Great new selections make this a winner morning, noon and night.
By Linda H. Lamb Photos by Sally Taylor
Café Strudel, a short jaunt across the Congaree River from Columbia, is probably best known for two things. First, its sumptuous Sunday brunches that not only pull people from the comfort of their homes every weekend, but have them eagerly waiting in line. Second, its creative menu items that just make eating out more fun, like the irresistibly named Hangover Hash Browns.
But the funky little eatery on West Columbia’s State Street is branching out in several ways. In fact, it’s not so little anymore, since it moved a few buildings down to a space with a bigger kitchen, picturesque tin ceiling, local artwork on the walls and a friendly, full-size neighborhood bar.
Out back, owners Trip and Marila Turbyfill have expanded with a covered patio where you can enjoy a picnic-style gathering with friends – now including dinner hours Tuesday through Sunday. Add live music on Sunday nights, and it’s quite a different experience from the tiny space nearby where the Turbyfills first welcomed guests to a European-style café in 1997.
One thing hasn’t changed, however: the fresh and tasty food, thoughtfully prepared and often locally sourced.
“There’s just something satisfying about serving people quality food,” said Trip, a West Columbia native.
Added Marila, who’s originally from Charleston: “Everything is made to order. It’s not all premade and sitting under a heat lamp. And as much as possible, it’s seasonal – like berries in season and melons we cut ourselves, and microgreens that one of our chefs picks up at City Roots.”
How does all this translate to what’s on your plate at Café Strudel? Some examples:
- Chicken wing appetizers are treated with a homemade dry rub and smoked right at the restaurant.
- A local baker supplies one of the dessert favorites, a strawberry layer cake.
- Chicken skewers with a peanutty satay sauce are served with a salad of spiral-cut heirloom cucumbers, locally grown.
- Fried green tomatoes are hand battered and served with unique touches: goat cheese and roasted garlic-herb aioli.
- Grits come from the historic Adluh Flour mill just a few blocks away.
Café Strudel regulars delight in expecting the unexpected. Like a burger or quesadilla for breakfast. Or a tricked-up turkey sandwich served on sweet, dark wheat bread (the popular “Martino”). Or pulled pork tacos brightened with apple-blue cheese slaw and house-pickled red onions. Then there are the comforting homemade soup options that change daily. Cajun gumbo, anyone?
Executive chef Kyle Turbyfill grew up in his parents’ cafe, but also ventured beyond to get training at places like Sysco, returning with ideas like the duck fat fries and unique duck nachos.
For the duck nachos, they top thick, homemade, deep-fried tortillas with savory duck confit, a smoked Gouda Mornay sauce, a drizzle of sweet chili sauce and a sprinkling of green onions. (Better share with a couple of people if you want to leave room for dinner.)
That’s an example of rich, hearty fare, but Kyle points out that Café Strudel also caters to those who like to eat lighter. Examples: a fresh citrus-marinated North Atlantic salmon served on mixed greens with extras like goat cheese and candied pecans, a seared scallop salad with greens tossed in a honey-pepper vinaigrette, and a vegan but “absolutely delicious” couscous served with seasonal vegetables and a side salad.
Young chefs Dakota Wagner and Addison Stone enjoy putting an international spin on various dishes and specials – perhaps German, Asian or Mexican. Even a sandwich or burger can be intriguing when they’re done slicing and dicing. And check the café’s Facebook page to view creations like a wacky, wonderful looking “deconstructed baked potato.”
Meat lovers are in for a treat: After an extensive search for a supplier that met their standards, the Turbyfills found Brasstown Beef in North Carolina. We’re talking no antibiotics, no hormones, free-range, grass-fed cattle. And beef that’s melt-in-your-mouth tender.
The café’s clientele ranges from college students to retirees, but many have something in common, Trip said with a grin.
“A lot of our customers are what you might call foodies.”
One trio of self-proclaimed foodies enjoyed appetizers and wine on the new patio on a recent Friday evening. “This place has become the focal point of this area,” said Bobby George, of West Columbia. “The food is fab and the menu changes – I like to get their suggestions and they’re always great.”
The omelets and cinnamon pancakes are among his favorites, he said. Friend Kim Brown of Lexington said she’s partial to the duck fat fries, while Liz Lemmond, also of Lexington, cast a vote for the duck nachos.
The café’s namesake strudel and its cheesecake come from New York’s Carnegie Deli, but aspiring pastry chef Eric Graham often has some sweet surprises in store. He’s currently experimenting with desserts featuring homemade ice cream – such as a vanilla bean ice cream, sprinkled with cayenne pepper and surrounded by fried tortillas and a luscious, spicy chocolate sauce.
It’s just one more way the folks at Café Strudel want to make sure your meal has a happy ending.
What’s new at Café Strudel?
- Covered patio at the back – enjoy casual, open-air dining.
- Dinner! Now available Tuesday-Sunday … but don’t worry, you can get breakfast all day, too.
- Local singer-songwriters (acoustic) are featured on Sunday evenings to make that transition back to the workweek more pleasant.
- Call-in option now available to “save” your place in line for Sunday brunch.
- Evenings only: Specialty coffee bar featuring delectable brews supplied by Indah Coffee Co., local roasters you might have seen at the Soda City Market.
300 State St., West Columbia, SC