But before there was Shakespeare’s—before Murry’s came to be and when Addison’s and Sophia’s were nothing more than figments in the combined imaginations of a young group of entrepreneurs, (and before there was liquor by the drink), there were the likes of Hathman House, Harris Café, Gaebler’s Black and Gold Inn, Booche’s, the Virginia Café, Red Sandwich Shop, Ernie’s Steak House, Drake’s Drive-In, and others.
The only thing that kept Columbia’s restaurants from doing better back in the day was the aforementioned lack of alcoholic beverages in restaurants. There were bars, but the only spirits they could serve legally was beer—and that any bubbly beverage sold could have no more than 3.2% alcohol swimming around in a bottle or glass. A good example of these bar/restaurants was the venerable Stein Club, which during my growing up period could be found at the north side of the alley that separates the Tiger Hotel from Central Bank of Boone County (formerly Boone County National.) Later, this watering hole was moved around the corner to the south side of Broadway.
To have a drink with your meal, you had to venture forth—usually to Jefferson City or Sedalia. Many Columbians, after attending an MU football game (which was almost always held on a Saturday, with starting times of 1 PM,) would jump in their cars and head south or west to complete their weekend of fun by heading for the Brass Rail in Jeff or The grotto-like Homestead in Sedalia.
A closer alternative was visiting a select number of eateries that sat just outside the (then) city limits. Of those, one of the most popular was Moon Valley Villa, housed in a long, low building that sat alongside the banks of Hinkson Creek, just yards south of what is now Stephens Lake Park. Because these restaurants were “in the county,” you could purchase your booze of choice at one of many liquor stores in town, and then visit “The Villa”, where a piece of masking tape was attached to your bottle(s), upon which your last name was inscribed. During your meal, you’d be served drinks from your own bottle, with the restaurant supplying ice and your mix of choice.
Page upon page could be written about the history of this fascinating topic, but would be too much for a blog. I can, however, make mention of a few other Columbia area bistros during that period besides those mentioned above: There was the Topic, Huddle, Shack and Inglenook in Campustown (on or near Conley Avenue); the Ranch House and Coronado in the Northeast part of town (along with the Hathman House), plus Ernie’s Steak House, Long’s BBQ, and Breisch’s downtown, many of which could be found close to or on South Ninth Street.
One thing diners experienced in those days is still the norm today: An occasional wait for a table.
(My book, Thumbs Up, ‘V’ for Victory, I Love You can be found at Barnes & Noble and via this web site. A sequel is in the works.)