I have walked by this place many times... but never tried it until now. What a pleasant surprise! The atmosphere is dark (please add more lights... reading a menu by a single candle on the table isn't good...) and the decor is sparse... But the food was delicious, inexpensive, and comforting on a cold winter Saturday night. This is exactly the kind of neighborhood restaurant one hopes to find hidden away.
There are two sections- the dining area set on the corner and a bar area with small tables which is another storefront down Columbus Ave. The only connection between the two seems to be through the back kitchen. There are patio tables and chairs out front and I am looking forward to a warm spring morning for brunch. The cafe is fortunately set on the sunny side of the street.
The staff were friendly and efficient. The restaurant was completely full at 7 pm and the waiters were wonderfully helpful and attentive. There are definitely no pretenses here. It is extremely casual. Our waiter was wearing a flannel plaid shirt and jeans. He obviously loved his job and was always quick to refill water glasses, clear plates, always smiling away.
One quick story that describes the atmosphere well- The table next to ours had two couples and a young baby. The baby began to fuss- and the mom was able to nurse her baby under a cover and continue eating and everything was very relaxed. No one at any of the other tables seemed to mind. It was very nonchalant and this could never have easily happened at a more upscale restaurant.
Our food was delicious! We shared an arugula salad loaded with apples and walnuts and creamy gorgonzola cheese. It had the lightest spritz of citrosy dressing which complemented the heavier flavors. We also shared a plantain appetizer with guacamole and tomatoes. This dish was our only disappointment, it needed more flavor oomph. The plantains were fried and bland and it would have been better if the diced tomatoes were a spicy pico de gallo and the guacamole had some heat or a cilantro kick.
For our entrees, we had a salmon encrusted with dill that was light, juicy, and served with mashed potatoes. We also tried the Argentinian flank steak with garlic spinach, Chimichurri, and yes... more mashed potatoes. They offer a decent selection of wines and almost all bottles are also offered by the glass. I loved that when we asked for second glasses of wine, the waiter brought the open bottles to the table and generously poured... The Malbec was lovely. I wish I remembered the label.
The Columbus Cafe was exactly what we were looking for... good food at decent prices in a friendly warm environment. Perfect comfort food. If we were in the mood for upscale, innovative cuisine... we would have gone elsewhere. But this is the place for low-key, relaxed, mellow dining.
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