- This article originally appeared in the December 2023 food and drink issue of COMO Magazine.
Columbia restaurants have a long and storied history of menu items with long and storied histories. But what’s in a name?
Once upon a time in southeast England, an obsessive gambler and nobleman refused to leave the table during a rousing card game. So riveted was John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich, that he beckoned his servants to bring him a slab of roast beef between two slices of bread thus allowing continued uninterrupted play.
The “sandwich” might not have been born that fateful evening in 1762 (the food item has existed for thousands of years in various cultures, according to history.com), but the eponymous earl certainly gets credit for its ubiquitous sobriquet.
In the restaurant world, naming menu items after individuals is as old as the industry itself. Caesar Salad, Fettuccini Alfredo, Eggs Benedict, Bananas Foster, and steaks Dianne and Oscar are named for restaurateurs, stock brokers, civic commissioners, Roman goddesses, and Swedish royalty.
“The philosophy is that unique names differentiate you from other restaurants,” says Richard Walls, owner of The Heidelberg. “You can only get Marty’s Wings” — named after former manager Marty Gill — “at the ‘Berg, and some people order them every time they come in. It’s a defining item.”
At Shakespeare’s Pizza, another COMO cornerstone, patrons can order a heart-healthy pie — The Darwin — named for the late Columbia Mayor Darwin Hindman. The pizza was invented in 2002 by Shake’s staff at the request of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce and presented to Hindman at an honorary banquet.
“There’s no official procedure or special set of circumstances to have a pizza or salad named after someone,” says Kurt Mirtsching, general manager of Shakespeare’s. “Every one of our named items happened sort of organically. It’s like everything we do here. It’s very organic.”
Read on for a tour of some of Columbia’s best-known and oft-ordered menu items named after employees, townsfolk, buddies, and pets.
Named after late Columbia mayor Darwin Hindman in honor of his contributions to the community, the pizza comes with red onions, green peppers, artichoke hearts, turkey, and tomatoes.
Tarkio Farm Girl Special
Named after a group of Mizzou alumnae — and Shake’s regulars — from the northwest Missouri town, the wheat-crust pizza comes with extra cheese, pepperoni, ground beef, and Italian sausage.
The Lewis family, owners of the franchise since 1976, named this salad — spinach, cranberries, glazed walnuts, red onion, mandarin oranges, gorgonzola cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette — after the family dog.
Also named after a family dog — this one belonging to general manager Kurt Mirtsching — the salad has spinach, sliced almonds, hearts of palm, shredded Parmesan, croutons, and “a secret, delicious dressing.”
Flat Branch Pub & Brewing
This floral British-style India Pale Ale is named after the late Edward Richardson, a COMO resident and pub fixture who made a Hollywood career as an art director for films including Scarface, American Gigolo, Cat People and Toys (for which he received an Academy Award nomination).
Paul’s Six Cheese Mac & Cheese
Named after general manager Paul Huesgen who suggested the fancied-up American homestyle classic would be an instant hit (it was), the dish contains pasta shells, a six-cheese sauce, garlic butter crouton crumbs, toasted focaccia, and it can be ordered with bacon, ham, adobo pork, or chicken breast.
Al’s KC Strip
Named for head chef Al Tyrer, the ten- to twelve-ounce certified Angus KC Strip is topped with Al’s signature steak butter and served with mashed potatoes and sautéed vegetables.
Named after owner Dave Johnson’s son Cooper, the Coop is a grilled sandwich with mac and cheese, barbecue brisket, sweet pickles, and red onions.
Pronounced “yasper,” the blueberry, sour cream, custard, and crumble top pie is named after Holland-native Jasper Grashuis, assistant research professor in the University of Missouri’s Division of Applied Social Sciences. Grashuis and Johnson’s wife, Kris, often traded recipes for baked goods.
Named after Kathy “Stretch” Folsom Hauswirth, a regular at the Minute Inn — the Diner’s previous name under different ownership — the COMO classic is hash browns, topped with scrambled eggs, covered with chili, cheddar cheese, and fresh diced green peppers and onions. Hauswirth, whose father gave her the nickname, ordered the combination on mornings after a night on the town.
Named after Mizzou alumnus Matt Arndt, who found the Stretch delicious but lacking. After some experimentation, his dilemma was solved: the Stretch minus the veggies, a ladle of gravy beside the chili, and sausage instead of peppers and onions.
Blue Chip’s Cheese Bread
Named after Chip Godfrey, a friend of former owners Bill Sheals and Gary Moore, the popular appetizer is cheese bread with shrimp, blue cheese crumbles, and topped with Provel.
Brock’s Green Pepper Rings
Brock Jones, another lifelong friend of the owners, returned from Upstate New York raving about these lightly fried, powdered sugar-dusted delicacies.
Murry’s chef Jimmy Evans came up with these grilled filet tips served with a savory and smoky chipotle brie sauce.
These skewer-less kabobs of seasoned, grilled steak are named after the late Bob Rappold, former owner of Booche’s and the now defunct Café Europa on Walnut Street.
JP’s Grilled Cheese
Named after Jon Poses, founder of Columbia’s “We Always Swing” Jazz Series, the vegetarian grilled cheese comes with four cheeses and a medley of veggies including tomatoes, onions, pepperoncini peppers, green peppers, and mushrooms.
Named after the late cook Jason Frazier’s cat, who was named after former St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Fernando Viña, the sandwich is a classic fried catfish filet with a blend of spices.
Deb’s Garlic Salad
Named after Deb Bergfeld, a former server at Murry’s and Café Europa, her salad is simply leaf lettuce with garlic, oil, vinegar, Parmesan cheese, and red onions.
Named after longtime manager Marty Gill, who preferred a dry-rub seasoning blend on his wings instead of traditional Buffalo sauce, patrons noticed and asked for their wings “Marty style.”
Kevin’s Chicken Wrap
Known for coming up with creative specials, former line cook Kevin Birge invented his signature wrap when he suggested in the late ’90s that anything with chicken, bacon, cheddar cheese, ranch — with “some Romaine lettuce to ease the guilt,” said Birge — would sell like hotcakes. He was right, and it has remained on the menu ever since.
Stormin’ Norman Golden Ale
Like many Columbians, the brewers and founders of Logboat grew up fans of Mizzou’s legendarily vociferous basketball coach, Norm “Stormin’ Norman” Stewart. The crisp ale is the lightest beer (in terms of alcohol by volume) Logboat makes and is reflective of the icon’s sudsy preferences. Proceeds from the beer’s sales go to Stewart’s constellation of charities.
Named after Clifton “Butch” Jones, local legend (“To Café Berlin, at least,” says owner Eli Gay), the popular item is a pancake burrito stuffed with bacon and eggs and topped with sausage and apples — just like Butch ordered it.
Pronounced “Skyler,” the breakfast sandwich with hard egg, jalapeno, bacon, red onion, tomato, and chipotle mayo on toasted sourdough bread is named after Schyler Behrer, one of the café’s original line cooks. He ate it nearly every day. Others soon did, too.
A favorite of dishwasher and doorman Andy Summers, his salad contains spinach tossed in tzatziki with cherry tomatoes, bacon, pickled onions, and feta cheese. (Pictured above right)
Thus named because head chef Sam Johnson had just finished watching The Sopranos when he concocted the salad, it consists of mixed greens tossed in tahini and topped with walnuts, onion, strawberries, and blue cheese crumbles. (Pictured above left)
Ozark Mountain Biscuit Co.
Jettie Louise, the matriarch of owners Brent and Bryan Maness’s family, always created delicious scratch-made meals for gatherings. The Ozark Mountain Biscuit Co. recipes are inspired by her — including the signature biscuits.
Another grandparent, Pawpaw was an Arkansas fisherman and the chef behind these famous, fluffy pancakes.