Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Lunch Rush

Probably more frequently than I care to admit, I don't have food in my house.  Inevitably, I forget that I'm about to run out of bread or lunch meat or peanut butter, and I'm left with nothing to take for lunch.  It would be nice if I could remember these things and hit the store on my way home from work, but that rarely, if ever, happens.  Thankfully for my stomach, if not necessarily for my wallet, I know that I can always run across the street from my office and grab a pretty satisfying lunch for not a huge price at College Grounds Cafe.

For those of you in Columbia, College Grounds replaced Nice N Natural when Nice N Natural closed it's doors  in October 2010.  The upstairs of the building is home to Cool Beans (another of my favorite Columbia spots), and the owners decided to expand to the first floor when Nice N Natural closed.  Thus was College Grounds created.

I've been there twice since they opened earlier this year.  I walked away happy both times.  The menu has your basic lunch staples - soup, salads, assorted sandwiches - plus a few surprising sides and homemade doughnuts.  The menu has different offerings than it's upstairs neighbor, so I find it to be a nice alternative.

Both times that I've been to College Grounds, I chose from the sandwiches menu. The first time, I was really craving chicken salad, so I ordered the Carolina Chicken Salad on a pita with a side of pasta salad.  I'm pretty picky about my chicken salad - I don't like it to be too mayonnaisey, nor do I like it to have too many ingredients besides chicken.  This one had a little too much celery for my personal preference, but it was certainly the perfect consistency.  The amount of chicken was generous and it was well seasoned.  The sandwich is served with lettuce and tomato, and I chose to add some provolone cheese to mine.  You can choose to have it on wheat bread or on a pita.  The sandwiches at College Grounds stand alone, so if you want a side, you'll have to order it separately.  For a couple extra dollars, you can add a side and a drink (tea or coffee).  I was feeling especially hungry on the day I ordered this, so I added the pasta salad.  It's certainly nothing fancy, just some shredded cheese (parmesan, if I'm not mistaken), black olives, pasta, and some kind of Italian flavored dressing.  It's good, just not exciting.  My only real complaint is that there was a little too much dressing.  I'd prefer it to be a little drier, but that's just my personal preference.

You can see how stuffed the pita is, and garnished with olives.  The pasta is in the upper right corner.
Late last week, I once again ran out of lunch food.  So I headed back across the street to see if College Grounds's other offerings were as tasty as the chicken salad.  What I was really craving was something vegetarianish, and I was reminded of how much I miss Nice N Natural's veggie sandwich.  I took a look at the menu to see if College Grounds had anything comparable, and I settled on the Portabella Mushroom sandwich.  With a roasted red pepper spread, sprouts, spinach, and GIANT portabella, this was exactly what I was looking for.  Since I had tried the pita before, I opted to have this one on the wheat bread.  The bread was good, but I think that this sandwich would hold up better on a pita.  The red pepper spread soaked through the bread, so by the time I made it to the second half of my sandwich, the bread was a bit soggy.  I'll know that for next time.  I ordered the pasta salad again, because I really love pasta salad.  I thoroughly enjoyed this sandwich.  I clearly haven't tried much on the menu, but this one would be an early favorite.

The mushroom was almost too big for the bread.  That made me happy.
If you're looking for a new lunch spot in Columbia, I suggest that you try College Grounds.  It's pretty simple fare, but it's tasty.  If you're not super hungry, you probably don't need to order a side - as you can see, the sandwiches are a pretty good size.  I'll definitely be going back, and not just because it's convenient for me.  For those of you who aren't within walking distance, be aware that parking is awful.  The restaurant itself has a lot of room, and it wasn't especially crowded either time I've been there.  And don't forget, that if you decide to eat in, you can always run upstairs after your meal and grab a mid-afternoon latte at Cool Beans.

Final Rating

You can find College Grounds Cafe on Facebook, Twitter, or on the web

College Grounds Cafe on Urbanspoon

No comments:

Post a Comment