What’s Good Here? Bourbon Columbia on Main Street

What’s good here?

How about more than 150 different whiskeys, as well as bourbon and handcrafted specialty cocktails? Sample flavors of the Louisiana bayou in such menu items as black-eyed pea hummus with smoked sea salt, shrimp creole, vegetarian gumbo and winter squash jambalaya. For lunch, there is also a muffuletta sandwich with Genoa salami, ham, mortadella, mozzarella, provolone, olive and pickled cauliflower.

Choose among po’boys with shrimp, pork, braised beef, catfish or even pork belly. Sides are clearly Southern: white rice, collard greens, fingerling potatoes and Tater Tots. More distinct sides include Crystal Spiked Blue Cheese Slaw and Creole Pimento Shells and Cheese. Specials are creatively displayed on a decorative framed “chalkboard” that is actually a video screen.

Dinner staples include the Shrimp and Tasso Ham Etouffee, a thick soup-like dish typically served over rice, and Seared Manchester Farms (local) Quail stuffed with wild mushrooms, pearl onions and cornbread. A popular salad is the South Carolina Bounty Salad – filled with locally grown items, such as arugula, beets and squash; for flavor, this salad might have bourbon-soaked olives, plus cherries and goat cheese.

For dessert, there are beignets, of course, but there also is banana pudding, soaked in Maker’s Mark and topped with crumbled vanilla wafers and caramel.

What does the place look like?

Bourbon is in sight of the State Capitol and is located in the historic Brennen Building, built circa 1869. There is limited street parking, but a parking area at the back of the building provides spaces for patrons.

Seating is for 64, either at the lengthy bar, at two smaller center aisle bars, or at booths and tables. Walls are wallpapered or distressed, and a large sign with the word “DRINK” in lights is a focal point.

How did Bourbon get started?

Co-owners Rick Crowe and Kristian Niemi opened Bourbon in April 2014. They have been known each other for 22 years. Since bourbon is the “top echelon in the liquor world,” according to Crowe, the restaurateurs wanted something different – “a farm-to-table experience where most everything is fresh and local,” he says. “ We wanted to bring that big-city downtown feel like you get in Atlanta or D.C. to downtown Columbia. And, since Louisiana is a food mecca, with multiple influences such as Creole, German and French done top-notch, we decided to have a locally influenced Louisiana twist.”

Newly named executive chef Frank Bradley is a Columbia native who has been with Bourbon since its inception and who trained at top restaurants after culinary school.

Who eats here?

Bourbon is so popular, especially on the weekends, that the wait can be three hours. There are no reservations taken. Politicians, business people, lawyers and USC staff and faculty members are regulars, along with couples on dates and groups of friends. The lively yet sophisticated atmosphere is a draw for those who want to eat and/or drink in an environment a little more upscale than the typical college bar scene.

Deena C. Bouknight, Special to Go Columbia

Bourbon Columbia

1214 Main Street in Columbia. (803) 403-1404.

PRICE: The average meal is $8 to $14. Bourbon also does tailored, limited catering.

HOURS: 11:30 a.m.-midnight Mondays through Thursdays; 11:30 a.m.-1 a.m. Fridays; 4:30 p.m.-1 a.m. Saturdays; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays (kitchen closes at 10 p.m.).

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