Ingredient restaurant adds made-to-order business to Columbia

Sunday, December 7, 2008 | 3:22 p.m. CST; updated 11:15 p.m. CST, Sunday, December 7, 2008

COLUMBIA — Since May, the retail location sandwiched between Which Wich? and Campus Bar & Grill has been empty. But Steve Kerner hopes to change that by mid-January.

Kerner co-owns Ingredient, a restaurant franchise that has two locations in Kansas. He is opening a Columbia location in the empty space on Ninth Street that used to be home to Moe's Southwest Grill. That restaurant closed in May because of financial troubles.

Ingredient bills itself as "gourmet fast casual," a kind of halfway point between fast food and fine dining.

"We’re a restaurant that focuses on fresh ingredients in combinations," Kerner said. "Salads are a big part of our makeup."

Ingredient offers five types of salad greens, 60 toppings and 12 types of dressing. Customers can choose two greens, five toppings and a dressing when they order a salad.

The menu also includes an array of sandwiches (including the Portobella Melt and the Honey Wasabi Turkey Burger), soups and wraps. The Columbia location's menu will be a bit different than that of the restaurant's other two locations, Kerner said. Because the Ninth Street space didn't allow for a wood-burning oven, Ingredient won't be able to offer pizzas.

"We’re from Kansas City, but the first store was in Lawrence, Kansas," Kerner said. "We looked all around Kansas City, but we ended up in a college town nearby."

When they started looking for another location, Kerner said the similarities between Lawrence and Columbia, both college towns, were a big factor.

"That’s one of the reasons we want to bring it to Columbia, as well. We feel those are our people," he said.

Ingredient's price range is a bit higher than some other restaurants close to campus; most items cost between $7.95 and $9.95, while a sandwich at Which Wich? is $4.75 before tax. But Kerner pointed out that for restaurants with similar food, Ingredient has competitive prices.

"It’s still a reasonably priced meal," he said, remarking that the variety of options also adds to the restaurant's appeal. "You can go there as many times as you want throughout the year, and you could end up with something different each time."

Ingredient will be at 304 S. Ninth St. and is currently accepting applications for positions.

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