Updated: Nov 9, 2022
I said it to him out loud before I was even seated.
“Oh, you are good!”
If you’ve ever been to the Spotted Salamander, I bet you know who I’m talking about: Randy.
Day four of spring break found me strolling down Richland Street, lost in my thoughts and looking forward to a leisurely lunch. I passed Femme Columbia which I had been reading about but had not seen in person and then the Shealey Law Firm. If I ever need an attorney, I would choose them just because the office (a restored historic home) is so charming. Even the mortgage company next door had pretty pots of flowers and loads of curb appeal.
The historic houses, the flower beds trimmed with old brick, and the carriage step between the road and the sidewalk made me feel like I was in Charleston, not downtown Columbia.
As I approached Pickens Street, I noticed a darling house with a vine-covered entrance. I hoped it was my lunch destination. I was about to head up the steps to snag the available table on the porch when a young man said, “You must be Tammy.” I checked to make sure I didn’t have a name tag and nodded. That was the beginning of my Randy experience. That bungalow was for overflow customers. I was to walk with him.
I really wanted to be on the quaint front porch, but I followed obediently. Another woman approached and said she was waiting on a friend. Clever Randy asked her name. I didn’t catch it, but that genius young man did. He didn't miss a beat, "Oh, you must be Marsha. Your friend is waiting inside. She says you’ve been here before so go on in.” Impressive. I'm talking Disney-level customer service.
According to Randy, first-timers should start in the main space. My Spotted Salamander ambassador was right. I loved seeing the daily special boards. The rotating art on consignment created a gallery feel, and the original Ernest Lee depiction of the namesake reptile added the perfect Cola Town touch.
Overall, the menu is small but yummy: several salads, sandwiches, soups and small plates. You’ve got to love a restaurant that has a deviled egg of the day. I tried the asparagus parmesan soup and ham delights. Both delish.
After my meal and another stroll around the block, I went back in. I felt a story coming on and wanted to find Randy. The hostess behind the counter asked how many in my party. Randy walked in from the kitchen and yelled, “Tammy Davis!”
“Gosh, you really are good,” I thought but did not say out loud. I asked him if we could take some pictures. I should have known that even while striking a pose, Randy was still on duty, “Oh, you must be Lyle," he said to a main getting out of his car. "Your wife’s inside.”
The spotted salamander serves lunch weekdays only from 11:00-2:30. As a teacher, I’m out of luck from August-June. But once school’s out, I know where I’ll be: strolling down a shady street in downtown Columbia wondering what the deviled egg of the day is. And I'll be
looking out for my favorite new waiter: Randy!