If You Can’t Take the Heat, Get Out the Kitchen
Keeping cool by eating out this summer in Columbia
By LEZLIE PATTERSON
Many Southern summer memories involve food. Whether those tasty traditions involve cheeseburgers and hot dogs on the grill with potato salad, eating watermelon on the back porch, drinking lemonade on a sweltering afternoon, or waiting for the homemade ice cream to finally finish, there are certain foods that are just required for summer.
But sometimes, it’s just too hot to prepare those foods for yourself.
Several local restaurants can help provide the flavors of summer, tapping into the tastes that trigger nostalgia. Many are traditional summer dishes, but with perhaps a twist or flair that could prompt new customs and memories.
Here are five of many tasty summer dishes you can find at local restaurants.
Di Prato’s Signature Salad
A New York style delicatessen with a Southern twist, there are many items on Di Prato’s menu that are perfect for a summer lunch.
Di Prato’s uses fresh, local ingredients like vine ripened tomatoes, cucumbers and spinach on salads and sandwiches. They offer an assortment of cool salads and sides. You can choose between potato salad, pasta salad, potato chips or coleslaw with sandwiches, including pimento cheese.
What else says summer lunch better than potato salad or pasta salad?
Well, perhaps Di Prato’s Signature Salad.
Fresh strawberries join candied pecans, red onions, romaine lettuce and spring mix with buttermilk bleu cheese to give diners a taste of summer. The salad is topped with a raspberry vinaigrette that will make you forget the heat and humidity lingering just beyond Di Prato’s doors.
“It’s a beautiful salad,” says Dianne Light, who owns Di Prato’s with Bill Prato.
Salads are always a good choice for a summer lunch because fruit and greens grow locally in this season, and just seem to taste fresher. Summer tends to trigger cravings for these fresh fruits and vegetables, perhaps ones you even picked or harvested as a child.
Another reason salads are a popular summer meal when Columbia becomes famously hot? Because the meal is cool, not cooked.
Di Prato’s Signature Salad hits a lot of points, prompting memories of picking and eating strawberries on summer days, satisfying the craving for fresh food on hot days and putting something cool in your mouth while you escape the heat and humidity. Plus, it just tastes really good.
Hours: Monday-Sunday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Brunch served Saturday & Sunday 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Address: 342 Pickens Street
Tomato Pie and Fried Hen
Southern summers simply require tomato pie and fried chicken. Tombo provides both summer necessities in one dish, with its unique touch.
Tombo offers many items that are cool summer dishes, such as skillet pimento cheese, gulf shrimp cocktail, salads, grilled salmon or pork chops.
But nothing tastes like summer more than the Southern traditional delicacies that are tomato pies and fried chicken, especially when Tombo puts its mark on it with its unique flair, using fresh, local products. A Palmetto Farms hen is marinated in buttermilk and hot sauce and crispy fried. It’s then paired with a tomato pie using Heritage Farms heirloom tomatoes and a simple salad.
“Everyone loves fried chicken and paired with an amazing tomato pie that is light and fresh, you can't go wrong,” says Tombo chef JT Simms.
When summer temperatures rise in Columbia, many families opt to leave their ovens and stoves off and seek out local restaurants who can provide tastes of the season without heating up their kitchens.
“We specialize in Southern comfort foods that bring family and friends together,” Simms says. “With the heat of the summer, we like to make these dishes a little lighter with fresh local ingredients such as tomatoes, corn, okra, and greens.”
Casual or formal. Inside or out. Families, friends, or two by candlelight, Tombo Grille offers fare that will enhance any occasion. Even if that occasion is an escape from the heat.
When it comes to cooking summer meals, Simms keeps it simple.
“For us it is all about local, fresh, and light.
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 5:30-9:30 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 5:30 -10:30 p.m.; bar opens at 4:30 p.m.
4517 Forest Drive
Smoked Half Chicken with South Carolina Barbecue Sauce
One simply cannot survive a Columbia summer without an ample amount of barbecue. A Southern summer without barbecue is unimaginable. It just simply isn’t done and bless the hearts of anyone who might try.
Midwood Smokehouse makes sure folks don’t have to imagine a summer without barbecue, with past customers including a U.S president and football celebrities.
You can get chopped pork, beef brisket and ribs. But executive pit master Matthew Barry suggests trying the Smoked Half Chicken with South Carolina Barbecue Sauce for a satisfying summer meal. What you’ll get is tender, fall apart split chicken with plenty of all-hickory smoke flavor and house mustard sauce served with two sides.
“In the Columbia heat, it can be nice to keep it simple,” Barry says. “Smoke chicken fits that bill perfectly. Especially when you’re craving barbecue but want to hit the pool later.”
When it comes to Columbia’s stifling heat, keeping your stove and oven off is often a relief. Taking home leftovers from Midwood Smokehouse is another way to leave those appliances off. “You want food that’s just as good cold the next day as it is hot so that you don’t have to cook as much when the sun is blazing,” Barry says. “The smoked chicken makes great next-day chicken salad.”
When it comes to eating in the summer, keep it simple, Barry says. “Don’t use too many ingredients that are temperature sensitive,” he says. “Things can get crusty that shouldn’t be or vice versa. Keep it fresh.”
Hours: Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday & Saturday – 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Address: 702 Cross Hill Road
26-ounce Dry-Aged USDA Prime Porterhouse
Not much says summer like the aroma of steak grilling at an outdoor cookout. But sometimes, the famously hot temperatures force Columbians to improvise a bit. Halls Chophouse can help in a big way, with a wide variety of steaks from USDA prime beef.
Just in time for summer, Halls Chophouse in Columbia has rolled out a new menu. Ask Chef Nelson De Hoyos what his favorite new menu item is, and he’ll tell you about the 26-ounce, dry-aged USDA prime porterhouse. Like all of Halls Chophouse Signature steaks, the porterhouse comes directly from Allen Brothers out of Chicago. What sets the porterhouse apart from the other steaks on the menu is the combination of a tender filet and a sirloin strip, both enhanced with rich, bone-in flavor. For those who enjoy the buttery tenderness of a filet and the flavorful marbling of a sirloin strip, the porterhouse is the best of both worlds.
Pair the new porterhouse with an old favorite, like Halls Signature Lobster Mac ‘N Cheese or the Pepper Jack Creamed Corn Skillet and you’ll be in for a savory experience you won’t soon forget.
If you want something light for lunch or dinner, try one of Halls Chophouse salads, like the Halls Chop Salad with black eyed peas, cucumbers, peppers, bacon, feta, tomatoes, celery and green peppercorn-buttermilk dressing. You can add Patagonia salmon, grilled shrimp, southern fried or grilled chicken, or carved prime filet mignon.
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.; 4 p.m. – 11 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.; 4 p.m. - Midnight
Address: 1221 Main Street
Steam and Ice
Great Green Smoothies
Nothing is better on a hot and humid Columbia summer day than something cold in your mouth.
Like a smoothie.
The Steam & Ice Great Green Smoothie is layered with chunks of pure pineapple, mango and hemp granola. Pure honey is drizzled on top of those layers, then the blended green apple, kale and blackberry smoothie is poured on top. The smoothie has so many different delicious dimensions to it, that it will leave you surprised throughout the experience with the varying taste combinations. It is nutrient-packed, delicious, refreshing and filling. You have to drink it with a big straw in order to suck up all the different layers.
“Summer is a great time to eat something healthy and delicious and try something new and different,” says Janee Johnson, owner/chief business development officer & chief marketing officer for Steam & Ice. “The Great Green builds on a typical smoothie and is enhanced into something extraordinary.”
All ingredients come from pure, natural and innovative combinations that focus on delicious taste at its core. “The inventiveness and stylishness of the Great Green and the beauty of the signature glass bottles bring people in, but the taste has everyone coming back all summer long for more,” says Johnson, who notes that the smoothie can be enjoyed as a summer treat or a meal replacement for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
“Since it is packed with chopped fruit, hemp granola and smoothie blend, it is very filling and healthy,” Johnson says.
And perfect for infamously hot temperatures.
“Columbia is a hot summer city with people who want great taste and uniqueness while supporting a healthy lifestyle,” Johnson says. “A great summer food for Columbia should embody that.”
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Address: 275 Harbison Blvd.
Tiffany’s Sweets, Eats & Meeting Place
Pink Moonshine Lemonade Cake
You can’t get through a Columbia summer without lemonade and without dessert. At Tiffany’s Sweets, Eats & Meeting Place you can get both in the same tasty bite. The Pink Moonshine Lemonade cake is perhaps the newest arrival on Columbia’s summer dessert scene.
“In the South, our go to drink is most assuredly lemonade,” says Kay McMillan, of Tiffany’s Sweets, Eats & Meeting Place. “And what better addition to that than some moonshine.” This light and refreshing combination includes a light lemon and fresh strawberry custard with a pink lemonade whipped icing.
“This will be your new favorite dessert,” predicts McMillan. “It is very light to the pallet and will cool you down before it heats you up.”
Tiffany’s Sweets, Eats & Meeting Place offers salads, sandwiches and other items than can preclude dessert. All dishes and desserts are made from scratch, using locally sourced ingredients. Including the new summer staple, Pink Moonshine Lemonade Cake.
“We were all raised on the Southern tradition of ‘ice box’ cakes and this cake also is best served cold,” McMillan says. “Any summer get-together should always feature a cool and refreshing drink, entree or dessert, not the heavy Thanksgiving desserts.
“This is just one of the many lite summer desserts we have and have just added an even more refreshing treat: gelato.”
Hours: Monday-Wednesday, 7 a.m.-9 p.m.; Thursday & Friday, 7 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday closed.
Address: 9704 Two Notch Road