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 Harper’s Restaurant (here) and Nonnah’s (here). - Helana
American | New Southern | Southern/Soul | Seafood
Location: 2001-A Greene St. | Columbia, SC | 29205 | 803.254.7828
Menu (Ordered) & Price: Peach BBQ Glazed Salmon ($18) | Buttermilk Fried Pickles ($6) | City Roots Salad ($8) | Beet Salad (Specials, $8)
Review Grade: A
Pictured: One of Mr. Friendly’s most popular dishes–the Peach BBQ salmon ($18). I was quite torn between the special of the day and this intriguing take on glazed fish, but with the encouragement of my fellow diners, was told this entrée is always a hit. I agree.
Peach BBQ Salmon -
Mr. Friendly’s New Southern Cafe receives top billing for my visit, and, here, I’ve selected the Peach BBQ Salmon as the “feature” item for the restaurant for several reasons: simplicity, quality, and soul.
Simplicity: unlike some of Mr. Friendly’s creations that might pair competing stars against each other (see Crab Cakes + starchy grits), this dish has no understudy. The salmon fillet, dressed in peach chutney and BBQ sauce, cozies up nicely with simple sautéed vegetables (although these tasted boiled to me), and the house’s classic stone-ground grits.
But, with an item like this glazed salmon, less is more, and a great cut of fish wants for little than an uncomplicated mode of preparation.
Quality: the salmon served here was far superior to any I’ve previously ordered at a restaurant and part of what makes this dish so memorable. I realize my praise quantifies this review as “glowing,” but, truthfully, I’ve never eaten a better salmon in a restaurant anywhere…ever.
When ordering, servers ask how you’d like your fish to be prepared. I ordered the salmon “medium,” knowing full well to expect a small bump in cook time over what I consider “medium” cooking at home preference (basically: medium can usually mean “medium-well,” so be sure to talk with your servers, test your favorite places, and order accordingly). Ultimately, what I recieved was a not-quite-medium-well fish that was juicy, tender, and “done” by my coastal living standards.
This mode of preparation encouraged that the fish did not dry out, but flaked effortlessly into bite-size slivers right where the natural “folds” of fishy protein come together. Truly, a beautiful dish.
Overall, the fish was buttery (but not decadent) and sweet (but not candied).
Dr. Z was so captivated by my meal that I had to make sure to slip a slice onto his plate next to his crab cakes. When something is this good, you have to offer and share!
Soul: like many of the items on the Mr. Friendly’s menu, this one was served with a side of stone-ground grits. As you can see from the picture, the grits are not a heaping, steaming pile of white starch, but a subtle and glossy surface on which to feature the main ingredient(s). I liked this approach. So much of southern cooking bogs down a meal with ladles of grits because they’re classically “southern.” But here, the grits were treated as a garnish for the main ingredient (salmon) just as you would with a spice and not a heavy side.
Also – what we ordered:
Pictured: Buttermilk Fried Pickles ($6) by Mr. Friendly’s. Manicure by Nancy Tuten.
Pictured: Mr. Friendly’s Pecan Crab Cakes ($19), a tempting menu item, but something I couldn’t bring myself to try after Ryan Andre’s life changing version here and here. It’s true–Louisiana has started to change the way I eat at restaurants, and it’s becoming harder than ever to eat a crab cake with a heavy dose of breading. Honestly, this entrée looks rich and satisfying, but it’s more of a cake with a little bit of “crab” than a crab that’s been turned into a “cake.”
Pictured: Christine’s Friendly’s Salad with Fried Oysters ($6 plus extra for oysters; oysters made to order, price will vary), a brilliant idea! I wish I had thought of this. I love fried oysters as referenced in my article last winter for Louisiana Cookin’ Magazine.
Pictured: Specials’ Salad with Heirloom Beets ($ varies). Beautiful, but easily could have used far more beets and less filler ingredients like calorie-dense croutons. The vinaigrette saved what could have been an over-priced starter.
Pictured: Z’s City Roots Salad ($8); by far one of the best-looking salads on the menu, decorated in micro greens and taking advantage of locally grown ingredients (see City Roots farms in Columbia, SC) .
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Written by: Helana Brigman