Although he shuttered two of his beloved entertainment venues during the pandemic, Jesse Garcia has kept the third afloat with a little luck and a lot of ingenuity. Previously known for its funky speakeasy vibe, The Social Room in Columbia, Missouri, is now creating buzz with its lesser-known strength: late-night eats.
From 4pm until the city mandates that it closes, the nightclub serves up burgers, bratwursts, mac ‘n’ cheese and more for dine-in service, carryout and delivery. As The Social Room wraps up its first year serving a full menu, Garcia opens up about his unexpected venture into the restaurant business.
Tell us about The Social Room’s transition from nightclub to restaurant. [Luckily], during the last two years, we added a food program to The Social Room. At first we were only approved to do small concessions and stuff like that – only at the end of 2019 were we approved to cook “food of an unlimited nature.” When the first round of shutdowns happened in March , the only reason we were allowed to keep that little business open is because we had a food service license – and that [became] our only source of income.
What’s on the menu? We call it “American stoner food” – food that sounds good when you’re high or drunk, like wild toppings on hot dogs. We have a dog called The Como Dog that’s covered in mac ‘n’ cheese, Sriracha and potato chips. Just decadent stuff like that, and we’ve kind of built from there. Everything that we can source locally, within reason, we do. We get all of our pork products from Patchwork Family Farms, [for instance]; we’ve got bratwursts and sausages from there that are just amazing. And we make our burgers [and other dishes] in-house and fresh every day, so it’s not frozen food products or anything.
What does a night at The Social Room look like today? We wanted to keep a bit of a nightlife vibe, so we installed a bunch of TVs and play mostly music videos. There’s a pool table room, and we’ve got some classic arcade games. We were an entertainment venue – and we’d like to go back to being an entertainment venue when this is all over – but we’ve made great strides with a good food program, so we’re gonna make sure that stays as a staple part of The Social Room.
Tell us about The Social Room’s “Sunday Drunch.” It’s just my wife and our kids plus four employees [on staff now], and we all work every day that we’re open. None of us want to get up early on Sunday after working Saturday night, so instead of forcing people to wake up to get their Sunday brunch at 11am or whatever, we just open at our normal [time] and [serve] Sunday Drunch – it’s like drunk lunch and dinner. We do all the breakfast specials that you would normally have in the morning, but we do them all night.
The Social Room, 220 N. Eighth St., Columbia, Missouri, 573.397.6442 thesocialroomcomo.com