something for everyone, including burgers, salads, pizzas and seasonal items.

Recommended: Oil Change Oatmeal Stout, Green Chili Chicken Fingers or crab cakes with chipotle mayo


If you want to do any beer shopping, drive a little bit south of town and you can hit both Arena Liquor (inside a Shell gas station) and Hy-Vee in the same neck of the woods. Head straight down Providence for both. They both offer make your own sixers and have good craft beer selections. All of the Hy-Vee stores in town have good beer selections, FYI.



Two other bars in town that get passed over because they are “far” (10 minutes) from the center of downtown are 1839 Taphouse and 44 Stone. I hadn’t given 1839 Taphouse much of a chance until they were one of the stops during the Stone beer release event. They had several taps of Stone going, PLUS Maharaja. They update their list of 24 taps on Facebook. The Taphouse Ale is their own house beer. I am excited that this will be a new destination for the CBE in June for our monthly tasting out on their patio.

Recommended:  beer dough pizza, which I sampled at the Missouri Beer Festival.


44 Stone is also in the southeast area of Columbia kind of tucked away in a lot of stripmalls. They are fairly new and describe themselves as a contemporary “gastropub.” They serve traditional British staples like fish and chips, bangers and mash and mushy peas, along with curries and Tikka Masala.

As for liquor, they have a whole chalkboard list of beers and whiskys from England, Scotland and Ireland (and some American choices) I don’t know how often the list on their website is updated, but they post some new specials and additions on Facebook. They also have some meads and ciders currently listed. A new feature is live Celtic music on their patio on the first Thursday of the month. The CBE will also be doing a beer and cheese tasting here in July.

Recommended: 44 Stone Burger with Jameson steak sauce


Sunday, if you’re looking for brunch, and possibly some hair of the dog, hit Broadway Brewery.

9:30am - 2pm Start your week off right with a rotating selection of seasonally delicious brunch options, and indulge with a custom cocktail from our Build-a-Bloody Buddy Bar.

Broadway is locally owned and gets most of their ingredients from area farms and the Root Cellar, a community based grocery store right next door. Their focus is integrating local, fresh ingredients into pizzas, sandwiches and salads. They offer their own beer on tap as well as a good menu of bottles and guest taps. They are also a frequent host of CBE tastings and many spontaneous gatherings, since they are steps away from Sycamore. Check Facebook to see what’s on tap or walk by and check out the chalkboard.

Recommended: Broadway’s IPA, pizza by the slice with side salad


If you have some time to spare as you make your way down I-70, it’s worth a stop in Rocheport (15 minutes from Columbia) to visit Les Bourgeois Winery. Their Bistro serves brunch, lunch and dinner, but if you just want a glass of wine, the A-Frame next door is the place to be. Weather permitting, it is open noon to sunset. Near sunset is the perfect time to be here right on the river listening to live music. Their Rock the Riverboat music series starts May 28 and continues each Saturday through October from 4 to sunset.

Recommended: Jeunette Rouge Red or Solay White and the picnic basket for two (cheese, sausage, crackers and fruit) at the A Frame. Don’t expect much in the way of beer--this is a winery, after all. I think they used to have a wine cooler option and maybe a Boulevard choice.


If you have another day, Jefferson City is 30 minutes south of Columbia on Highway 63. I admit, I am not as in the know on this city’s offerings , but I do commute there for work. You should go tour the State Capitol and see the Thomas Hart Benton murals and the Missouri State Museum if you’re into history and/or art.


Prison Brews is the local brewpub located downtown near the old prison, hence the name. See what’s on tap on their website. I have had lunch here a few times and I sampled the Gone-a-Rye-Pale-Ale at the Missouri Beer Festival. I really need to get down there and try a flight.


Recommended: Wood fired Greek pizza. They also have brats made with their own beer.

Also just off of the river bridge exit (Main St.) is a cozy Irish pub called Paddy Malones (or “Pat’s Place,” if you are a real local). Paddy’s is known for their Guinness and burgers and the central location for St. Patrick’s Day activities. They open early for corned beef and cabbage and the parade. No green beer. The website is basically dead, so look for specials on their Facebook page instead. Oddly enough, they were posting about Boulevard Chocolate Ale on tap when everyone else was out in the area.


For beer shopping, the place to go is International Wines on the west side of town. If they don’t have it, and they can get it, they will special order for you. Distribution is on a different schedule than Columbia, so there may be Hopslam there after Columbia is out or you may stumble upon something different.

1 comment:

  1. Question for you guys - I recently heard about a 'craft beer hotel' in Columbia next to the Blue Note. Any idea what this might be? I know there is a bar in the old Tiger Hotel, but I believe the hotel part is still closed. Thanks for any help!


Keep it civil.