Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Best of 2008: Homegrown in COMO

In order to make this place tolerable, I've had to search out local merchants and producers that fill my many wants and needs. I prefer local to corporate anything and COMO has a lot to offer in that department. So, here is my list of the best local businesses of 2008 (most likely not to change in 2009).

Best Farmers Market Vendor: (Tie) Show-Me Farms and Susie's Grass-Fed Meats
I was able to justify giving up my vegetarianism (7.5 years) once I realized you could buy locally meat that was not force-fed corn. Show-Me has been a staple in our household since moving here. We still have a bunch of meat from the cow we shared with friends. Plus, Show-Me makes a mean breakfast burrito and we always buy their eggs. We shared a lamb with neighbors from Susie. The lamb is fine, but her friendly nature is what sells the meat.

Best Ice Cream: Sparky's
This has been a hotly contested topic at other blogs, but the choice is clear. No other ice cream shop provides the same flavors and local color as Sparky's. Also, they serve alcohol.

Best Brewery: Flat Branch
This is easy since it is the only brewery in town (for now - look for the co-op by the Root Cellar), but it is a solid brewery. Sure some of the beers lack the characteristics you'd expect from particular brews and most of the wait staff don't know the difference between a porter and a Hefeweizen, but the beer is good overall and the food is among my favorites. (I'm currently obsessed with the stout meatloaf.)

Best Beer Selection: Sycamore
Sycamore has really improved as a restaurant since moving here, but the beer selection is what sets it apart. Sanford does an amazing job bringing in beers one does not normally find in Mid-Misery. New Belgian puts out several keg-only releases, and somehow Sanford always gets his hands on them.
A Close Second: The Ragtag - Barry has put together a solid, yet accessible selection in a short amount of time.

Best Restaurant - Dinner: Wine Cellar and Bistro
This is the home of R's favorite chef. We had our first date night since Lucia's birth at Wine Cellar and Bistro. Someone describes their food as "one-ingredient-too-many," but I would contend that it's better to have one-too-many than not enough. Plus, they hosted a fantastic beer dinner with Bells.

Best Restaurant - Breakfast: Cafe Berlin
Cucina Sorella closed, we were fearful that we would never have a non-diner/bakery breakfast again...Then Cafe Berlin arrived. At first, the food was so-so, but the little family joint has prospered over the last year. The highlight for me is the pancake burrito. It's filling and satisfies both my salty and sweet desires simultaneously.

Best Restaurant - Old Stand-By: Murry's
Nothing about Murry's is spectacular. It's located in a strip mall. There's always a wait. But what Murry's is is consistent. I know that I can always get the steak "sandwich" when I'm in-need of some iron and protein. They have also been a great employer over the years, giving many in the COMO restaurant scene their first start.

Best Chocolate: Patric Chocolate
I'm not talking about confectioners and their bite-sized morsels in heart-shaped boxes. I'm talking real, from-the-bean-to-the-bar, artisan chocolate. And it exists in Columbia, Missouri. Alan (a beer-tasting buddy) makes the most intensely complex chocolate I've had. Seriously, buy his chocolate. I'll wait...

Best Indie Label: Emergency Umbrella
Sometimes, like Patric Chocolate, COMO doesn't realize what they have. EU is on the rise. Let me run down the label's roster...Sinkane's Ahmed Gallab just toured as Of Montreal's second drummer and has done some recording with members of TV on the Radio and Yeasayer. Now there's word that Merge might be interested in Sinkane. Gentleman Auction House have a ton of buzz swirling around them with interest shown from Polyvinyl. Bald Eagle just secured a spot opening for Cursive on an upcoming tour and recently had a song picked up by Microsoft Zune for a marketing campaign. Drew Danburry is a favorite among the indie elite, including members of Death Cab for Cutie. Finally, there's the Foundry Field Recordings who have a record and tour on the horizon. FFR has been featured in numerous magazines and websites over the years, just Google them. Look for the label to possibly have a showcase at next year's SXSW.
Best Place to Take Visitors: Booches
If you want the best hamburger in the world, go to Booches. Need I say more? I order mine as "
2 E, GRO" (everything, grilled onions).

Best Coffee: Kaldi's
This might be a cheat since Kaldi's is technically a STL product, but the best coffee in town was roasted by Kaldi's before they set up a shop in COMO and it still is now that their on 9th and Cherry.

Best Video Shop: Ninth Street Video
For whatever reason, I've never been a "regular" anyplace. If I have or will ever be considered a "regular," it will be at Ninth Street Video (now on Hitt St.). Almost everybody who works there knows that I'll return the movies late and that the account is under R's name. I've been let off the hook for so many late fees that I might be able to pay for my child's first three years of college. Besides that, the selection is second-to-none.

While we're at 10 Hitt Street...

Best Bar/Movie Theater/Bakery: Ragtag Cinema/Uprise Bakery
Sharing the building with Ninth Street Video is my favorite hangout. The Tag has been a beacon of light in my sea of Misery since moving here. And now, they have two screens. The bar/bakery area is spacious and hip. Uprise serves the best bread in town (available everywhere these days) and the bar is first-rate with its copper top and great beer selection. Have I mentioned my love for The Tag before?

There are plenty more local businesses that get my money, but few of them would thrive in other cities like New York, Seattle, Chicago, etc. These just happen to be businesses that I would put up against any other city's. So, you should support them (and their kind) with whatever money you have left. COMO can't afford to lose such homegrown successes as these joints to economic environment in which we find ourselves.

Sure, think globally, but buy locally.


pcup said...

who is sparky's competition?

comoprozac said...

Other than some frozen custard joints and chains, Jeff City's Central Dairy and Buck's, I believe. There actually isn't much competition.