Ryan Whitaker is the owner and head chef at @116 Espresso and Wine Bar. Whitaker took over House Coffee in May, closed it for remodeling and relaunched the business at the end of August.
What's good here?
"That's a long list.
"We do a sauteed blue lip mussels with a Romesco sauce, which is sort of like a Spanish marinara. Instead of stewed, it's roasted with onions, garlic, bell peppers.. Everyone is used to mussels in white wine, this is different.
"We still do feature a full coffee shop. And we do a coffee-and chili-rub flank steak that has a nice spice to it. It's served with garlic mashed potatoes.
"Everything is tapas style for dinner. They are small plates so you can try different things."
"One of things I'm proud of that we do is an empanada. It's one of my favorites. It's a quick dough, with a little bit of vinegar in the dough. We rotate a vegetable and a meat option. My favorite is the Cuban style with ground beef It's spicy and sweet. We serve it with a minted sour cream dipping sauce. It's a good snack - like pockets."
What does the place look like?
"We kept the coffee shop feel. It's not a white tablecloth thing. It's a relaxed, casual feel. A local artist did all our tables. We feature rotating local artists on the walls.
"We were shooting for some place you can get great food but not feel like you (have to get dressed up.) You could come in off the Riverwalk in shorts and a T-shirt and get a nice meal and a great bottle of wine."
Something different for Columbia?
"We're trying to fill a little bit of a need here in Columbia. There's not much of a Spanish influence in restaurants in Columbia.
"I'm trained under Italian chefs, but I started playing with Spanish flavors a couple years ago. I didn't want to do another Italian restaurant in Columbia. We have plenty of people who do that well already."
You serve meals late into the night?
"We keep the kitchen open until midnight on weekends. So people who leave the theater or catch a late movie, they are not having to go to a sports bar. And we are open for service industry people. This is a place they can get a real meal. "
Who eats there?
"It's a pretty interesting mix on State Street. It's always been a younger, college crowd, but we're starting to see a little older, more professional crowd.
"We still during the day have the Wifi and coffee crowd. You'll see college students working on their laptops."
How is State Street changing?
"I think we're in at the right time. There's Chef Mike (Davis) at Terra and all the great things he's doing. It's a great area. The whole idea of a West Vista.
"I looked all over Columbia and fell in love with this spot when I saw it. It's more casual, more independent.
"It's a struggle opening a restaurant in this economy, but I'm excited about it, about what we have and what we can offer Columbia."