For those who have seen the movie, “What About Bob?” with Bill Murray, you will understand the verbal and facial expressions exhibited while customers recently enjoyed the Fisherman Wharf sandwich at Cali’s Cafe. The character Bob loudly expresses his delight over a meal he is enjoying, which is just what customers felt free to do at Cali’s. Fisherman Wharf features a unique combination of salmon (lox), pesto, red onions, pepper jack cheese and lemon garlic mayonnaise. It is served toasted and hot. Other novel lunchtime creations include the Berkley, with turkey, sprouts, guacamole, red onions, lettuce, tomatoes, provolone cheese and lemon garlic mayonnaise. The Mendicino has tofu, pesto, red onions, pepper jack cheese and horseradish mayonnaise.
Everything is made fresh to order. Even the three versions of chicken salad, – Cali’s Original, cranberry pecan and Cajun – are made to order. There are other items besides sandwiches, including grilled pork, chicken, or ahi tuna over rice, as well as turkey burgers. Harvest Veggie and Loaded Potato are regular soups, but the owner plans to add a lentil variation as well. At least half of the items on the menu are vegetarian, and all are healthy.
Cali’s mixes up nutritious smoothies. Beginning at least by the first of 2014, there will be breakfast items available – as well as Wi-Fi service. Currently, Cali’s caters and offers takeout; the cafe will provide delivery service at least by January. Cali’s is also applying for a beer and wine license, and hours may be extended into the evening.
Sonya Moore and partner Rhozeter Wright opened Cali’s earlier in 2013. Sonya hails from California – thus, the name Cali’s. Throughout the restaurant are reminders of the state: a map, a few license tags, a framed poster of San Francisco. And, several of the menu items are named for areas in California. The women have experience in the food industry. Moore has worked for companies that focus on providing healthy, nutritious, flavorful foods, but she always dreamed of owning her own place. Wright, who previously worked with California Dreamin’, built the cabinets and renovated the space at 1124 Taylor Street. The menu items are original. Moore, who has lived in Columbia for five years, said she recognized that South Carolina is ranked near the top regarding obesity issues. “I’m trying to instill healthy eating habits by making nutritious food readily available.”
Cali’s is small – with a seating capacity, at booths or a window seat bar, of about 20. However, downtown workers often like to grab and go, so much of the business is takeout. Those who eat in can experience a true downtown ambiance. Large front windows provide a view of the hustle and bustle of the Municipal Parking Lot traffic as well as customers to Mast General Store right across the street. Menu items are posted on a chalkboard above the counter, and the small space provides an opportunity for patrons to talk with one another. There are hardwood floors and an old, painted, stamped tin ceiling. The cafe is decorated in earth tone colors. Moore said there is a possibility a space next door may open up so that Cali’s can expand.
“Our customers are mostly white-collar workers,” Moore said. “We are also beginning to be a lunch place for people who visit the Saturday morning farmer’s market on Main Street. Plus, we catered recently for the mayor’s office. People come here to try something new and to seek out healthier alternatives.”