It’s time for our annual Best of Columbia awards — and this year we shook things up a little. Our editors took out much of the groundwork for our readers by picking nominees for the reader-voted awards, and then you, our readers, turned in more than 12,000 votes on who you think the best in food, drink, services and people are. These are published as “Reader-voted winners” in the July/August issue. We also added even more Columbia content in the form of Editors’ Picks. Learn who caught our eye this year below!
Best Outdoor Show: Maplewood Barn Theater
The original Maplewood Barn Theatre, which began in 1973 with the forming of the Maplewood Barn Theatre Committee, operated out of a 96-year-old barn in what is Nifong Park. On April 5, 2010, a fire consumed the barn, along with most of the theater’s costumes, props and set pieces. The barn was rebuilt, and in 2012 the new building opened with a production of “Fiddler on the Roof.”
Best Outdoor Hike: Shooting Star Trailhead
Just a short drive outside of city limits, Shooting Star Trail, off of Bonne Femme Church Road, offers hikers a workout-worthy hike and a spectacular view. After a short hike through cedar trees, the trail opens to a beautiful vista view, with a perfect spot for a scenic picnic with either a significant other or friends. Keep hiking down the trail to get to the bottom of the hill and if you brought a furry hiking companion let them cool off in Gans Creek.
Best New Nonprofit: Love Coffee
A branch of Love Inc., Love Coffee seeks to employ and provide job skills for people with disabilities and barriers to employment. Employees learn skills related to customer service and food prep, as well as professional etiquette with the goal that these skills can then be applied to other employment opportunities in the community and beyond. Love Coffee’s Food Service Manager Micah Baker created their menu and everything they offer is handmade, including brioche cinnamon rolls, croissants and specialty sandwiches and salads, such as the Love Salad with mixed greens, smoked turkey, tomato, cucumber, celery, carrot, cheddar and hard-boiled egg.
Prettiest Fairway: Old Hawthorne Hole 18
Hole 18 at Old Hawthorne opens onto a breathtaking vista that overlooks the clubhouse. The Club at Old Hawthorne was originally built in 1938 and later added on to. The 1938 building replicated President Andrew Jackson’s home, and was remodeled later to increase the square footage from 6,000 to 30,000. With its colonial style and breathtaking course views, the Club is a popular spot for parties, weddings and corporate events. Stop by after your round to enjoy a cold drink and salad or sandwich, or plan a date night dinner with your significant other and enjoy the view while enjoying a gourmet meal at the Bar & Grille.
Biggest Columbia Cheerleader: Cindy Mutrux
Cindy Mutrux embodies the very spirit of Columbia by both creating a sense of community and also helping that community when it’s in need. She donates to and volunteers with countless local organizations, but the two she is most involved with are Coyote Hill Children’s Home and Central Missouri Honor Flight. She has accompanied more than 30 honor flights during her time volunteering with the program, and now helps educate local veterans on the flight and assists those that might not be able to with filling out applications. She is currently vice chairman for Coyote Hill Children’s Home and helps to bring awareness to the importance and impact that it has on children in both Boone and surrounding counties. Other passion projects include Pascale’s Pals, Lizzy’s Walk of Faith and local sports teams. “I try to see myself as a positive representative for my community, and as a local business, I want to support other local businesses,” Mutrux says. “I hope I’m a positive influence for others to see why helping our community is so important.”
Best House-Made Tortillas: Tortilleria El Patron
For three years, Tortilleria El Patron on Vandiver Drive has been providing Columbians with authentic, Mexican tortillas. The tortilla machines are so authentic in fact that they had to be brought up from Mexico by the Morales family, who own the eatery. Corn and flour tortillas are made fresh daily — and the flour tortilla recipe is a family secret, so don’t bother asking. Tortilleria El Patron also offers burritos and tacos, with a variety of meats including chorizo, asada, beef tongue and pork.
Best Hidden Gem: Three Creeks Conservation Area Sunflower Field
Tucked away on the south side of Boone County, toward Ashland, is a treasure not many non-locals know about. While you may have heard of Three Creeks Conservation Area, the sunflower field makes it worth another stop. Head there to see the blooms in July and August.
Best Hooved Heroes: Chalupa Batman and Mac
In the early days of the COVID-19 crisis, as closures/social distancing began to affect Columbia residents and businesses, Kris Wallace, owner of The Columbia Equestrian Center, had a divine equine inspiration: a pony visitation program to raise funds for the center and cheer people up. For a donation of $5, a family could “hire” one of the center’s two miniature ponies, Chalupa Batman or Mac, to come and graze on their lawn for 5 minutes. Kids weren’t allowed to pet the ponies, but just having them present was a welcome present.
Best New Restaurant: Beet Box
Hailed as one of Columbia’s best fast-casual eateries, Beet Box will celebrate its one-year anniversary in November of this year. Co-owners Amanda Elliott and Benjamin Hamrah began Beet Box with a few concepts in mind, one being using seasonal ingredients as the basis for its offerings. Their menu rotates, but in the past, they’ve offered chicken tikka masala, lobster rolls, cold noodle bowls, lamb shanks, kabobs and much more. Their offerings are reminiscent of Mediterranean urban flavors and stand out from other Columbia eateries.
Most Innovative Fitness Program: Jen’s Get Fit
Jennifer Loganbill first started Jen’s Get Fit in 2018 and now has more than 5,000 clients subscribing to her online workout program. Through her program, for an affordable monthly price, you get 5 new weekly workout videos and an optional weekend workout, access to the Facebook group The Sweaty Sisterhood and a weekly meal plan. Her workouts are only 24 minutes long making it easy for anyone to get fit from anywhere you have internet access. Each day of the week her workouts isolate on different muscle groups — such as shoulders, chest, legs, etc. — allowing you have a full body workout every day, but still isolating each muscle group for optimal muscle growth.
Best Potatoes: Mr. Murphy’s Stuffed Potatoes
Mr. Murphy’s Stuffed Potatoes food truck offers spuds, nachos on homemade chips and salads — in fact, all of their flavor combinations can be offered on any of the three delivery methods. Try The American Dream with pulled pork, dill pickles, shredded cheddar, spicy mustard, sour cream and chives or the Nacho Average with ground beef, cheese sauce, black olives, tomatoes, romaine mix, salsa and sour cream. The owners, husband-and-wife team Jheron and Kendell Nunnelly, first opened Mr. Murphy’s a little over a year ago after a whirlwind of events. “I was in the process of starting a food truck and doing catering for the food bank when they gave me an opportunity to do a taco stand for the No Kid Goes Hungry program,” Jheron Nunnelly, or Chef Jay, as he’s known, says. “They helped me with fees and start-up costs and next thing you know we had our own food truck.”
Mr. Murphy’s Stuffed Potatoes travels all over mid-Missouri and you can find their daily location on their Facebook Page.
Best Nourishing Program: Nourish CoMo
Nourish Café began a new program called Nourish CoMo, in the fall of 2019. The program aims to help provide local, organic produce to those in need, whether that be financially, emotionally or physically through the Columbia Farmers Market. Customers can nominate families they believe are in need for the program and if selected, they will receive $25 toward any vendor at the Columbia Farmers Market. The funds for the program are donated by Nourish Café and community members.
Best New Chef: Ali Ratcliffe Bauer at Cherry Street Cellar
As one of the newest chefs in Columbia, Ali Ratcliffe Bauer has blown Columbians away with her fine dining inventions at Cherry Street Cellar. Ratcliffe Bauer graduated from Johnson & Wales University’s College of Culinary Arts in Denver and went on to work with a James Beard Foundation Award winner at several Chicago restaurants, including Brindille, before moving to Columbia. Menu offerings at Cherry Street Cellar rotate, but typical entrée offerings include crab cake, wild caught Alaskan halibut, Patchwork Farms pork schnitzel, and gourmet burgers. A bonus? Cherry Street Cellar has an excellent wine selection.
Best Eat-With-Your-Eyes: Kampai
Tucked away in Alley A, Kampai offers some of the most beautifully plated dishes in CoMo in a modern, upscale atmosphere. The must-try on the menu? Crispy brussels sprouts served crispy with lemon chili. When it comes to seafood in Columbia, you can’t get fresher than Kampai. Try the Dynamite makimono (rolled sushi) with spicy salmon, tuna, pickled radish and kaiware or the Jurassic Park with soft shell crab, shrimp, kaiware and smelt roe. Sushi not your thing? When Owner Art Wultisak offers them, you must try the live scallops and tiny mackerel. Wash down your meal with sake or a specialty cocktail and enjoy the outdoor dining in Alley A.
Best Spot to See Everyone You Know: The Roof
Since it opened in 2014, The Roof, on the top floor of The Broadway Hotel in downtown Columbia, has been a gathering place for happy hours, celebrations, graduations and much more. The perfect spot for a cool summer evening, their menu offerings include appetizers such as smoked salmon crostini with lemon-dill cream cheese and pickled red onion, crab cakes with creole remoulade and a truffle mushroom wrap with chevre cheese, oven dried tomato, zucchini and roasted red pepper aioli. There for happy hour? Try the Breakfast in Bed with gin, lemon, raspberry and club soda or the Easy Street with raspberry vodka, St. Germaine, lime and club soda.