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What’s Good Here? Nathan’s Restaurant

Fried flounder, baby limas, zucchini with parmesan, and tomato pie
Fried flounder, baby limas, zucchini with parmesan, and tomato pie Deena C. Bouknight/Special to Go Columbia

What’s good here?

Lighter, flavorful, fresh Southern-style selections. Owner Debby Kaufman searches in Columbia and beyond for many hours weekly searching for the freshest, ripest produce in season. Whenever she can purchase locally, she does.

Part of the lunch menu is the traditional meat and three. Fried items such as chicken, flounder, and even the fried zucchini dusted with Parmesan cheese or the fried okra are not as heavy as some traditional Southern fare. Kaufman lightly batters so that the flavor of the food is not overpowered by the crispy exterior.

All the items are made on the premises, such as the Scratch Macaroni & Cheese, Tomato Pie, Potato Salad and Cole Slaw.

On Mondays, a barbecue item, such as chicken, is offered as a special, while Tuesdays each week there is pot roast. Nathan’s meatloaf special is served in a sweet tomato basil sauce. Breads are yeast rolls, regular and jalapeno cornbread and cloud-like cheddar biscuits.

There are also burger, sandwich, salad and basket choices. Several menu suggestions and recipes have come from customers, Kaufman said. She makes a cheesecake from a recipe submitted by a customer’s grandmother. “When you find a gem, you stay with it,” she says.

How did Nathan’s get its start?

In 1991, Nathan and Debbie Kaufman, with two small children, opened the restaurant just a few blocks from Benedict College and Allen University on quiet, historic Hampton Street. They worked side by side daily until just a few years ago when Nathan died. Now working with Debbie is her grown son, whose name is also Nathan. Her daughter Natalie previously has worked with her mother at the restaurant. She also has two cooks that assist her in the kitchen. “You have to love this business,” says Debbie, “and I love this business.”

What does the place look like?

The corner location with large windows and potted plants outside is a friendly reminder that there are still quaint neighborhood eating spots. Inside the open setting are framed chalkboards with selections, a counter with stools, and both table and booth seating for up to 40 total. The décor is a French flea market feel: paintings, found objects, architectural elements and mounted chair legs. Tables are covered in green and white checkered cloths.

Who eats here?

It is partly because of the regulars that Debbie has enjoyed cooking for and operating Nathan’s for so many years. There are some who dine daily. People visit from all walks of life – blue collar, white collar, students, families, and elderly downtown dwellers. “We get people from all across the board coming into our little place,” says Debbie.

Nathan’s Restaurant

1840 Hampton St.

PRICES: A meat and three is $6.40 plus tax. Other items on the lunch menu, as well as items on the breakfast menu, are no more than $7.

HOURS: 7 a.m.-11 a.m. breakfast; 11 a.m.-2 p.m. lunch Monday through Friday

INFO: (803) 254-0484

Deena C. Bouknight, Special to Go Columbia

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