Good food and good wine are what Hampton Street Vineyard was founded on 17 years ago. Wine aficionados, in fact, are impressed with the fact that Hampton Street’s wine list has annually received Wine Spectator Magazine’s “Best Award of Excellence,” one of only 400 restaurants worldwide to earn this recognition. The wine list is updated weekly and boasts more than 650 selections.
Thirty-five wines by the glass originate from all over: Australia, New Zealand, California, Italy, France, and Portugal. Accompanying the wine selections are carefully chosen menu items to bring out the full flavor of the wines. Many of the dinner entrees feature a suggested wine. There is a soup of the day. Most recently, a seasonal creation was a parsnip soup with a twirl of apple cream. One salad has roasted beets, walnuts and goat cheese with mesculan greens and a walnut Champagne vinaigrette.
Appetizers on the menu include Duck Liver Cognac Mousse and Sauteed Lump Crab Cakes with dressed greens and a mandarin ginger brandy glaze. Seasonal dishes include grilled salmon set on a shrimp and spinach risotto with a maple syrup confit of red onions, or a pan-seared breast of duck with a shallot and wild mushroom potato hash seasoned with rosemary and thyme and finished with a spicy cranberry glaze. There are nightly specials, as well as a Pasta of the Day.
Desserts. Appropriate for the wine lover, there is the assorted cheese plate with fruit – ideal with a slightly sweet dessert wine. Selections also include vanilla bean cream brulee, white and dark chocolate bread pudding, chocolate caramel cake, and cranberry clafoutis. Patrons can also end the dining experience with sparkling wines from California and Champagnes. The restaurant is offering a Valentine’s Day dinner special; reservations are encouraged. Hampton Street is available for private parties, with a “Wine Room” accessible as well.
The restaurant opened in 1995 with three owners. Leigh Talmadge and Bill Murphy are still involved in the day-to-day operations. A third founder, Paul Pittenger, died in 2011. Talmadge began his foray into the food and beverage industry while in high school in New Jersey. He came to Columbia to work at Le Petit Chateau until it was sold. He worked in the wine industry until he became a part owner of Hampton Street. Murphy’s experience was more on the food side, where he ultimately learned the intricacies of French cuisine. Together they developed a culinary experience that involves as much local produce as possible, a menu that changes seasonally, and dishes prepared carefully and creatively.
Located in the historically and architecturally impressive Sylvan Building on Hampton Street in the heart of downtown Columbia, the ambiance begins at the entryway door. Customers must descend stairs to enter a lower level of the building and a charming cellar-type atmosphere – with an open bar and intimate dining vignettes. Seats between 60 to 75.
With the growth of downtown area living – due to new apartments, lofts, and townhomes – Hampton Street appeals to those residents. In addition, it has become a go-to place for friends, couples, and special gatherings of business associates or family members.