Words can’t describe how I feel now about missing out on Mr. Bunky’s all the years I’ve lived in Columbia.
It’s the kind of place where it’s easier to talk about what it isn’t than what it is. It’s a convenience store, a meat market, a bait shop, a local goods store, and, most importantly for our purposes here, a restaurant. It truly is the swiss army knife of gas stations. It’s also beautiful, in a rustic way, dripping with history around every corner, covered with antiques and various signage from nearly 40 years in business.
Tucked in the side of the building is Mr. Bunky’s restaurant, a generously sized dining room with a salad bar in the center and hot bar at the register. Open all day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the menu covers a wide range of items, from biscuit sandwiches in the morning to fried chicken at lunch and in the evening.
The eye-catcher for me, though, is the Manchester Farms fried quail. Quail kind of gets a reputation for being something you find at a higher end restaurant, but for me, a place like Bunky’s is truly the perfect place to sit and really take the time to savour its qualities.
There’s a lot of bones, and it’s really great to be somewhere you don’t feel like you’re breaking protocol while messily trying to enjoy your meal.
It also doesn’t hurt that it is some of the best quail I’ve ever had. One of the easiest game birds to overcook and dry out, Bunky’s solves it with a perfect Southern-style fry, keeping the quail succulent. Coming from just down the road at Manchester Farms, it’s also magnificently fresh, with just a hint of gaminess that makes quail so attractive. For $3.25 per bird — just a bit more for a full basket with crispy fries — it’s really a fantastic deal.
Mr. Bunky’s is admittedly a haul for those near downtown Columbia, but here’s a weekend getaway plan for you: Jump out of bed early and drive down for a biscuit in the morning before driving a little further down the road for a wonderful hike at one of Poinsett State Park’s many trails, then pop back in on the way home for a huge plate of quail and some of their homemade banana pudding to cap. Sounds like a great day to me.
what: Manchester Fried Quail
where: Mr. Bunky’s Restaurant & Market; 10441 Garners Ferry Rd, Eastover; 803-783-3501, facebook.com/Mr.BunkysMarket
cost: $3.25 per quail