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Winner and still champion: Marriott restaurant defends shrimp and grits crown

The judges have spoken. The people have spoken. And for the second consecutive year, they have agreed. Columbia’s best shrimp and grits is prepared and served by Midlands’ Modern Southern Food Arts, the restaurant inside the Marriott hotel on Main Street.

Midlands took home both the judges’ choice and people’s choice awards at Saturday night’s second annual Columbia’s Shrimp and Grits Fest.

Midlands Executive Chef Jeremy Lane said the key ingredient in his prize-winning dish is no secret.  “It’s about the love,” he said. “We love what we do. We love the ingredients. We put a lot of passion into the food, and that’s what shows, and that’s what does it.”

The event drew several hundred people to the Columbia Conference Center on Laurelhurst Avenue. It was hosted for the second straight year by Columbia Food Tours.

“We have a great relationship with the restaurants and we couldn’t do it without them,” said Columbia Food Tours co-owner Kristin Cole. “They are the stars today and their food is so good. I love how each one is different.”

Some contestants returned from the first edition of the contest, while others made their debut, including some which were perhaps surprises.

“It’s good because, like Rosso‘s here,” Cole said. “You might not know they serve shrimp and grits, but they put this Italian-inspired spin on it.”

A prize was also awarded for most creative shrimp and grits, with Capital City Catering picking up the trophy.

The evening also included live music by the Mark Rapp Group, dancing, and exhibits from local vendors. Cole and her husband (and co-owner of Columbia Food Tours) Brian Cole plan to bring back the Shrimp and Grits Fest in 2018. Until then, the two-time champ has some advice for all food lovers.

“Come down to the Columbia Marriott and come get it!”

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