Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cafe Streudel: A Cafe With A European Flare

Life is so bittersweet at times. Any parent who watches as their son or daughter backs out of the driveway to head back to college knows what I am talking about. The satisfaction of what they are accomplishing, the pride in who they have become is balanced with the broken-heart and empty sinking feeling that comes as you watch the tail-lights disappear around the corner. The melancholy that grabs you each time you walk past their bedroom is tempered by the thrill and excitement of a visit to campus for a ball-game, an awards ceremony or a parents function.

This past weekend we traveled up to Columbia to spend some time with our oldest son JD who is a student at The University of South Carolina. The touchstone of the trip was the Sigma Chi Parents Cocktail and Derby Days Philanthropy Gala to be held at the Lacy House on the grounds of the Governors Mansion. We anticipated a fabulous night, and we weren't disappointed. The evening was brimming with great food, good company and some proud papa moments. The seven-piece dance band with a full horn section provided Motown Classics and Beach Music to keep us dancing under the stars. As the evening came to a close our son invited us to meet in the morning for bruch, he said he had the perfect spot picked out.

We were looking forward to brunch and figured that he was taking us to a standard breakfast joint that a Sophomore in college may be attracted to, you know, like an IHOP or Waffle House, but we were still impressed with the invitation. We picked JD up at the Sigma Chi House and as we crossed the Congaree River leaving the skyline of Downtown Columbia and headed into West Columbia JD directed that I turn onto State Street, and up ahead on the right I saw our destination, Cafe Streudel, a rather smallish and narrow looking building whose facade resembled an old bank building, mainly because that is what it was in it's former life.

In front of the building on the sidewalk, were several cafe tables where an eclectic mix of patrons were enjoying the March morning sunshine and their brunch. In addition to the cafe tables out front, there was also a huge group of people, waiting to be seated, not quite like a scene from Hymans Seafood Restaraunt in Charleston, but you get the idea.

Once we were inside with our names on the list to be seated upstairs, I made my way to the "coffee side bar." It was a self serve gourmet coffee bar, very laid back but with top shelf gourmet coffee choices. My Joe of choice was the Vanilla Bean, which I chose over the Cafe Streudel Morning Blend. And I could easily see why there was a crowd at this dining spot. Cafe Streudel claims to be a "European style" cafe on it's website. The place is just amazing and a very popular spot for Sunday Brunch. The cooking area reminded me of an old style diner, complete with an aromatic pile of shredded potatoes, onions and peppers cooking on the grill top.

A fantastic beer list including one named Smutty Nosed Old Brown Dog Ale hung on the wall, and a display case out of the 1950's caught my attention as it was jam-packed full of delectable treats like seven-layer red velvet cake, 8 inch tall cheesecakes and homemade streudels, hence the name Cafe Streudel. This was a jewel, boutique beer, incredible sweets and grilled hash browns, ooops, sorry, back to my coffee.

After a short wait we were seated in the upstairs dining area. The place was decorated with local artwork for sale, that was both colorful and creative. Our cafe table was located in front of a window with an interesting stained glass displayed in the sunlight. I passed on the feature item of the brunch menu, "the hangover hash browns" made with hand shredded potatoes, grilled onions and peppers topped with two eggs any style and shredded cheddar.

My choice? One of my favorites, a smoked salmon bagel, with thinly sliced smoked salmon, tomatoe, red-onion, capers and cream cheese. Michelle had a french omelet, tastefully prepared with mushrooms, swiss cheese and onion. And college boy, he had the Charles Bagel featuring turkey, provolone, and bean sprouts. We passed on the temptation of a piece of streudel or some other caloric monstrosity, but we enjoyed some great coffee and a wonderful end to our parents weekend at the University of South Carolina.

So now we are back home and looking forward to a brief visit from our student during Easter Weekend, and then of course, summer break is not far away. And we have the memories of a grand time at the Governors Mansion and a great little "sursey" from JD, brunch at Cafe Streudel.