In Columbia, MO recently, I had a chance to try a place that has been open for about five years, but it was new to me. Broadway Brewery features a number of in-house beers and a menu that highlights farm-to-fork foods that are grown locally around the greater Columbia area. It was actually two small farmers/shopkeepers along with a brother who was retired and a homebrewer who started Broadway Brewery about five years ago.
Walker Claridge got his start in sustainable farming while working for an Oregon bed and breakfast that specialized in growing their own food. Moving to rural Central Missouri to work as an organic farm inspector, he decided that the traveling around to farms didn't suit his bones. He started his own little seven acre sustainable farm outside of Columbia. He began to sell some of his produce at local farmers markets, but he found that he wasn't making enough money to sustain a living. Other sustainable farmers in the area were having the same problem. Working with another part-time sustainable farmer Kenny Duzon, the two opened The Root Cellar, a produce store committed to the local farming base. At the height of The Root Cellar's popularity, they were selling produce, eggs, dairy and meat products from over 140 Missouri farmers.
Kenny Duzon worked full-time as a biologist for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources in addition to being a part-time sustainable farmer and a partner in The Root Cellar. At the Department of Natural Resources, he worked with a guy by the name of Paul Dickerson who was a home-brewer of beer and who also knew Walker Claridge. Dickerson had caught the home-brewing bug when he was going to Quincy University in the mid-90's. Dickerson had been harboring thoughts of opening a brew pub at some point, even talking to Claridge about his dreams. Meanwhile, Duzon and Claridge had been throwing around the idea of opening a restaurant that featured Missouri-grown produce and meats. The ball started to roll in 2007 when Dickerson, Claridge and Duzon - along with Duzon's brother Jim, a retired school teacher - began to make plans for a small brew pub that sold locally grown foods in downtown Columbia.
They found a spot on Broadway - basically the Main Street through downtown Columbia - a the subterranean-level of a building which housed a bakery that had moved to a new location. (see map) The group opened Broadway Brewery in the Spring of 2009. Soon after, Claridge and Kenny Duzon moved The Root Cellar next door. In 2011, they sold The Root Cellar and Broadway Brewery expanded into that space. Broadway Brewery serves dinner seven days a week, with lunch Tuesday thru Saturday and a Sunday brunch.
I got into Broadway Brewery around 8 p.m. The main dining part of the restaurant is to the left. A three-sided bar was toward the back of the dining area. To the right as you come in is the newer space that Broadway Brewery took over after Claridge and Kenny Duzon sold The Root Cellar. A small stage is off to the side, a shuffleboard court was in the middle of the room with tables off to each side. Small groups of people were interspersed throughout the brewpub.
The hostess who greeted me wanted to take me to a table along the east wall where there were banquette seats. I thoroughly detest banquette seating and I asked if I could get a small table just around the corner from the front door. She obliged me and dropped off a menu for me to look through.
The menu isn't all that extensive at Broadway Brewery, but they did have appetizers, salads, sandwiches, pizza and main entrees that included pork, beef, chicken and farm-raised shrimp that were featured in the Creole dish that included andouille sausage. That evening they had a morel mushroom appetizer on the menu. I love morels and there seemed to be a lot of them out this year due to the cool and wet Spring weather. They were also featuring a 6 ounce Wagyu beef filet with morel mushrooms. I was getting closer to figuring out what I was going to get.
The beer selection at Broadway Brewery is wide and varied. They had five different India Pale Ale's on the menu that included a single hop IPA, a double rye IPA, and a Black IPA that was heavy in malt with a hint of chocolate and coffee in the taste. They also featured a porter, a brown and an organic honey-wheat beer. I wasn't certain what kind of beer to get.
And I certainly had a long time to make up my mind for both what I was going to have for dinner and the type of beer that I was going to drink. No one even came close to approaching me as I sat at my table. I don't want to say this always happens to me when I eat alone because it doesn't. But when it does, I just have an uncomfortable feeling about how the rest of the meal is going to go.
I was seriously thinking of just getting up and walking out when a young guy by the name of Marc saw me sitting there, patiently (well, not too patiently by that time) waiting. He came back and greeted me and asked me if I wanted anything to drink. I told him that I wanted the kolsch beer that they had and that I was ready to order some food. He sort of snapped to attention and said, "Oh! OK!"
As I said, I was thinking of getting the 6 ounce Wagyu filet with the morel mushrooms. But I decided that I was going to do the morel mushroom appetizer instead. And that was mainly because I saw something on the menu that really jumped out at me - a bison Salisbury steak topped with porter-glazed morels, arugula salad and onion straws. That's what I ended up getting.
The morel appetizer featured pea pods, sliced cherry tomatoes and fresh basil all on a bed of housemade white bread and topped with a creamy biere blanc (white wine and butter) sauce. The morels were chopped and lightly breaded and they were just out of this world, tastewise. With the fresh basil, pea pods, cherry tomatoes and the rich biere blanc sauce it was an amazing appetizer. I sopped much of the sauce up with some of the bread that I had.
Not long after I finished what I could of the appetizer, Marc brought out the bison Salisbury steak. It was in a small serving dish and was piled high with onion straws and a smattering of the green arugula. The bison Salisbury steak was swimming in the a brown porter sauce with bits of mushrooms mixed in.
The ground bison steak was very good. The sauce helped with the moisture, but the porter-glazed morels were just outstanding in taste. Sometimes bison meat can be a little bland because of how lean it is. But the sauce and mushrooms helped liven up the overall taste. The onion straws were also very good - lightly breaded and crispy to the taste. To me, this was an excellent meal.
Marc's service was a little less than desirable. He was a talker and I noticed that he was chatting up people - including me - when he should have been taking care of tables. After he brought out the bison Salisbury steak, I asked him if I could get another kolsch to go along with the dinner. The kolsch turned out to be pretty good and I like the lighter taste of it, especially in warmer weather. He said he'd be right on it, but then I noticed that he stopped off at a table to pick up a check and credit card and proceeded to chat up the people at the table for about three or four minutes. I didn't want to be eating and not having anything to drink along with it, so I waited. He finally went to the bar, I'm guessing he put my beer order in while he was processing the credit card. But he walked out from the bar with the people's credit card and receipt, chatted them up for a few more moments, then went over to check on another table, chatting THOSE people up for a moment. Then he disappeared. I finally had to get the attention of the hostess to ask if she could go find him to get my beer. Moments later, he brought out the beer with nary a word of apology, only asking how my dinner was.
Actually, other than that, my dinner at Broadway Brewery was very good. The food was excellent, the beer was fine, the service, well... Having to sit there for a long time before anyone came over was bad enough, but forgetting to bring back my beer is another. I mean, Marc was a nice guy when we were talking after the meal was finished, but his service was a little lax. But it didn't fully tarnish my experience at Broadway Brewery. The food was just too good to do that. (Photo courtesy Sweet Leisure.com)