For a chilly day: Menkoi Ramen
There are days when you just want soup. Located near the intersection of Gervais and Park streets, this restaurant doesn’t require a long walk in order to warm yourself up. The place isn’t fancy — it’s the type of place you’d step into just to get away from the cold. But with their homemade soup stocks and curries, you’d find it hard not to stay for a meal. The ramen bowls themselves feature everything you’d expect from Japanese ramen, including thick pieces of meat, noodles, medium-boiled eggs and Narutomaki — the swirly thing floating in most bowls. The combination of flavors is comforting and can help with a hard, cold day. However, stay away from their appetizers — they’re bought frozen and microwaved.
For appetizers and a drink: Bourbon
Located on Main Street, this Creole-inspired restaurant and bar is also only a short walk from campus. I’ll preface this by saying that this restaurant’s drink menu is larger than their food menu. So if you’re up for a few drinks and don’t want much to eat with your alcohol, this is the place to go. They serve several types of appetizers ranging from comfort food to crab dip and smoked oysters, and the menu items just get sloppier as the night goes on, with pork tacos and corn dogs gracing the late-night menu. That being said, Bourbon’s dinners are delicious, if not a little pricey. The prices, however, let you try an array of nontraditional proteins like duck, quail and alligator.
For a cheap lunch: The Pizza Joint
As the farthest restaurant from campus on this list, The Pizza Joint is a place you may want to carpool to with your friends. But the trip down Taylor Street will be well worth your time if you arrive during their lunch hours. Their lunch specials run from $5 to $6 and offer pizza slices, oven-baked sandwiches on pizza dough and stromboli. Their sweet pizza sauce is perfect for their stromboli, which is essentially a pizza turnover, and the entire thing will last the average person two meals. Not bad for $6. Their dinner menu can be a bit more expensive, but students and teachers receive 20 percent off their bill on Wednesdays if you’re looking for a weeknight drink with your pie.
For a night out with friends: Thirsty Fellow
How many times have you and your friends been unable to unanimously decide on a place to eat? This place tries its best to fix that. The Thirsty Fellow is a great mix of pizza and pub food and, located on Gadsden Street, it’s very close by. The best thing about this restaurant is the menu variety. They have stone-fired personal pizzas, British-style pub food, American sandwiches and burgers, over 40 beers and more than a dozen different wines. If this restaurant isn’t aiming to please everyone walking in the door, I don’t know who is. With a relaxing atmosphere and fresh, made-to-order food, it’s hard to complain.
For a fresh taste: Sushi Yoshi
I’m amazed this place isn’t more popular. Located right next to Jimmy John’s on Devine Street, Sushi Yoshi is best described as a Japanese-style dive. I’ve only seen three employees total through all my visits to the restaurant, but their sushi chef is top-notch for Columbia. The fish is fresh, the preparation is spot-on and there’s a cathartic enjoyment when your plate arrives with carved orange flowers sitting beside your dish. Unlike other sushi restaurants in the area, the Maki rolls are prepared correctly with smooth and silky nori. Likewise, not much beats the sensation of their fresh Nigiri roll, sashimi on rice, melting in your mouth. Don’t limit yourself to just the sushi, though — their spicy gyoza, which are prepared with a special sweet and spicy sauce, are simply to die for.
For that hometown feel: Di Prato's
This restaurant found the perfect location to create that suburban hometown atmosphere. This deli, located near Blatt on Pickens Street, mixes the best of New York deli with Southern hospitality. The restaurant has a quaint and quiet seating area with several glass cases filled with various deli favorites — such as pasta salad and cheesecake. The menu predominantly consists of made-to-order sandwiches, each prepared with rich and bold flavors, with the chef’s strong New York personality shining through in each one.
For a romantic evening: Hampton Street Vineyard
Yes, I saved the best for last. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt blown away by a restaurant. But when I deconstructed the dish I ordered at the Hampton Street Vineyard, I noticed the careful craftsmanship put into every layer of this restaurant’s flavor. Each unique ingredient put on the plate was delicious, but when combined on a single forkful they create an explosion of flavor that ignites all of your senses. Located across from the Marriott on Hampton Street, you wouldn’t find this French restaurant unless you already knew it was there. The calm and cool atmosphere inside is perfect for a romantic date, with dim lighting and a friendly, nonchalant staff. The prices can be a little steep, but the entrees are large and can be used as an excuse to share a meal with a special someone. The restaurant is small, however, and with few tables, it may be best to make prior reservations. Despite the hassle, the food and atmosphere are worth every penny.