Finding culinary comfort in Columbia

Fill your bellies and rest your emotions.

Both returning to campus, and arriving at MU for the first time, present stress. Daily routines and minutia can be a little grinding on your mental and physical health. Although there are some sunny, robust folk who find 20-minute treks to class invigorating, I assume there are just as many (if not more) people like myself who would rather curl up with a cashmere blanket and shut the lights, overwhelmed with dramatized grief and ennui. But physical accommodations aside, comfort and other various states of Zen are not attained until proper culinary arrangements have been made. Maybe for you it's a bowl of ice cream with hot fudge, or maybe, if you're me, it's a hearty bowl of lentil soup. But for those who haven't found their true food friend, visiting one of these Columbia establishments can be the first step toward emotional stability and sensory satisfaction.

Café Berlin 220 N. Tenth St. Undeniably, breakfast and brunch foods provide comfort via the cheery, symbiotic relationship between sweet and savory foods. Café Berlin offers an extensive menu of hearty, honest (not to mention organic) food. Serving breakfast and lunch all day, Café Berlin provides a menu ranging from traditional morning fare to Mediterranean food, from vegetarian selections to meat from local family farms. Apples and Sausage, a dish of apples, andouille sausage, vegetables, spices and maple syrup is incredibly filling. (Note: It can be served on a pancake -- do you need another reason to get it?) Although it is only open until 2 p.m., a possible deal breaker for the nocturnal, its proximity to campus gives you no option but to stop by and dine.

Flat Branch Pub & Brewing 115 S. Fifth St. Flat Branch Pub & Brewing might be a location where your family goes when they're in town, but why should that restrict you from going with friends on a listless day? It's the type of place that never serves a bad meal, providing consistently well-done grill food at reasonable prices, considering the quality and location of the restaurant. Your pizza-faithful, burger-faithful and oh-my-goodness-steak-and-bleu-cheese-faithful friends can all eat in harmony, as Flat Branch's extensive menu is more than just chain restaurant fare. Sit outside, forget about your upcoming economics exam and drink their home-brewed beer if you're of age.

La Siesta Mexican Cuisine 33 N. Ninth St. La Siesta, an establishment that opened earlier this year, needs to be your new El Rancho. Not to put down El Rancho, but La Siesta's large menu of authentic Mexican cuisine puts your average plate of nachos to shame. Outside the traditional favorites, La Siesta offers well-spiced, tastes-like-homemade dishes like quesadillas with chorizo and Camarones la Siesta, a rich dish of grilled shrimp, rice and vegetables. La Siesta offers lunch specials during the day, but especially comes to life at night, full of after-midnight crowds until 3 a.m. Give it a try, and it might just become your go-to joint.

Jazz, A Louisiana Kitchen 1605 Chapel Hill Road Although everyone's definition of what comforting food is might vary, the nationally accepted definition of comfort food is served at Jazz: Cajun dishes, gumbo, fried food, seafood, po' boys and everything in between. I suggest starting with hot jambalaya or oysters bienville, then finishing with blackened tilapia, but don't let me limit the scope of what you can order. The menu is large and much of it will sound appetizing, so bring a lot of friends, order different plates and sample everything. You might not equate the aggressively happy service, loud music and gratuitous decorations with comfort, but the food is fabulous enough for you to forget about it all.

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