Blue Cactus

The Bee Bim Bob at Blue Cactus.

For at least one night, Columbia’s longtime favorite Korean-Mexican cafe will come back to serve some of its most popular items. Blue Cactus Cafe, run by Julie Culclasure Ford, will be having a pop-up dinner at Black Market Tavern (2303 Devine St.) on Monday, Oct. 21 from 5 to 11 p.m. 

The former Five Points restaurant closed on May 5 due to health and family issues, according to a Facebook post by Ford. Blue Cactus was originally started by Ford’s parents, Lloyd and Mary Reese, in 1994, and quickly became a university favorite, not only for the food, but its “arrogantly slow” reputation — something that would be a complaint anywhere else, but resonated with locals who supported the restaurant over its 25 years of business. Ford took over the restaurant when her parents retired in 2017.

Favorites from the restaurant that will be available during the pop-up dinner including bibimbap, spicy pork, ropa vieja and more, along with limited supplies of kimchi and spicy radish for sale. 

Tickets for the dinner are $15, which goes toward your overall food order that evening. Information can be found at — Bach Pham

Group Helps Stroke Survivors Over Lunch

Surviving a stroke can alter one’s way of existing in the world, to the point where a task as simple as going out to eat can be difficult. Lynsey Keator, a speech pathologist and doctoral student at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health is looking to bridge the gap between stroke survivors and restaurant servers, hoping to give survivors who have aphasia more confidence in speaking to people they don’t know. Aphasia is a condition that affects one’s ability to speak, write and/or understand written or verbal language, and typically occurs following a stroke or head injury.

Keator facilitates the Lunch Bunch, a group that unites people with aphasia with restaurants who are willing to take the time to train their servers to work with people who have aphasia. This both raises awareness of the condition among restaurant workers who may not understand why someone is having difficulty communicating. It also gives people who have aphasia a safe place to practice their verbal communication skills. 

“Coming from a clinical background, I saw that there are very few resources available to stroke survivors and their families,” Keator says. “Aphasia can be very isolating.”

Prior to the lunch (or sometimes dinner) Keator takes the time to give the servers informal training and a survey. Then they interact with the guests with aphasia and both sides share their experiences. Keator estimates between 30 and 35 people come each month. 

Keator would love to see this become a statewide initiative, but for now, she is looking for more restaurants who are interested in participating. Restaurant owners or managers who would like to become involved can email her at or visit the Aphasia Lab website at Stroke survivors at any stage of their recovery who would like information about the Lunch Bunch can also email Keator about joining their excursions. — April Blake

Tea Room Moves Downtown

The Market Tea Room and Country Store started out as a destination for tea lovers and those who wanted a tea room experience, complete with hats and fancy little China cups, despite sitting nine miles from downtown Columbia in the State Farmers Market complex. But after two years there, the tea room is heading east. The Market Restaurant, a separate entity, will remain at the Farmers Market.

Beginning mid-November, the Market Tea Room is moving its afternoon teas and local goods market to Senate’s End at 302 Senate St., where co-owner Jennifer Gerdes originally started her journey as a tea retailer. 

“Senate’s End is where I first started working with Dupre’s Catering and Dupre Percival, and then we had the opportunity to create something out at the farmer’s market that’s really taken off and grown,” says Gerdes. “Now that we are established, it makes sense to ‘go home’ to Senate’s End.”

The tea room has a dual purpose. Its retail sales side features locally made items like jams, barbecue sauces, honey, seasonings and pickles, plus Gerdes’ exponentially large assortment of teas and tea accessories. The other component — what people really come for — is the bijou afternoon tea, where a group can sit down and have hot teas, scones, biscuits, crustless sandwiches, the whole experience, all crafted by Gerdes, with her extensive tea knowledge. 

“I would put my knowledge against any tea master out there, but I am mostly self taught,” she says. 

With the move will come some changes. Gerdes anticipates scheduled food truck visits, longer retail hours, and a much closer relationship with Dupre Catering that will elevate the shopping and dining experience. The tea room should be open in mid-November at its new location at 302 Senate, and they are already accepting bookings for afternoon teas for dates in late November and beyond. — April Blake

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