A Columbia institution returns
COLUMBIA, Mo 4/26/14 (Review) -- The Grand Budapest Hotel at the Ragtag Cinema and brunch at Glenn's Cafe turned out to be the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon for my wife, son, and I a few weeks ago.  
The first stop -- the film -- was planned; the second stop, a return to Glenn's after many years absence, was on a whim. 

We remembered Glenn's for their famous pork chops and other dinner foods, but it was late in the afternoon -- too early for dinner, too late for lunch -- so we doubted they would even be serving. 

We were pleasantly surprised.  

I was in the mood for something substantial, so I ordered a favorite, albeit warily:  seafood gumbo.    I say "warily" because it's surprisingly easy to screw up gumbo, a simple dish.  Watery or bland "roux" (Cajun cuisine's thick, dark sauce base) is the most common gumbo fail I encounter, along with oysters or crawfish that don't taste fresh and in my worst culinary nightmare, shrimp with a suspicious crunch that had apparently been freeze-dried! 

Not so at Glenn's.   Polite, sharply-dressed, and attentive wait staff brought me a plentiful bowl of the darkly succulent treat, along with a plate of home-made biscuits for sopping.   It was near perfect, reminding me of K-Pauls in New Orleans, the standard upon which I judge jambalaya, creole, and gumbo dishes. 

In the mood for something lighter, my wife had the Bleu Cheese Salad:  mixed greens and bleu cheese with a "Creole vinaigrette" spread over roasted pecans and sweet red onions.  I had a few bites (to review, of course) and both of us were especially taken with the vinaigrette, a dynamic, tangy variation on the dressing, especially in combination with the onions and bleu cheese.  

Our son had the Pain Perdu, a fancy name for one of his favorites:  French toast.  Glenn's Pain is a rich "brioche" French toast, made with a pastry-like bread heavy on eggs and butter, which gives it a flaky, dessert-like quality while it luxuriates in maple-bacon syrup.    We all agreed it was among the best French toast we've ever enjoyed. 

Glenn's Cafe returned to Columbia after a roundabout voyage that included a several-year stopover at the Frederick Hotel in Boonville.   Founded in 1939 as a gas station diner on the Business Loop and named for founder Glenn Purdy, the cafe moved downtown in 1988 after new owner Stephen Cupp reopened on the corner of 9th and Cherry Streets, now Kaldi’s Coffee.

Cupp closed the restaurant in 2002; reopened in 2006; and moved from the Frederick Hotel to the Tiger Hotel last year, reunited with its original 1939 sign. 

Prices are moderate:  few entrees exceed $15, and the Cafe has returned with some of its "legendary" offerings, like my wife's all-time favorite Bronzed Double Pork Chop, coated in peppers & herbs and topped with brown garlic butter.   The setting classy but not too elegant, a great place to enjoy brunch, lunch, or dinner for a casual or special occasion.   
-- Mike Martin

Glenn's Cafe
29 S. 8th St. Columbia, Mo 65201
Phone: (573)-447-7100
E-mail: glennscafe at thetigerhotel.com
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