Beefing up Columbia

Lion’s Choice gets ready to open where Osama’s used to be near MU
Monday, May 3, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:43 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Roast beef could be what’s for dinner this summer, at least for those who live near the MU campus. A new restaurant famous for the meat plans to open in downtown Columbia later this month.

Lion’s Choice, 406 Ninth St., will specialize in roast beef sandwiches freshly made in the store. It is replacing Osama’s Coffee Zone, which closed after a fire last August destroyed the neighboring Heidelberg restaurant.

The Heidelberg will remain under construction when Lion’s Choice opens, but Tom Ginos — the managing member of the Lion’s Choice franchisee, Valley Beef LLC — said he would welcome the activity.

“I really view that as a positive, that development. I couldn’t put myself in a better spot than next to an institution,” he said. “I’m happy to be there, and I think it’s going to be a great long-term relationship there.”


Managers Rachel Kleinschmidt and Terry Cross create food orders Wednesday for the soon-to-open Lion’s Choice restaurant.

Gino said opening a location in Columbia is “a natural direction for us. We’re currently in Chesterfield, and we’re planning on growing west. We feel like it’s a great opportunity.” (PARKER ESHELMAN/Missourian)


When looking for locations in Columbia, Ginos said one of his goals was to find someplace near campus. When the building Osama’s used to occupy became available, he took the opportunity.

“That’s about as close as you can get (to campus). We looked at downtown, but we really wanted that goal of one campus location and some other locations in other parts of Columbia,” Ginos said.

Ginos said he would like to add two or three more restaurants in high-growth areas in the city, such as Providence Road, Nifong Boulevard, Stadium Boulevard or northern Columbia.

Ultimately, Ginos said, he would like to build Lion’s Choice restaurants in Lake of the Ozarks, Jefferson City, Springfield and Kansas City.

Starrla Galloway, a prospective employee, said she would enjoy working in the different atmosphere of Lion’s Choice.

“I’ll probably like it, ’cause it’s not like a typical fast-food restaurant,” she said. “It’s like a little on-the-corner type restaurant that is not really well known.”

Lion’s Choice sandwiches are made from top-round cuts of beef that are roasted in the store.

The layout

Once open, the restaurant will have seating for 110 people in the white- and rust-colored, two-level dining room, as well as a patio in the back. Customers will order and pick up food at a concession stand-like counter at the front of the store. Customers can also use ethernet ports behind the charcoal-colored booths along one of the walls.

Lion’s Choice restaurants opened in 1967 as Red Lion Beef House in Ballwin, a suburb of St. Louis. The chain has locations in Missouri, Illinois, Michigan and Florida.

The Heidelberg is tentatively set to open sometime around Aug. 1, said Rusty Walls, one of the restaurant’s owners.

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