Ernie’s Cafe and Steakhouse (Columbia, MO)

Our next culinary stop in Columbia was another reminder that my last major visit to Columbia was back when this was a relatively new blog, and thus some of my standard Columbia places hadn’t gotten a proper writeup. In this case, I’m talking about Ernie’s (or, to use the full name “Ernie’s Cafe and Steakhouse”), to which my first visit was well over 20 years ago. Ernie’s is a Columbia tradition, indeed, the sign proudly proclaims “Since 1934”, so even on my first visit the place was over 60 years old. In any case, it’s still a great place to get a breakfast in Columbia.

Located on Walnut Street on the northeastern edge of “Downtown Columbia” (next to the awesome Fretboard Coffee, which I may have to review on a future visit), Ernie’s is actually a pretty modest fading Art Deco storefront. Despite the “Cafe and Steakhouse” name, Ernie’s is, basically, a diner. The decor is your basic diner environment: the long counter with spinning stools, a row of tables down one wall, and, usually, a line of people out the door (I seem to recall, but I’m not certain, that sometime in the late 90s they actually remodeled a bit). In the warmer months, they also have a handful of tables out front for some extra seating.

Menu-wise, it’s pure “Americana”, with breakfast primarily being one of a dozen numbered specials at the top of the menu, ranging from the usual (like No 11, with choice of meat, short stack, eggs, and hashbrowns), to the simple (the No 2, two eggs and toast), to the elaborate (the No 9 filet mignon and eggs). Later in the day, it shifts to a lunchtime menu of burgers and other sandwiches, with a few entrees (including KC Strip and Filet Mignon, so Ernie’s remains a “steakhouse” as well, although I’ve never actually been outside of breakfast hours). I’d say that 90% of the times I’ve gone to Ernie’s I got the same thing, the No 11, so this time I mixed it up a bit and went for the No 8 (Country-style ham and eggs),

Relaxing with my friends, a few minutes later my breakfast plate arrived, and for the $9 price tag (including a markup for biscuits instead of toast) it was quite the good spread: two eggs, a reasonably generous slab of fried country-style ham, some griddle-cooked hash browns, and two biscuits. The eggs were nice, fluffy, and perfectly good. The ham was everything a good country ham should be: bone-in, a bit chewy, a bit salty, and just oozing with ham flavor. The hashbrowns were classic, well-crisped shredded potatoes, not too oily. And the biscuits? A good, flaky and tasty biscuit of exactly the style I have trouble finding in the Northeast.

Again, it was fun to revisit an old favorite with old friends, and see that despite the added years on the calendar, Ernie’s is still consistently producing some good and affordable food. I’d love to come back again soon.

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