Jordin and Dustin Lindsey, twin brothers who played football at USC under former head coach Steve Spurrier, never expected to one day return to campus to sell their childhood recipes in Russell House. The re-imagined Food Lab grants the twins — and four other local restaurants — the new venue to share their food.
Food Lab re-opened on the first floor of the student union this semester and now hosts a rotating selection of barbeque, paella, arepas, breakfast and Vegan offerings at lunchtime. Billed as the “Local Restaurant Row,” this offering aims to connect students with off-campus flavors. Food Lab also highlights the diversity of dining in Columbia.
RJ Lemon, a first-year computer science student, ate a vegan “chicken” sandwich from A Piece of Soul on Monday. The vegan play on a chicken sandwich provides a sharp contrast to the neighboring Chick-fil-A.
A Piece of Soul serves "100% Plant-Based Southern Comfort Food," according to chef and owner Folami Geter — that includes the “chicken.”
However, Food Lab offers more than just local vegan food. The Size Matters BBQ Bus occupies Food Lab on Tuesdays and Sundays, according to co-owner Jordin Lindsey.
After their days of playing in Williams-Brice ended in 2008, Jordan and Dustin Lindsey opened up their BBQ Bus in 2012. According to Jordin, the BBQ Bus was on the first in the Soda City food truck scene.
When the opportunity came about to have a weekly spot at his alma mater, Lindsey said he could not resist.
“We've been trying hard to get deals with USC to come back and show our faces a little bit, but this has been a good opportunity,” Lindsey said.
The Size Matters BBQ Bus is a new featured restaurant at the Food Lab – accepting both Meal Plan and CarolinaCash in addition to credit cards. This setup is "easier" as Aramark, the company that runs the Carolina Food Co., gets to focus on the bookkeeping, so he can focus on offering different menus, Lindsey said.
Sunday specialties from the BBQ Bus are a “country buffet” — choose one barbecued meat and two sides — while Tuesdays will highlight a new chicken sandwich on a brioche bun.
As the semester progresses, the twins want to draw on their Gulf Coast upbringing to provide students with coastal flavors.
“We're going to start bringing in some of our southern seafood ideas that we do on one of our trucks,” Jordin Lindsey said. “We traveled down to Mobile, where we're from, all time and get fresh seafood.”
Expect to find other Columbia favorites and Soda City standards like Paella’South, Mary’s Arepas and Cafe Strudel in Food Lab.
Short wait times and new offerings also make the Food Lab easy to try.
Tramont Miles, a third-year criminal justice and psychology student, noticed the speed of the service at the Food Lab. While not on the meal plan, the unique offerings of Food Lab drew Miles in.
Speed of service is recognized at Food Lab. Harris Dozier, a fourth-year finance and marketing student, has “very bad memories" about Tavolino, a former dining option in Russell House. He had chicken wings as a part of the reimagined Food Lab menu and is now a believer in the concept. The sticking points for him: faster service, better food.
While service at the Food Lab from both in-house chefs and local restaurants may tend to be speedy, Jordin Lindsey doesn’t want any confusion.
“We’re fast, but it ain’t fast food,” Lindsey said.