After driving past the Columbus Grill many times and seeing a full parking lot, my wife and I decided to try dinner there last Friday. When we arrived it was difficult to figure out where the entrance was and we ended up in the bar, but the hostess was attentive and quickly steered us in the right direction. We were seated in a very tight booth with a high table that was fairly awkward and hard to relax in (think of an adult high chair) and couldn't really see the rest of the restaurant, but we got the feeling that it was fairly empty, which really made us apprehensive. The bar was hopping though! We could hear every conversation including a screaming child (?).
The waitress was charming. Very attentive and cheerful - she did a lot to make us feel welcomed. Drinks came out quickly - the House red wine was soft and simple with a good portion size. We really liked the menu. Plenty to choose from, but some of the traditional Portuguese dishes could have benefitted from more description and pronunciation helpers. My wife started with a house salad, which was excellent, and I started with the Seafood Veloute, "Jumbo lump crab and scallops in a rich creamy lobster-based soup", but was really disappointed by the rather large bowl and scant amount of seafood. The taste was great but it was very rich, and without much seafood it was like drinking macaroni and cheese after a while. I could only finish about half of it. For entrees, my wife got the "Bitoque" and I got a special - "Fennel dusted Mahi-Mahi". The Bitoque was a simple "meat and potatoes" type of dish, but it was cooked and seasoned well. It was served in a copper bowl with high sides, and unfortunately, with the high table, also contributed to the "high chair" effect and made eating feel rather trough-like. My fish was excellent, although I think it sat under the heat lamps because it was a little dry on top and the mashed potatoes that it sat on were tepid around the edges. The overall dish was fantastic though and I relished every bite. Dessert was very good (an almond custard dish), especially with espresso, and, together with more diners being seated and the bar noise decreasing, really helped to buoy our sprits, and we left full and happy. Overall, I can understand the other commenter's stories much better now. Columbus Grill teeters on the edge of being a great restaurant with a line outside the door, but also could be a restaurant featured on "Restaurant Impossible". I think that they could really benefit from either opening the main dining room up and making it a more communal dining experience, or closing off the bar area and increasing the size of the booths to make it a more intimate date restaurant. Right now it doesn't really do either very well and that's a shame because the food and the concept are a great fit for Manassas and I'd like to see them succeed.
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