Restaurant of the week:
A restaurant that can boast once being a condemned house residing in the historic Highland District, housing antique furnishings and interchangeable local art, growing its own herbs in its outdoor garden, and dining tables built from a fallen 200-year-old pin oak tree, crafted from the owner’s own hands is really nothing to scoff at. It’s precisely these types of bragging rights (plus the memory of great food and atmosphere) that made me decide to feature Columbia Café as our first Restaurant of the Week.
I had eaten at Columbia Café about four years ago for a late dinner. I remembered the amazing service and incredible food, but most of all I remembered the atmosphere. There was an old man playing the piano and singin’ the blues. My date and I sat in the corner of the room and “people-watched” as we enjoyed the music and some marinated crab claws. I forget what else I had to eat that night, or what celebrity was dining in a more private room next to ours, but I do remember that music and the breeze that was coming in from an open door. It’s that memory that had me wanting to re-visit for four years.
I chose to go for lunch this time and took my husband with me. I receive e-mails with the specials that Columbia Café is offering for the week or month and in each of them they have mentioned the 7-7-7 Menu. This menu lists 7 items (you get to choose two) for $7 that you receive in 7 minutes. This is perfect for those with a busy lunch schedule (or a tight budget) and I went with the intention of ordering from this menu, but quickly changed my mind.
When we arrived, we were greeted by the sound of Norah Jones’ “Come Away With Me.” This is a song we played at our wedding, so it immediately brought back memories for me. The door was opened for us by none other than Matthew Linn, the owner of Columbia Café, and he showed us to our seat in the same room I had dined in on my one previous trip. On the table before us was the 7-7-7 Menu and a longer lunch menu. After quickly scanning both, I chose the Greek Salad with added Grilled Chicken and my husband chose the Roast Beef & Gruyere (po-boy style) and a side of loaded mashed potatoes.
We nibbled on fresh-made bread and listened to some more Norah Jones after we placed our orders. The room we were in had windows all around and old hard-wood floors that creaked whenever anyone walked on them. It reminded me of my grandmother’s house and spending hot summer days inside with a glass of sweet tea, which is exactly what I ordered to drink. Hanging from the walls and windows were snap shots of various people and I kept finding myself looking at one of an older man with blue eyes, a slight smile on his face, and flushed cheeks. He looked so happy it was hard not to smile when looking at the picture.
After a few minutes of waiting our waitress came to us and explained that there would be a 30 minute wait due to a large call-in order that came in just before we arrived. She was very apologetic and brought us more bread as we waited. We didn’t mind, though. An acoustic performance by Jewel had started to play and the sun was warm through the windows as the air inside kept us cool. There were eight other diners: an older man sitting in the corner I had sat in during my first visit, a young couple next to him, two ladies next to my husband and me, one man at the bar and a daughter and her father in the room where the unknown celebrity had once dined. The air was relaxed, people spoke soft and low, and the wait for our food was less than the estimated 30 minutes.
My Greek salad was what you would expect from a Greek salad: mixed greens, cucumber, tomatoes, feta cheese, onion, and kalamata olives. What made the salad, however, was the special New Orleans Green Herb Vinaigrette. It was unlike any type of dressing I have ever eaten on a salad! There was the normal vinaigrette twang to it, but the consistency was thicker and went much better with the grilled chicken. Also, I’m not a huge fan of feta cheese, but the feta that was on my salad was surprisingly delicious and fresh.
The best part of my husband’s meal (and the part he let me try only once) was definitely the home made loaded mashed potatoes. That’s right. I said home made! They tasted just like momma (well, my husband’s momma, anyway) made them.
After our meal, I decided to ask about dessert. The menu did say that desserts were made fresh daily, after all. The second choice listed was peach flavored Crème Brule, one of my all-time favorite desserts. I was not as impressed with it as some I have tasted in other restaurants, but it certainly wasn’t the worst I had ever tried, either. I definitely don’t regret buying it!
As we left the restaurant, we saw Mr. Linn pulling into the parking lot. He waved good-bye to us, a big smile on his face. My husband and I decided that any restaurant owner who can take the time to make his guests feel welcome like that will definitely have repeat service from us.
Columbia Café is located at 3030 Creswell St., Shreveport. For more information, call 318-425-3862. To see a sample menu or to sign up for their e-mail mailing list, visit www.columbiacafe.com.