Trey Bistro emits downtown atmosphere

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Brayden Parker

Trey Bistro Très Bien: The Trey Bistro sign extends from its perch over the 9th street sidewalk. Opened by Trey Quinlan in 2012, this new addition incorporates fresh local produce to create seasonal menus, according to the restaurant’s website, treybistro.com.
Trey Bistro Très Bien: The Trey Bistro sign extends from its perch over the 9th street sidewalk. Opened by Trey Quinlan in 2012, this new addition incorporates fresh local produce to create seasonal menus, according to the restaurant’s website, treybistro.com. Photo by Asa Lory

When spending time on Columbia’s Ninth St., people typically confine themselves to south of Broadway. The establishments most familiar to Columbians are visited continually as people look for a good place to enjoy.
However, if one ventures north just a block or two deeper into Columbia, there is another eatery that should soon enough become one of the District’s most popular places.
Tucked in at 21 N Ninth St. is the contemporary restaurant, Trey Bistro, owned by Executive Chef Trey Quinlan.
Quinlan took first place at the Skills USA Culinary Arts State Competition while enrolled at the Columbia Area Career Center in 2003. After he opened his own restaurant in 2012, he kept his passion of cooking close to home. While the Blue Note housed next door occasionally overshadows Trey Bistro, Columbia’s feel resonating from within the restaurant is unforgettable.
Walking through the front door, Trey Bistro appears to be a hole-in-the-wall. Though the façade is well taken care of, inside is a tight fit. Regardless, the spirit captured inside the tiny building explodes out as the door is opened. The soft rock playing in the background, along with the modern art paintings hanging from the wall, set the tone for the remainder of the dining experience.
Unfortunately, because of space constraints, tables are packed in tightly, diminishing any sense of privacy from one table to the next. Although it’s cozy, the chatter never becomes overly distracting, and patrons are able to enjoy the meal without much discomfort.
The menu is the main factor in any customer’s decision on a restaurant, and this one definitely complimented the atmosphere. Offering only locally grown ingredients, the menu constantly evolves to embrace the seasons of Columbia. Although the use of such ingredients limits the range of options, it allows the menu to accommodate vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free eaters, as well as the everyday passer-by.
Trey Bistro offers unique interpretations of classic dishes. While it appears to be a typical bistro-style restaurant offering sandwiches, soups and artisan pizzas, Quinlan does an exceptional job of keeping the menu exciting.
From Chicken and Hoecakes to the innovative Lamb Sloppy Joe, there are plenty of options to fulfill any daring appetite. And although at first glance the portion size of the meals appears to be slightly larger than a snack, they are exemplary in satisfying hunger while entertaining the taste buds. Flavor is not lacking and the mixture of taste in every plate is well balanced and never overpowering.
Because Quinlan operates the bistro on his own with the assistance of only a handful of other chefs and a couple waiters, the service can be stagnant at times. But, there is an abundance of things to help entertain and aid in making the wait pass by quickly.
The architecture is beautiful, reminiscent of a French café. The walls are exposed as bricks peek through, giving a slight industrial feel to the room. But the bright yet subtle modern art draped across the remaining wall space helps to lighten up the environment. Furthermore, the building is designed so that customers to peek into the open air kitchen and enjoy watching their food being made. Of course, this also keeps people preoccupied with the status of their meal.
While the overall experience was fantastic, the bill solidifies the final judgment. The prices are slightly steep, yet the consumer is paying for not only the experience but also the locally grown products used in the meal. The same price could be paid at a similar restaurant, but for the uniqueness of the food the prices are well worth it.
Initially, Trey Bistro will be competing for customers with the well-established eateries in the District that serve a similar menu, like Sycamore and Bleu restaurant. Quinlan formerly worked at both of these restaurants, yet he has taken some of both and integrated them into what is now his own. Currently, his establishment doesn’t have the benefit of superior geography, being in the heart of downtown, but, hopefully Columbians will soon venture a little further north for a fantastic time – straight from Quinlan’s heart: Trey Bistro.
By Brayden Parker