Below is my review of Mr. Friendly’s New Southern Cafe in Columbia, SC. For the larger eating tour of South Carolina’s capital city, checkout “A Little Bit(e) of Everything in Columbia, SC: Favorite Eats” or checkout my reviews of Mr. Friendly’s New Southern Cafe (here) and Nonnah’s (here). - Helana
American | Southern/Soul | Barbecue |Bar
Location: 700 Harden Street | Columbia, SC | 29205 | 803.252.2222
Menu (Ordered) & Price: Harper’s Veggie Burger ($9)
Review Grade: B+
Pictured: Hand-made veggie burger at Harper’s Restaurant in Columbia, SC, featuring a thick roll and loaded toppings. This vegetarian-friendly entrée will set you back $9 (fries included) and features an over-sized patty dressed with mushrooms and provolone.
My 3-stop feature for Columbia, SC, ends at Harper’s Restaurant in Five Points. Since most of my college career was spent asking the grill master in our cafeteria to prepare black bean veggie burgers, I’ve always been fixated on the restaurant-quality version of this American classic.
Thus, I have high standards for veggie burgers.
And, I know it’s from those weekends crafting “gourmet” sandwiches with the same-old black bean patty. So when I pay $9-$15 for one at a restaurant, I expect the works.
I expect vegetables.
One of the great things about Harper’s homemade veggie is the loaded, larger-than-life, super savory patty they make in house. Blended with a bean base (black bean? maybe?) and some buttery starches, this vegetarian entrée takes the meal as serious as a well-done angus prime.
Pictured: The full Harper’s Veggie Burger ($9). Here, you can see how the mushrooms (glossy and yummy at first) are beginning to show their canned age…this only increases as you eat the sandwich. But, the cheese is melted to gooey, bubbly perfection, the fries are perfectly golden brown and crispy, and the patty is cake-y but protein-rich and filling. Certainly worth $9 even with too much iceberg and canned mushrooms.
However, nailing the restaurant-quality “veggie burger” really is all about the vegetables. Whether the on-site chef makes their patties in the back or outsources the product doesn’t seem to matter in the long run. As a diner, all I care about is that the results are fresh and flavorful, (preferably) filled to the bun with vegetables in and around its sides.
As good as this patty was (can’t you see the gooey sides falling out of the bun? This photo was taken immediately after my first bite, and the fillings are so much, the sandwich wants to fall apart – gorgeous!), the bread was way too much. Dry, a little crumbly, and nowhere near the melt-in-your-mouth rolls Fat Cow serves with their burgers in Baton Rouge, LA, (here).
Fortunately, specifics like these aren’t terribly obvious in the beginning. The most you’ll notice is an overabundance of iceberg lettuce – so much iceberg lettuce it’s like biting into a head of lettuce at one time. You might not even notice that the mushrooms are canned because the provolone is melted so perfectly on top.
But you will notice these factors eventually, especially as you progress through the sandwich, sit, eat, and talk.
I guess these are the reasons why I chose to end my “tour” of Columbia, SC, favorite restaurants with Harper’s – a great sandwich with even greater potential, but some sloppy factors that keep such a veggie burger from realizing all of its possibilities. The Columbia, SC, food scene, just like Harper’s Veggie Burger, isn’t quite what it could be. However, there are so many small town places that show big city potential here that I can’t wait to go back and eat.
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Written by: Helana Brigman