Roll On, Columbia

Columbia's a college town. It's also an eatin' town. Big-time.

For dinner we visit the Wine Cellar & Bistro (505 Cherry Street, Columbia; 573-442-7281). You enter at street level, then descend a ramp into the cozy dining room where tables are nestled among the wine racks. It's a lovely, even romantic, space, and executive chef Craig Cyr's menu reveals a man passionate about food.

Consider the description of the duck confit appetizer: "Mexican vanilla, juniper and garlic marinated Muscovy duck with watercress salad, candied yuzu, Goatsbeard cheese and Vietnamese-cinnamon-roasted, shag-bark hickory nuts."

My first reaction: "Wow."

Whatever you choose at Columbia's Wine Cellar and Bistro, you'll likely be impressed.
Tyson Anderson
Whatever you choose at Columbia's Wine Cellar and Bistro, you'll likely be impressed.

Location Info


Booches Billiards Hall

110 S. Ninth St.
Columbia, MO 65201

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Columbia

Columbia, Missouri

My second reaction: "What's yuzu?" (It's a citrus fruit common to China, Korea and Japan.)

In other words, there's a lot going on in Cyr's dishes. In those I try, at least, these unusual ingredients and combinations work. The vanilla and cinnamon add just the right notes of sweetness to the confit and its accompanying salad, while the juniper and the yuzu give each a slight zing. In another appetizer, curry bridges the savory sweetness of braised oxtail and the more caramel sweetness of acorn squash.

The menu plays clever, too. "Tuna Mac" is a piece of fantastic ahi tuna seared rare, served over ziti pasta in a blend of fontina, Swiss and Boursin cheeses. Here Himalayan black truffles add an earthy note to the rather straightforward flavors of the tuna and pasta. Reassuringly, Cyr can also leave well enough alone: A tremendous veal chop, grilled medium-rare, needs little help, and Cyr dresses it with a relatively simple sherry vinaigrette.

Though the menu features more sophisticated dessert selections, we can't resist the chocolate fondue, which comes with homemade marshmallows. I don't think I've had homemade marshallows before. They are an indulgence, much more substantial than the store-bought variety. The fondue also brings enough fresh fruit to feed a table of six, and once again we stagger out into the Columbia night, full and exhausted.

We're as eager to return to the Wine Cellar & Bistro today as we were to return to the Sycamore yesterday. Unfortunately, our time in Columbia has reached its end. There's time for breakfast and one more film before we head back to St. Louis.

We stop at Cucina Sorella (22 North Ninth Street, Columbia; 573-443-5280), a small café owned by Trattoria Strada Nova, a more formal joint across the street. I'm fairly confident someone somewhere warned me never to order huevos rancheros at a café with an Italian name in the middle of Missouri, but Cucina Sorella's are good. The sauce packs a gradual heat, and the chorizo provides a strong, sharp flavor.

The guy sitting next to us is ready to leave, but a delivery truck has blocked his car. I ponder how nice it would be to get stuck here just one more night. Maybe the Wine Cellar could squeeze us in early or late; if not, Columbia boasts a remarkable number of good restaurants squeezed into the few square miles of downtown, and we'd be sure to find a table somewhere. But our car is free to go, St. Louis is still a two-hour drive away and we have dinner reservations — on the Hill, no less — at 8:15.

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