Sometimes bar, restaurant and café patrons gradually become scenery staples. They show up at the same time, often order the same thing and then settle into empty booths like they would their couches at home. They’re everyday visitors there for simple pleasures: a special spot, a sociable staff and a welcoming vibe. Whether they order a cup of joe, a tailored omelet or a happy-hour brew, they pair their familiar orders with location loyalty for a relationship that’s, well, regular.
Signature spot: Kaldi’s Coffee House
Regular order: 16-ounce Americano with room for cream
An Americano is ready for Bruce Bartholow by the time he reaches the Kaldi’s register every morning.
After five years of daily visits, his order hasn’t changed. The baristas’ only curveball is his 4-year-old son, Ben, whose juice-and-snack choice varies depending on the morning.
Although Bartholow has lived in Columbia for a long time — 15 years on and off since graduate school — he says Kaldi’s is the first place he’s ever been considered a regular. The MU psychology professor used to hold one of the classes he taught at Cherry Street Artisan, but he didn’t go there every day. And when it closed in 2009, he had to find a new haunt. Bartholow picked Kaldi’s as the best.
His consistency makes sense. At the corner of Ninth and Cherry streets, the large shop is just around the corner from where the Artisan used to be. Its casual ambiance mimics his manner, and he has a close, laid-back relationship with the staff.
“They’re very cool, and even though I’m older than most of them by 20 years, they treat me like one of the cool kids,” Bartholow says.
Those friendships are more than just a morning coffee habit, too. Bartholow and his wife have dinner with a former Kaldi’s manager once every few months. Their families belong to the same swim club. Their kids play together.
And when he breaks routine, he drops by Shortwave Coffee in Alley A. Dale Bassham, a former Kaldi’s employee, owns the place, and a current employee alternates shifts between the two coffee houses.
To really understand Bartholow’s daily stops, though, you have to see him talking with the employees. “It’s special for people to see,” he says. “Not that there’s anything particularly special about me, but if someone comes with me, and they see that they know me and are nice, I think that’s good marketing.”Photo by Kylee Gregg
CHRISTINE AND BRIAN HOGUE
Signature spot: Café Berlin
Regular order: Christine switches up the Veggie Scramble; Brian’s is different every time
Christine Hogue has her own Café Berlin order — the staff call it her “Button.”
Originally written on a sheet of paper in the kitchen, the altered version of the menu’s Veggie Scramble is her go-to dish. The regular tweaked the original combination so often that, last year, owner Eli Gay added a button to the register that calls for eggs and sides exactly the way she likes them.
Christine and her husband, Brian, have been stopping at the restaurant two or three times a week since before its 2009 move to its N. 10th St. location.
“We try to spend most of our dining-out dollars on local restaurants,” Christine says, but she adds that they became hooked on the popular brunch spot because of its staff. “We feel like they bring a different flavor, no pun intended. They give something different than a chain. And we keep going because of the really great people.”
The Hogues have gotten to know the staff well over the years. Christine says when she missed a few Berlin breakfasts because of a surgery last year, they asked about her absence. Brian has even lent one staffer a tiller for his garden beds.
“We have more personal conversations than ‘What do you need?’ and ‘Thank you’ and ‘Can I get you some more coffee?’” Christine says.
That’s why the couple is often at the bar, where they can chat with the staff and watch orders go out. They don’t want to be too far from the action or the staff.
“They’re just great people with great food,” Christine says. “I think those are two really important things for a local restaurant.” For the Hogues, Café Berlin has both.Photo by J. Evan Arnold
When Russ Tandy moved to Columbia in 1993, he began searching for a low-key place to unwind after a long day.
He didn’t want a jukebox or “rowdies” hanging about. He just wanted to be able to talk and have a few beers.
Tandy found that in Booches’ pool felt-green walls, wooden booths and mellow atmosphere. He became a regular, and bartenders would have a pitcher ready for him to take to his usual window seat by the time he reached the bar’s Ninth Street doorstep at about 3:30 p.m.
After 21 years of that routine, Tandy says Booches’ right-at-home feeling hasn’t changed, but his order has. He has a “Beam and a beer” these days — that’s a mug of domestic and a Jim Beam on ice. Sometimes he orders a burger or brings his wife, LuAnn. He doesn’t always take the window seat.
Tandy loves the mix of people chatting around the dark wooden tables the most. He describes the bar as a “no-ego place,” where everyone is on the same level. “These guys don’t talk about their money, and they don’t talk about what kind of car or how many houses (they have) or any of this other stuff,” Tandy says. “You’ll find out that a few of them are mighty well-to-do. But that’s never an issue.”
Politicians and radio personalities mingle with house painters and carpenters. Tandy is a retired registered nurse of 37 years; other regulars are chemistry and math professors. Mark Alexiou has two computer-related degrees, but he chose bartending over a cubicle profession. You wouldn’t know any of that without asking, Tandy says.
They’re people who don’t complain about life’s daily pains. They’re people who ask for an update when your grandchild is sick. They don’t pry, but they always care.
“You don’t come in here with a loud mouth or a giant ego,” Tandy says. “Neither one of them fits.”Photo by T. J. Thomson