] Around Columbia: August 2009

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Mugs Up Drive-In: Three Generations Family Owned

A couple of weeks ago my mother had cravings for a chili dog from Mugs Up. Eventually my father had to drive in from Harrisburg and buy her a meal and it remains one of her favorite places to eat out. I should also mention that my father worked on the metal structure of this building at Riback Industries (a new defunct metal fabrication business) as one of that businesses first commissions. I started remembering my own trips there through the years and especially my fondness for my own personal favorite - their famous Zip Burger (a "crumbly hamburger" of a style that has unfortunately lost popularity). I decided it was time to do a story about this Columbia institution.

I expected to do a story about an establishment that was fighting to keep going within a dodgy economy, struggling to keep reliable employees, and one that had gone through several owners. I was wrong on all counts. What I did find out surprised me.
During the entire time I was there business was good enough to keep six people busy with a steady stream of customers coming and going. The pace was steady and the mood of the staff cooperative rather than the frenzied, and tense, atmosphere you find at a lot of other fast food establishments. The first person I talked to was employee Kelli Bias who was gracious enough to give me some of her time after her shift ended to talk about her experience at Mugs Up.

Kelli explained she has been working at Mugs Up for eleven years. She said, "I love the job. The bosses are great and we are like a family." She explained that she has two daughters who work at the restaurant and a sister who has worked at Mugs Up for thirty years on and off who currently still comes in on part time basis.

Kelli also told me that the restaurant had been open since 1955 when it was established by Ray Kewley. The first location was right on the business loop where it operated until 1969 when the original building was moved back to the present location. Since then the business has passed onto Larry and Kay Kewley who are now the owners and are still active in running and working at the establishment. Their son Brandon is the current manager and was on duty when I was there.

My Dad actually worked on the steel structure for this building as an ornamental iron worker for Riback Industries a now defunct steel fabrication business in Columbia. It was one of Riback's first jobs after that business opened. You can see the round orange steel supports in this picture as well as in some of the other images.
The Menu! Reasonable prices and great tasting food.
I remember these trays from when I was growing up. They still use a damp washcloth on the bottom of the tray!
I was intrigued by the trays. These mesh plastic covered trays are the original ones that have been in use since Mugs Up opened. The "Serv-a-car product was manufactured by the SAC corporation in Parsons, Kansas which is still in operation but is now known as the Advanced Plastic Coatings Services, Inc.
An order about ready to go to the car.
The finished order ready to go with drinks and fries added:
The order delivered to Jenifer and her family who are longtime regulars at Mugs Up. Evidently the restaurant not only has loyal employees but loyal customers, like Jennifer and her family along with my own mom, who keep coming back.
Brandon Kewley and one of his employees. Brandon is the son of the current owners, is the current manager, and has been working at Mugs Up since he was 12 years old.

The food, the old-fashioned drive-in atmosphere, the longevity of the business as well as the loyalty of the employees all combine to make this a fascinating story. The restaurant business can be brutal but the Kewley family have found a recipe for success which has lasted through three generations. There is a lot to admire there. I am still investigating but Mugs Up may be the longest continuously running restourant in Columbia depending on how you categorize Booches which has been open since 1884. If there is one that has been open longer I would like to hear about it.

Mugs Up closes during the harder winter months and manager Brandon Kewley said they expect to stay open this year sometime into November. If you have not visited Mugs Up I highly recommend it.

Located just off Business Loop 70 on 603 Orange Street, the establishment is just far enough back that you may miss it when you drive by. So, I decided to include a map to help you find it:

View Larger Map

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Churck Berry at the Blue Note

Outside of the Blue Note in the venue minutes before the concert starts.

The man himself - Chuck Berry!

On 26 August 2009 legendary rocker Chuck Berry appeared for a night concert on 9th Street sponsored by the Blue Note. This is a tribute to Chuck Berry, who is now 82 years of age, and a thanks to the Blue Note for continuing to bring top notch entertainment to Columbia.

Under the lights of a hot humid night and at 82 years of age Chuck Berry was outstanding.

A classy articulate guy: Charles Berry, Jr., Chuck Berry's son.

Member of the band.

Here is an audio excerpt not so much of the concert but of the event ambiance with sound from the beginning, middle, and end of the concert. It gets a little better as it goes along so give it some time:

The venue was packed and VERY crowded with many participants drinking their beer but was surprisingly free of incident and trouble. Everyone was in a reasonably good mood considering it was hot and humid as well as the amount of drinking going on. Inside and outside the Blue Note it was an eerie feeling because the faces, the noise, the mood, and the atmosphere of anticipation was just like the French Quarter in New Orleans.

Berry played for about 50 minutes and it was a remarkable show considering his age. I think few people left disappointed. I had considered taking my younger kids but I am glad I did not. Short people were at a disadvantage on Wednesday night and what few kids I did see seemed to be leaving early with their parents because they simply could not see anything. Also, there were some people in wheelchairs who were similarly disadvantaged. Some of the concert goers, mostly older ones it seemed, came very early with their lawn chairs. It did not appear to help because sitting in a lawn chair makes you short too and it means you just came early to sit out in the hot to be surrounded by a jostling crowd towering above you blocking your view one the venue started to fill. So it goes.

Here are some video excerpts from the concert:

Notice that the video has an announcer mentioning the Roots 'N Blues 'N BBQ Festival which is scheduled soon for September 25th - 26.

View of the venue after the concert facing North on 9th Street.

Walking North out of the concert area on 9th Street.

Overall? It was a great event, and a great concert, and I am glad I went. This is another reminder for me that when an opportunity becomes available you take it. Turn off the TV, better yet get rid of it, and experience life.

When Time magazine compiled a list of the top ten electric guitar players guess who made that short list?

1. Jimi Hendrix
2. Slash
3. B.B. King
4. Keith Richards
5. Eric Clapton
6. Jimmy Page
7. Chuck Berry
8. Les Paul
9. Yngwie Malmsteen
10. Prince

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Kosher In Columbia? YES it is possible!

What is this big box of meat doing outside our front door?

When we decided to keep Kosher we did so with a lot of planning and a lot of preparation. We received a lot of help from a Chabad rabbi in St. Louis who runs The Source Unlimited located at 11044 Olive Blvd (available by phone at 314.567-1925) who was always willing to give us advice and more importantly optimistic encouragement. At The Source I purchased a book entitled Going Kosher in 30 Days by another Chabad rabbi by the name of Zalman Goldstein that was helpful. I also found another very detailed series of lectures online in mp3 format by yet another Chabad Rabbi by the name of Dovid Bendory that was simply outstanding with suffienct detail to help guide us through a very detail oriented process. Rabbi Bendory is a very gifted teacher and his attention to detail is a great asset when converting a kitchen to kosher. The one thing about the Chabad people is that they were always encouraging and optimisitc and viewed the process as something that was very doable for us. And, it was.

We got rid of a lot of stuff, bought some new stuff, and made our kitchen kosher. I estimate that at least 70 - 80 percent of the food in a normal grocery store is kosher and probably even more than that. For example there is an OU certified bacon bit salad dressing which is kosher although it contains no pork but rather a marvel of modern chemistry that supposedly mimics the taste of pork - but we do not use it at our house. You can even buy kosher bread (mostly from Schnucks), a few kosher chesses (one from Sams and a few from Clovers while cream cheese is pretty much kosher no matter where you buy it) , and kosher fish here in Columbia but meat is a problem. By the way, Schnucks used to carry some kosher chicken items but at least for the time being has stopped that practice. The Conley street WalMart even had a Kosher section, NONE of the other WalMart stores here in Columbia did, although it was very limited and certainly did not heave meat (but they did have kosher chicken broth from time to time). Unfortunately I do not know what the Conley store will have after the remodeling is finished. What to do?

We planned our kitchen conversion carefully and on our way back from a family vacation to Florida last winter stopped at Kohn's (combination grocer, deli, and most importantly kosher butcher shop) to stock up. Before leaving for the trip we had completed all the preparation and work on our kitchen so it was ready to go. During that stop we purchased about six hundred dollars worth of meat, the staff helped us pack it in ice lined boxes, we covered it with blankets, and we drove home in the crowded van. Since then we have learned a lot and have ordered items from other meat suppliers in Chicago and New York but we continue to buy nearly all our meat from Kohn's. Most of the time though we order it on the internet and then have it shipped by Federal Express to our front door. The quality of the meat from Kohn's is very good and the chicken has the taste and texture of what chicken used to be like before producers started relying on growth hormones and other questionable production practices. Here is a pictorial essay of our last delivery:

The doorball rang and the dogs go crazy. We placed an order the day before yesterday so we have a good idea what is going on. It is the first order we have received while the kids are home so it is good to have them see how the process works for us.

To guard against thieves, kosher meat is expensive, we use specially trained and bred guard dogs procurred through the local Humane Society.
Here is our order. We tried a couple of new things this time around and it worked out great. We are slowly learning what to order and what to avoid to suit our taste. This is a photo with the box opened and the top removed from the Styrofoam container that helps keep the stuff frozen. That along with the dry ice is a pretty efficient system:
Here we are packing the stuff away into the freezer. My parents bought us the freezer which helps to make this all possible. If your going to keep kosher in a community that does not have a local butcher buty a freezer. This smaller one does very well.

A lot of people thought that keeping kosher here in Columbia was impossible or would be difficult. That is not true at all. With the internet and the efficiency of services like federal express along with the proliferation of material on keeping kosher available through the internet and in regular print sources it is actually not hard to do at all. It can be more expensive but we have adjusted and eat more parve or dairy meals and we are doing just fine. It has been a wonderful experience.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Fishing Mid-Missouri Style

Fishing on light tackle in Missouri is always fun but you do not have to go to the better known, and often crowded, streams and rivers to fish. I have always liked fishing the small streams, creeks, lakes, and ponds of Missouri. There are plenty of these locations in mid-Missouri in the Columbia area and some are even in the city limits. These particular pictures were taken at my Dad's pond where after supper I went outside on the dock and fished for an hour or so until it became dark enough so that I had to stop.

This is one of my bamboo fly rods. There is NO better way to fish. Gentleman fly fish and country gentleman fly fish with bamboo rods.

When conditions are right these poppers are deadly for bass. In my Dad's pond the bass like to patrol the edges of the pond when they feed and then make a running strike at whatever they see they fancy eating. If you walk out to the pond quietly you can see them there waiting fully visible in shallow water just inches from the bank.

These small poppers work great on a fly rod. They also work well for blue gill, I caught three, but then again blue gill will strike on just about anything. When I was a kid I caught one when I did not even intend to with a piece of red ribbon on a hook when I was just messing around.
Not the prettiest cast since I am not a graduate of one of the Orvis fly fishing schools. But, I catch fish. The fly, or whatever your fishing, should hit the water first, and you should have accuracy. After that your impressing people, at least those that know what to look for in a proper cast, more than anything else.
First one. I caught this one with a very small artificial worm designed for a fly rod.
Second one caught on a small fly.
Third one. Notice it is getting dark and this is a flash photo.
I usually fish catch and release and often cut the barb off the hook. All these fish were thrown back into the water. The small hook and absence of a treble hook avoid excessive trauma to the fish.