Columbia, Missouri: Family Dining in the Athens of the Midwest


Columbia, MO is called a lot of things: Athens of the Midwest (due to the high number of artists in comparison to the population), Missouri’s Hotel California (since once you move in, you never want to leave), and Tiger Town (Go MIZZOU!).

But after ten years of moving from big city to big city, I am happy to say that I just call it home. You may not have heard of Columbia, but if you’ve driven 170 through Missouri you’ve gone right through it.

We’re smack dab in the middle of the state, two hours from both Kansas City and St. Louis. Though you will find many reasons to visit Como (as we call it), at the very least consider pulling off the highway the next time you’re driving through Missouri. Spend an hour or two at one of our restaurants and get a great meal instead of fast food. All of these are ten minutes or less from a highway entrance.

Cafe Berlin
220 N. 10th Park Hours: Sunday: 8-2, Tuesday to Saturday 7-2

Cafe Berlin prides itself on featuring as many organic and local ingredients as possible. They also serve breakfast all day. And what a breakfast it is. Forgot the typical two eggs, sausage, and hash browns served at chain breakfast places.

At Cafe Berlin, you can feast on Turkish Eggs: three free-range eggs scrambled with sautéed green pepper onions and tomato, topped with feta cheese and served with pita to sop it up $7. Or indulge in the Pancake Burrito, a large pancake with two scrambled eggs and Patchwork bacon all rolled up inside. It comes with real maple syrup to douse it in, $7.50.

Where to Stay

Find family-friendly accommodations in Columbia, Missouri from traditional hotels to private vacation rentals through

They have a kids menu too with simpler versions of their outrageous breakfast entrees. They also serve lunch all day, in case you want to start your morning off with a house made veggie burger.

Les Bourgeois

Les Bourgeois

Les Bourgeois
14020 w. Highway BB Rocheport, MO 65279 hours vary

If you have a couple of hours, or a sober driver, pull off the road in Rocheport (just outside of Columbia, MO) and head to Les Bourgeois winery. Even if you’re not a wine drinker, this is one of the best spots to view the Missouri River.

Their A-Frame offers al fresco dining with several levels of picnic tables. There are even a few side decks that are perfect for quarantining yourself with the kids. Bring in your snacks from the car, buy a glass of wine (they sell soft drinks too), and spend a few minutes watching the river and letting the kids run around. If you’ve forgotten the snacks the A-Frame offers sandwiches, picnic food, and even goldfish for the kiddos.

If you still have energy to burn, grab your glass of wine and wander the property. There’s a large open space by the grapevines that is perfect for kite flying. Our kids also love to watch the fountain. Need a full meal? The bistro offers a full menu and access to an outdoor space for the kids to run while you’re waiting for your food to come.

Stuffed animals in the window at Sparky's.

Stuffed animals in the window at Sparky’s.

Sparky’s Ice Cream
March through New Year’s Eve, seven days a week 11:30am to 11:00pm

Just need a snack? Sparky’s Ice Cream is the ticket. This is far from your standard ice cream parlor. Every single flavor is made in house using as many locally sourced ingredients as possible. The flavors change often but my past favorites have included Strawberry Cookies and Cream and Uprise Cookie Dough made with cookie dough from a nearby bakery.

Always on the menu are fruit sorbets and alcoholic milkshakes (Guiness float anyone?) Kids always eat free, a kids size comes with each adult’s purchase. You can eat inside and look at all the crazy stuffed animals in their window. Or you can sit at their sidewalk tables and feed the concrete Sparky who hangs out out front. Street parking can be hard to find, but there’s a parking garage around the corner at 10th and Cherry.

Main Squeeze
28 S. 9th St Columbia, MO 65201, Monday to Saturday 10am-8pm, Sunday 10am-5pm

If that ice cream is sending you to a sugar crash. head across the street to Main Squeeze. This restaurant manages to please even the pickiest eater with its healthy, vegetarian food. Their food is organic whenever possible so you may spend more than you would at McDonald’s but you will leave feeling so much better and energized for the road.

One of my favorites is their Hummus Sandwich: homemade hummus, avocado, lettuce, tomato, red onion, vegan chipotle mayo on whole wheat 7.75 (half 4.50). And it comes with blue corn chips and house made salsa (or the veggie of the day.) They have a kids menu filled with things my kids will actually eat (nothing over $5) and you can take a smoothie or freshly squeezed juice for the road.

Written by Kate Canterbury of The Guavalicious Life