The restaurant business can be notoriously fickle, with new eateries popping up just as others are headed out to the culinary graveyard. The Columbus-Phenix City market is no exception. The metro area’s food menu — be it full-service restaurants or fast-food outlets — is constantly in a state of evolution. Here, then, is a sampling of restaurant flavors making their debut in the local market, as well as a note on the passing of a few.
The Blue Iguana
Located at 2301 Airport Thruway, Harmony Place, in Columbus, the Tex-Mex restaurant opened about a month ago.
It has a history in Columbus of sorts, with the Aguirre family having operated Los Amigos at The Landings and then on Veterans Parkway for 25 years. For those really venturing back in time, the Aguirres also operated El Matador near the Springer Opera House for a decade starting in 1983.
“That was our start right there. I was really little at that time,” joked Richard Aguirre, co-owner of The Blue Iguana, which has just launched a 10-minute spicy burger challenge, ala the Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food” show.
“We have a whole new line of burgers and they’ve been doing phenomenal,” said Aguirre. “And we have wraps and more appetizers. We also started a whole new line of margaritas, martinis and craft beers.”
The Blue Iguana has a capacity of 205 diners.
Chattahoochee Brewing Co.
Speaking of beer, the brew-pub at 505 13th St. in Phenix City opened last week in a spot just off the banks of the Chattahoochee River.
“Right now we’re just a brewery and we’ve got 12 taps on the wall, most of them from Alabama,” said owner Dale Winowich. “I had my own for about a week, but I sold out of it in four days.”
The brewpub at the moment is serving basic snacks, he said, but plans to add bar food — chicken wings, cheese sticks, etc. — in about two to three weeks.” The venue seats 50 inside and about 20 more on an outdoor patio.
Where there’s beer, there often has to be pizza. And the pizza place called Your Pie is close to opening its doors at 1019 Broadway in Columbus. “Express your inner pizza” is its slogan.
“We’re expecting we’ll be open by the first week of March,” said Barrett Feighner of the eatery that is setting up shop inside the former My Party Place space.
This is the second Your Pie location for Feighner and his partner, Macon Evans, who opened their first Columbus eatery at The Landings in north Columbus in August 2011. The new one seats 75 inside and about 20 outside.
“I think the whitewater project, combined with the increase of CSU students, were very positive for Uptown and the Columbus community in general,” said Feighner on the decision to launch the downtown Your Pie. “We see it as an opportunity and a way to be involved in the community and help with revitalization of the area.”
Jim Bob’s Chicken Fingers
The Jim Bob’s opening March 5 at Columbus Park Crossing, 6409 Whittlesey Blvd., is the second location for Curtis Wallace, who started his first in LaGrange, Ga., nearly a decade ago.
The original Jim Bob’s, which opened in the early 1990s, is in Opelika, Ala., and is independent of Wallace.
“Of course, we’re chicken fingers and hot wings, fried catfish, hamburgers and salads, with a drive-thru. It’s a great place for your family, a great place for a quick lunch,” said Wallace of the food and atmosphere in the 120-seat restaurant that will be closed on Sundays, but open consistently from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day the rest of the week.
“It’s a new design for us and we’re very excited about it,” he said of the Columbus store. “We feel like it’s very inviting and should draw people in.”
Hangar Bar and Grill
Opening about two weeks ago, Hangar filled the space vacated by the short-lived Sealand Oyster Bar & Grill, of which Hangar is no relation, said assistant manager Kathleen Powers, usually simply known as K.P.
Hangar is at 4640 Warm Springs Road and shares space with a convenience store complete with gas pumps. For barbecue aficionados, you can find it next door to Pepper’s Barbeque and Catering. “We serve your regular kind of sports pub food,” Powers said. “We have extraordinary burgers, fried green tomatoes that are delicious, all kinds of salads, and wings, of course.”
The bar and grill seats 87 inside, with an outdoor patio with room enough for 57. It also has live music on occasion.
Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ’n Biscuits
The city’s first Bojangles’ is moving toward completion at 7660 Schomburg Road in Columbus, fronting the Publix-anchored shopping center.
The timeline for opening the doors is a bit fuzzy, with the recent rainy weather throwing construction crews for a loop. When it rains, you simply can’t pour asphalt for a parking lot.
The eatery could open by mid-March or “It potentially could be pushed back to the middle of April,” said Pete Hart, who brokered Bojangles’ and Jim Bob’s and is associate broker and co-owner of Jordan Hart Commercial Services in Columbus.
When it does debut, the Charlotte, N.C.-based chain promises “made-from-scratch buttermilk biscuits; specially seasoned, never frozen fried chicken; Legendary Iced Tea, steeped the old-fashioned way; and a variety of flavorful fixins” that include dirty rice and Cajun pintos. It serves breakfast all day.
And that’s not all. Hart said Bojangles’ is close to choosing a site for its second Columbus outlet. There potentially could be three to four in the local market before they’re done.
Odds and ends
Samurai: The Japanese cuisine restaurant has pulled up stakes at Harmony Place in north Columbus and is headed for space formerly occupied by The Den Market and Deli, once operated by Columbus State University at 1009 Broadway. Construction is now in progress with an opening expected soon. CSU, meanwhile, recently opened a dining hall and market in the former Rankin Quarter restaurant on 10th Street.
Peachtree: The shopping mall is renovating its food court to add Mandarin Express to its lineup, while shifting Classic Cookie around to make way for a Best Buy Mobile store. Much of that work should be completed by the end of March.
Dearly departed: A couple of restaurants have closed their doors. Mad Grill on U.S. Highway 280 Bypass in Phenix City and The Market Seafood Grill on First Avenue in Columbus both are no longer serving hungry diners. As for the latter, manager Jeremy Carter said The Market will land on its feet somewhere at some point. Until then, he said folks can get their fresh seafood (or steak and burgers) fix at a sister eatery, Shoreline Grill at Lake Harding, near Smiths Station, Ala. For years, that space was known as Peppermill Grill. Shoreline opened last summer. It apparently offers free bread pudding to those who check in at its Facebook page.