When chef Mike Odette was named a semifinalist in the "Best Chef: Midwest" category of the James Beard Foundation Awards in 2009, a few big-city partisans might have frowned, but those who have made the journey to Columbia to dine at Sycamore said, "Damn straight." Odette is a terrific chef, and Sycamore deserves a wider audience. This is a restaurant in the contemporary American vein, with seasonal, market-driven fare. You can't go wrong with any beef or pork dish, and the housemade potato gnocchi alone are worth the drive. (Not convinced? OK, then order the gnocchi and the Parmesan fries. Those two together are definitely worth the drive.) Now that we think of it, it'd be a good idea to plan to spend the night in Columbia: You can have dinner at Sycamore and then return for lunch — we recommend any of the pork sandwiches, especially the smoked shoulder — the next day.
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