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March 8, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Sidewalks in July. Front row seats at a concert. A free lunch. These things are hot, and we all know why. But what makes that one table in your favorite restaurant so smoking? Is it the cute server who always keeps your beverage of choice topped off? Is it the view of the oversized TV? Or is it something else you haven’t even thought of? We’ve done the legwork to fill you in on some of the most coveted seats in and out of town.
Les Bourgeois Bistro in Rocheport is one of those places where you should probably pay a little extra for the view. The restaurant sits atop a tall bluff that overlooks the Missouri River. The result is a view that spoils those who are lucky enough to snag one of the six tables by the windows.
“People request those tables both day and night,” says Corrina Vonder Haar, a manager at Les Bourgeois. “During the day people sit there so they can see the river. I think people sit there at night because they think they can see the river, but because of the reflective glass, they can only see themselves. Either way, it’s a nice view.”
Although the river is currently low and most of the foliage looks dead, somehow the river valley is stunning year-round. A wide plane extends from the opposite side of the river to the horizon, punctuated only by the passing cars on Interstate 70. These zooming metal boxes on wheels remind diners how lucky they are to be soaking in the natural view, not just driving through.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock since 1882, you know that Booche’s burgers are legendary. This widely known tidbit creates chaos during lunchtime as patrons compete for seats. Although it’s always busy at lunch, if you are lucky enough to snag a seat at one of the seven bar stools, you are in for a treat. Notice that the bar stools are adorned with shiny golden plaques, which memorialize deceased regulars. (Clearly they knew that bar stools are the best seats in the house, too.) The walls are lined with a hodgepodge of sports memorabilia and pool cues that keep your eyes occupied as your burger sizzles just steps away.
Joe Jacobs has been coming to Booche’s since 2003 and always heads to the bar when he craves a burger or the homemade soup served on Fridays.
“I like sitting at the bar because it is quiet enough that you can read a newspaper, or you can have a conversation with a bartender who is usually more than willing to talk to you,” says Jacobs. “Even if the bar is full, you can stand at the end of the bar and enjoy a tight conversation with people.”
At the bar, with your back to the commotion of the restaurant, you can focus on the glorious greasiness of your burger served to you on the finest of serving platters: wax paper.
With the Lake of the Ozarks just an hour and a half away, the idea of journeying down Highway 54 to feast while basking in the lake breeze taunts most Columbians.
Unless you have an overflowing billfold and zero work, school or social commitments, odds are you can’t flee town on a moment’s notice. Luckily, Gaucho’s wraparound deck overlooks the man-made Corporate Lake and directly benefits from “the lake effect” (and we don’t mean the sleet-and-snow kind). Tiki torches and lanterns provide ample lighting for reading menus at night while lounging at one of the 23 tables that seat up to four people. Umbrellas provide shade during the day for those attempting to protect their skin from wrinkles.
“People usually choose to sit outside instead of inside in the summer,” says Christy DeVinney, server and bartender at Gaucho’s. “The lake keeps it cool, and we are going to add some fans [under the overhang].”
The most coveted spots are two tables that sit at the point of the deck. As the deck extends eastward, it bends at the end of the building. At this bend, it seems to jut out farther into the lake than at any other spot. The result is a panoramic view of the lovely lake.
Warm weather means one thing for Boone Tavern & Restaurant: a barrage of guests seeking patio seating. With tables for parties of all sizes, the patio at Boone Tavern can accommodate up to 308 guests and typically reaches capacity.
“The patio fills up every day in the summer,” says Jason Dixon, shift supervisor and bartender at Boone Tavern. “We are full every Thursday night when the Twilight Festival is going on. May is going to be really busy with graduation parties for Mizzou, Columbia College and Stephens and for Mother’s Day.”
Two stone gazebos at opposite ends of the patio offer shelter from the sun and fill up first, says Dixon. Each seats 18 comfortably but can fit up to 25 if people don’t mind getting cozy. Umbrellas can shield you from the sun if you aren’t lucky enough to sit at one of the coveted gazebo tables. With decorative lights strung through surrounding trees and old-fashioned lampposts positioned throughout, the patio is ideal for summer nights.
As inquisitive creatures, people like to watch people. Perhaps this is why a table by the large, single-pane windows at Tellers Gallery and Bar is the hottest seat in the house. With a prime location for people watching at the corner of Broadway and Ninth Street, it offers the opportunity to spy on passersby as well as be seen.
“People are attracted to the big window,” says Blake Ogilvie, cook, server and bartender. “There is always a lot going on [outside].”
The revolving door of action that slides by Tellers’ windows is what attracts Julia Van Horn to the desirable window seats.
“People watching is entertaining,” Van Horn says. “You get a sense of downtown when you sit by the windows.”
Essentially, these window seats offer built-in entertainment with your meal at no extra charge. Take that, Las Vegas.