Diners and coffee shops give flavor to breakfast around Columbia

Regulars and first-timers are welcome anytime in these delicious destinations.
Ernie's Cafe and Steak House proudly presents its name above the counter. The cafe has been serving breakfast to Columbians for over 80 years. Courtesy Nat Kaemmerer

Ron Swanson said it best, “There has never been a sadness that cannot be cured by breakfast food.” Any time of day, waffles, bacon and coffee are there for you in ways that other foods just aren't. Eating breakfast food with friends or alone can and should be one of the best experiences, so take the time to slow down your day and enjoy these Columbia eats.

Broadway Diner

Broadway Diner, though not actually on Broadway, is a must for literally any time of day. They’re perfect for breakfast, lunch, dinner and 2 a.m. snacking.

Broadway has been feeding Columbia for 60-plus years and feels like a classic, old-fashioned American diner. It has fostered a deep love among its many patrons, who range from college students to Columbia’s older residents.

“We have a guy who comes in at 6 a.m. every day, and we always have his coffee and water set up,” diner employee Madison Love says.

Like any good diner, Broadway has its specials, the stories of which are printed on the menu. The Stretch is one of the most popular dishes, consisting of hash browns, scrambled eggs, chili, cheddar cheese, onions and green peppers. Matt’s Dilemma is a variation of the Stretch, except with gravy and your choice of sausage or bacon.

Broadway Diner is at 22 S. Fourth St., open 24 hours for all your diner food needs.

Coffee Zone

The wonderfully warm Coffee Zone serves Mediterranean food and over 30 coffee and tea drinks. It has glass lamps hanging from the ceiling and a big brick fireplace near the pastry case, perfect for starting your morning either on the weekend or before classes.

Coffee Zone not only has small bites to eat, like bagels and multiple types of baklava and rugelach, but it also has Mediterranean dishes to make a fuller meal. One of the most popular dishes is the Arabic Breakfast Plate, served with a thick yogurt dip called Labani, falafel and other garnishes.

“We have regulars come in every morning, and they typically order the same stuff,” employee Keenan O’Brien says. “I’ve actually been coming here since I was six or seven.”

Try the Future of Coffee, which is half mocha slush and half Vietnamese coffee, or some intensely caffeinated Turkish coffee, and just sit back and enjoy a beautiful breakfast.

Coffee Zone, located at 11 N. Ninth St., is open from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday–Saturday and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

Ernie’s Cafe and Steak House

Ernie’s has been open since 1934 and is one of the oldest diners in Columbia. You can tell as soon as you walk in that there’s the kind of community vibe here that makes you want to come back every morning.

“This is more than a diner,” longtime diner employee Trinity Worrell says. “This place picks people. It’s just the spirit about this place.”

Inside is an absolutely classic diner with “Ernie’s” in neon lights above the counter and artwork on the walls. Cartoonist Chester Gould, who created the Dick Tracy comic, drew a tribute to the burgers when he visited once. The drawing is on both the menu and the wall of the diner.

The menu has changed very little over the years, offering delicious breakfast and lunch choices. Their hash browns are incredible, but their special is the No. 11. With this, you can fill up on eggs and hash browns, your choice of breakfast meat and either pancakes or French toast.

Ernie’s is open daily from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is located at 1005 E. Walnut St.

Broadway, Ernie’s and Coffee Zone are a select few of the breakfast joints that Columbia has to offer. Other notable places include Strange Donuts for a quick bite or Bleu for a sit-down brunch. There’s something for every type of palette, no matter when you’re hungry. Find your favorite place and become a regular, or make it your goal to try every breakfast joint around. The best thing you can do is always show up hungry.

Edited by Elana Williams | ewilliams@themaneater.com

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