DAVID ROSMAN: Try something new and support local restaurants

Wednesday, April 11, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:06 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, April 11, 2012

COLUMBIA — Politics — local, regional, statewide and national — are approaching the realm of Theater of the Absurd. Watching the talking heads on Sunday was close to unbearable.

To remedy the situation, I have decided to write my quasi-annual — maybe more, maybe less — restaurant review. Why? See above, and I have images of "Fiddler on the Roof" dancing in my brain.

Picture Zero Mostel as Tevye (saw the Broadway show in 1967), the milkman, standing next to a shack with a fiddler on the roof asking how one keeps their life in balance. The answer: Tradition! ("Sound effect": Fiddler on the Roof)

Even for the nonreligious, tradition is a very important part of our lives. Where we go to work and play, what television shows we watch, what books we read, which newspaper we choose (thank you for reading the Missourian). There is a feeling of comfort within our traditional and familiar surroundings. It does not matter what McDonald's you go to around the world, they all serve the two all-beef patties … except in India where cows are sacred.

When I heard the Boone Tavern was being taken over by Bleu, I panicked. That wonderful bar and real bar stools. A menu filled with good bar food and a wonderful wait staff. What was I to do, where was I to go?

Like many a tradition that has survived more than a century, we must ask ourselves: "Why are we holding on to this tradition so strongly? What is the meaning? What are we remembering?" (Cue: Tevye) Why? Change is not fun so we hold on to our traditions! (Sing: Traditioooooon, tradition ... Tradition.)

Returning to The Tavern, ah Bleu, last week I discovered a new menu, new bar stools and new lighting. It was still "The Tavern," right? No, but they kept the bar and that saved at least a bit of Boone Tavern's tradition.

But, it's now Bleu through and through. A new location, new kitchen, new furnishings, but Bleu nonetheless, except for the Tavern’s traditional bar with a new top.

I have not eaten at Bleu before, so I was a bit unnerved when I read the menu sitting on the patio with its traditional wrought iron tables. (Chorus: The tablllllles, the tables … The tables.)

The fare now includes some of Bleu’s specialties: Chicken fried rabbit, swordfish tacos and fancy mac and cheese dishes, which my friends rave about. I chose an old standby, crab cakes; $10 for the appetizer sounded steep until I found three on my plate. (Sing: The crab caaaaaakes, the crab cakes … The crab cakes.) They were better than most servings I have had in Columbia. The right amount, fresh and the sauce wonderful, creamy with a bit of a spicy bite. My friends sitting with us had nothing bad to say.

Our waitstaff was cheerful, even when I sent my first order back because it was slightly under cooked. However, I blame that on Bleu's opening only days before. A learning curve, you know. (Sing: The cookiiiiiing, the cooking … The cooking.)

Locally owned and independent, Bleu might be my new adult restaurant in town. As my grandfather Jake would say ("Sound effect": heavy Polish accent): "Try it, you'll like it."

We also visited a new Chinese buffet in town. I miss Great Wall, and the other Chinese buffets have been less than desired. The Eastern Harbor Buffet and Grill is different and much better than anticipated.

Eastern has fresh clams, mussels and sushi on the bill of fare (OK, that’s Japanese, but what the hey), as well as prime rib. The food was very good; the fish is fresh, the hot and spicy dishes are hot and spicy, and the portions in the steam tables are kept small to maintain freshness. Although the lo mein was a bit fishy tasting and the ribs need an upgrading, everything was well prepared. (Sing: The freshneeeeeess, the freshness … The freshness.)

Eastern has more of a restaurant feel than a buffet. The staff is very friendly and more than happy to chat with customers. As my sister would say ("Sound effect": heavy Brooklyn accent), "They're good people."

Eastern Harbor is family-owned, not a franchise, and I recommend it. It is located at 1705 N. Providence Road, next to the Honda dealership.

Supporting the local economy is important, and locally owned shops are the base of Columbia's eclectic makeup. Try it, you’ll like it.

David Rosman is an editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics.

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Jimmy Bearfield April 11, 2012 | 11:12 a.m.

This is the first column that I can recall having a dateline. Is that a new policy? For example, will Rose Nolen's columns have "Sedalia" so readers know where she lives?

(Report Comment)
Randy Kimble April 11, 2012 | 1:01 p.m.

I love to eat at local restaurants especially on in District by Flat Branch park. I won't be eating there anytime soon though, the last time I ate there I came out to a parking ticket which was issued at 5:58pm. Sorry District business owners, I guess this will be the price you pay for the new parking garage no one uses.

(Report Comment)
mike mentor April 11, 2012 | 3:36 p.m.

Thanks for the info on the new buffet. I will give them a shot. I liked great wall, not so much the other guys...
I Miss Chow's !!!
Smaller selection and such, but the food always seemed a little more fresh and tasty than the other buffet's.

(Report Comment)
David Rosman April 14, 2012 | 11:08 a.m.

Randy ~ Was it really the District's fault that you did not put enough money in the meter? The District does not issue ticket, nor controls who gets a ticket. I suggest you talk to parking enforcement about that.

Go back, put enough money in the meter or go later when you don't have to pay at all. You are missing some good places to eat.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro April 14, 2012 | 12:25 p.m.

Nu is not always better.
I know Chinese Buffet's can be enjoyable, but eastern harbor reminds me of the story of two Yiddish women who talked about their visit to a Catskill resort.
The food was terrible says one.
The other replies, Yes. And such small portions.
At eastern harbor buffet, I'd have to say the half of the food was terrible...but you could have all you could stomach.
I've never been disappointed with Teppanyaki's American/Italian/Chinese/Japanese, etc. Buffet, Sushi, Mongolian Grill and Desert emporium.
I recently tried eastern harbor to see if it ranked better.
It did not.
Two of Eastern Harbor's four buffet stations had cold Chinese food selections, which by the department of health's standards should have been hot, and the place had a dirty/seedy ambiance to it.
The sushi was discolored and some sushi plates remained empty.
Try both places if you must and decide for yourself. But I predict you'll only be spending your money to discover that Teppanyaki gives you much more bang and satisfaction for your buck.

("219 people have voted
81% like it")

Eastern Harbor:
("This place was awful.

We went here for the lunch buffet today because we had received a coupon in the mail.

The whole place only has 4 small buffet bars. Two of them actually have "Chinese food" and the other two have a horrifying salad bar and an "American" food bar. The American food bar had a full taco bar and some bad pasta casserole.

They had little to no options as far as Asian food. You could get chicken smothered in a variety of really sticky sweet sauces, but that was about it. There fried rice was completely flavorless and they did not have enough dumplings to keep refilling the tray.")

(Report Comment)

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