We had one night in Columbia, so we walked nearly the entire District trying to find the best restaurant for dinner. Coley's was the first that caught our eye, and by the end of our loop, it still sounded the best. Considering what a great meal and experience we had here, we could have saved ourselves a lot of walking by just eating here in the first place!
We noticed the nice patio as we walked up but it was a touch warm so we opted to eat inside. The interior is sleek and modern looking, with wood floors and a cool color palette. Our seats were right in front of the floor to ceiling windows that look out toward the District, and lots of natural light.
Both ravenous, we ordered drinks and an appetizer, the beer cheese dip. This was perfect to take the edge off our hunger. Think a stadium-style soft pretzel crossed with a breadstick, accompanied by a thick, spreadable dip of cheese and scallions, but more subtle and nuanced than a typical gooey cheese dip. I enjoyed a refreshing sangria, while my wife had a bloody mary that seemed well-balanced and a touch spicy.
For entrees, I went with the roasted chicken with jus, while my wife had the pesto pasta. Both featured roasted chicken (as did many menu items), which was a good choice as it was incredibly delicious. The chicken was moist and juicy, with a crisp seasoned skin. The jus was amazing, with sweet caramelized onions and the what tasted like tangy sherry or marsala. I gladly cleared my plate of the chicken, mashed potatoes and sauteed asparagus, mopping up every morsel of jus.
My wife offered a taste of her entree, and I enjoyed that too. The pesto was lively and fresh-tasting, nicely coating the spiral pasta. Tossed with green beans, tomatoes and olives, plus some more of that roasted chicken, this was a uniquely flavorful creation. And a hefty portion of it, too, as we took a box with almost half of the pasta home with us for a later tasty treat.
Finally, all of this superb food came at a shockingly reasonable price. I can't think of a lot of dinners out where my wife and I can have an appetizer, drinks and two entrees of this caliber for $40, but that was about where we ended the night. I've spent much more on far less impressive meals at other restaurants. Were I a Columbia resident, Coley's seems like a shoo-in for a favorite restaurant to return to again and again. As it is, we'll just have to remember our one trip there fondly and maybe plan another trip to central Missouri in the future.