Columbia area foodies will tell you that absolutely must go to Motor. By Motor, they mean Motor Supply Company Bistro, Columbia, South Carolina’s shining star of culinary awesomeness. For more than twenty years, the place has been kicking out amazing food. Much like Soby’s in Greenville, the restaurant set a standard for the culinary scene in Columbia, and was one of the first restaurants in the now, very cool, Vista area of downtown.
Let me tell you. This restaurant doesn’t play. They are SERIOUS about some food. Almost everything on your plate is house made. They make their own stocks for sauces, they butcher and smoke their own meet, make their own charcuterie (sausages and the such), pickles, mustards… they are event venturing over into house made beverages, making their own ginger beer and soon, their own sodas. And what they can’t make inhouse, they locally source, reaching out to area farmers like the folks at City Roots, Trail Ridge, Wil-Moore, Doko Farm, Carolina Bay Farms, Freshly Grown Farms and Humble Farm…the list goes on.
When my friend Nina and I decided to head to Columbia on Friday to check out the Annie Leibovitz exhibit at the Columbia Museum of Art, we had to hit Motor. We made reservations, but it was not necessary based on the amount of people who came in for lunch. It was busy, but not too crowded. We immediately noticed the handwritten menu. Can you believe they change the menu two times a day here? The chef is constantly working on new dishes, playing with new ideas. It’s part of the Motor mystique. I was enamored with the bible of a wine menu. (My beer GALS: the beer list isn’t shabby either.)
With many of our restaurant experiences lately, I talked to the waiter and said, listen, the menu is awesome (and it was), so please tell the chef just to pick some things to send out to us that give us a good idea of what his restaurant is about. I think too many times people go into restaurants and order what they are comfortable with (“I’ll have the chicken!”) and totally miss the point of the whole restaurant. I WAS invited to come experience Motor Supply for the blog, but that doesn’t mean that the average diner can’t ask for a little help grazing the menu! My husband and I did it at Bacon Bros Public House in Greenville and had one of the best meals of our lives. So. Point being. Don’t be afraid and just go for it!
Drinks first. Bartender Jessica Williams brought out a nice sampling of the signature drinks at Motor. We tried the slightly sweet and bubbly Hail to Carolina (Presecco, Grand Marnier and Cranberry with berries), a crisp and tart Lunch Martini (Grey Goose Le Poire, Dolin Blanc, Lemon, Honey and Prosecco) and a super sweet 40-Love (housemade Ginger Beer, Dobel Maestro Tequilla, Honey and a little Chipotle spice). We were curious to try the Komucha, but totally forgot until we were too stuffed to care.
Now the food:
Chef brought out a beautiful plate of charcuterie. From bottom to top, that’s a slice of Country Pâté with dried blueberries and walnuts, sliced spicy house sausage with a bit of goat cheese, Pork Rillette, Pork Head with a little allspice and mace, house picked asparagus, house grain mustard and wait for it…. Pork Butter. I kid you not.
I waved him down after I had a bite. Seriously? Pork Butter?! “The Pork Butter just came to me one day. An epiphany,” said Chef Peters. “I whipped it up in a Kitchen Aid Mixer in the walk-in, almost into a meringue.” It’s rendered fat (to refine the flavor a bit and get out the porky meatiness), then chilled and then whipped into a beautiful white butterlike spoonful of awesomeness. I swear to Pete, it was heaven spread on a slice of crusty bread, and even better eaten with some of the shredded pork head and mustard. Wasn’t a huge fan of the sausage (not a goat fan), but lovingly grazed the rest of the plate.
Next out was a simple deconstructed salad of Bib Curly Leaf hybrid lettuce, amazingly mild and smooth Humble Farm Goat Cheese, macadamia nuts, dried peaches and raisins (?) all drizzled with an olive oil made by a student at USC and finished off with a squeeze of lemon.
Did you know that Trigger Fish mostly feed on crab? If you have a crab allergy, um, you might want to rethink trying this one!
I warned my lunch companion not to try to clean her plate. I knew there would be too much food for the two of us to eat. By the end of the meat course she was DYING! I knew desert was coming, so I ate like a bird up until this point. And I was so glad I showed some restraint because the piece of Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing swimming in a sea of Bourbon Caramel Sauce that arrived on our table was freaking delicious and I got to eat my share and hers!
No, you aren’t going to go to Motor and eat every dang thing on the menu. Heck, we tried and we couldn’t even manage it! So you wanna dine Gap Creek Gourmet style? You wanna get to the heart of Motor Supply? So make reservations, take TONS of people with you. And ask the waiter or chef to pick some starters and a salad or two and pass them around, then have the staff pick your meals, then order up drinks paired to the selections? BAM. Motorlicious.