The city of Columbia has always been magnet for talented people from around the state. Many people have come here to begin their career or to start businesses. Two such people are Jermaine Britton and Larry Simmons, the owners of a new restaurant called The Capital City Cafe. Both men grew up in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina. Chef Larry Simmons is a native of Horry County. He has been in the restaurant industry for over 20 years. He started out bussing tables and washing dishes. “When I got of age, one of my first moves was the transfer to the grill,” said Simmons. He worked at Fuddruckers in Myrtle Beach and a steakhouse before moving to the Midlands and enrolling in USC’s Culinary Program in 2007. After completing the program, he worked at local hospitals before getting a job with Sodexco, serving food in Richland School District Two. That was where he met Jermaine Britton.Britton is a native of Georgetown County. Like Simmons, his first job was working in a restaurant at the age of 14. He came to Columbia in 1991 to major in business at the University of South Carolina. After graduating in 1996, he got a job at a SCT (now known as Hanson Technology), a company that provides Information Technology solutions for utility companies.
“Over the years, I’ve dabbled in a number of businesses,” Britton said. “I’m a licensed residential builder, and a licensed real estate broker. But I’ve always wanted to get into the restaurant business.” That is how he met Chef Simmons. Simmons was catering events, and the two became fast friends. Since they both had an interest in the restaurant industry, they began meeting regularly at Lizards Thicket to discuss restaurant ideas.
“When I met him, I found someone who was really into his craft,” Britton said. “I felt that with my business sense and his sense of food and the ability to create a good product, we could do something pretty good as partners.” “I had been doing catering for him about five or six years,” Simmons recalled. “He came to me and said he found a nice location and to check it out. I saw it, and said ‘Let’s make it happen’.” The men secured the location in August 2019. It took five months to renovate the space, and on January 23, 2020, The Capital City Cafe officially opened at 1801 Main Street, Suite 4 (next to the old Jefferson Square Theaters).
The Capital City Cafe specializes in breakfast and lunch items. “We do your basic breakfast,” said Chef Simmons. “We do made-to-order omelets, bacon egg & grits platters, and breakfast sandwiches. We also have pancakes, waffles, French toast, bagels, biscuits and croissants. “For lunch, we do everything from a nice gourmet burger to Philly cheesesteaks and wings. Our most popular dish is a chicken salad.”
“We do have a selection of pretty good salads that more health conscious person can choose from,” added Britton. “You can add grilled salmon, grilled chicken, and fried chicken to the salads as well.” Because of its location just blocks away from the State House, all of the sandwiches have a political theme. The Governor is a roast beef sandwich with all the fixings and a ranch avocado dressing. The Representative is a chicken salad sandwich. The Senator is a smoked turkey sandwich, and The Politician is a club sandwich with turkey, ham, bacon, lettuce and tomatoes. And The Page is a ham & cheese sandwich.
“We wanted to name the sandwiches after the folks that work in the State House every day,” said Britton. Chef Simmons says that one of the things that makes The Capital City Cafe unique is that they only use fresh ingredients.
“I guess the thing that really separates us from other places is that we deal with a lot of fresh produce and stuff. We don't do processed food. We buy fresh produce and we cut our own meats. Everything is fresh and gets prepped the same day. I feel like that way, people are getting the full taste of their food versus stuff that comes already prepackaged or pre-canned.” The Capital City Cafe is open Monday through Friday. The cafe opens at 7:30 a.m. for breakfast, which is served until 10:30 a.m., when it begins to serve lunch.
Customers can place carryout orders online at https://orders.cake.net/11223499. Simmons says that in the near future, customers will be able to have meals delivered through Bite Squad. In addition, The Capital City Cafe offers catering service. “We want to make people aware of that catering services are available,” said Britton. “Breakfast, lunch, dinner – weekdays, weekends, it doesn't matter.”
Because of Chef Simmons’ skills, the catering menu is not limited to what’s on the cafe’s menu. They can cater just about any kind of food – and they can do everything from providing box lunches to sit-down plated meals at your location. The Capital City Cafe can cater events all over the Southeast. “Basically is really no size limit,” said Chef Simmons. “No matter how many people that I have to cater for, and I just get a team together and they pretty much help me execute it.” And if someone is looking for just a place to host their business meetings or small events after hours, The Capital City Cafe is available. “We're here to serve the public,” Britton said. “And I think what you'll find here in the restaurant is an atmosphere where you can come be served by good people and have good food.”
The Capital City Cafe is located at 1801 Main Street, Suite 6. They can be reached by calling (803) 497-3883. The learn more, visit @thecapitolcitycafe on Facebook and Instagram.