Thursday, July 8, 2010
Victoria Gastro Pub in Columbia 2010
Victoria wants to push the high cuisine side of pub food. Its theme is a classy twist on simple foods -- lobster in the grilled cheese, duck fat on the fries, and kobe beef in the burger -- and that menu packed in the crowds. On a summer Tuesday, we had to wait 20 minutes for a table.
I have had many good nights at Victoria. It's a casual scene, but nice enough that I have recommended it to people for dates or taking out-of-town family. The bar has an energetic buzz. The patio is great on a warm night. Dinners start with biscuits that excite Mrs. HowChow every time.
In the end, I recommend the burger and a beer. As I said, Victoria wants to upscale pub dishes. I have eaten a bunch of the menu, and it's good. The French dip was meaty and dunked beautifully in jus. The lobster grilled cheese has its fans, although it seemed like a gimmick to me. And my most-recent night with short ribs and filet was a classy meal -- with the restaurant reward of a plate that I couldn't cook myself.
But I left wishing that I had ordered Victoria's burger. Not even the kobe one. Even with its standard meat, Victoria puts together the best burger around. The right burger on a light, flavorful bun that I wish I could buy for my own grilling nights. Lettuce, superb pickles, and a half plate of crispy fries. Send the fries back if they're not perfect. Victoria wants to serve you high end food, and the fries at their best are a salty, crispy treat. In January, the burger and fries are a way to warm up in a friendly place. In July, the same meal tastes summer fresh.
The real change for the seasons is the beer. Victoria prides itself on dozens of beer choices, and it pleases connoisseurs like the Baltimore Beer Guy who posts regularly about Victoria's rotating craft beers. But it also caters to lightweights like me -- people who like beer, but don't know enough to pick from the huge menu. I appreciate the smart advice that the staff has given me every time, really listening to what I wanted and suggesting beers that I have loved. The last one was Wihenstephan Hefe Dunkel, which hit my "wheat beer" spot.
I know the recommendations are good because I haven't liked every beer at Victoria. Victoria sells a beer sampler, and I love picking wide varieties, making sure to get something I wouldn't buy if I only had one glass. It's great fun. With the five-beer sampler, I have had beers that I hated. Nothing bad. But bitter, strong beers maybe aimed at brew crazies like the BBGuy. Victoria wants to serve interesting food -- not just the basics that you'd get at a neighborhood bar.
I really recommend Victoria, and you should check out the whole menu, which I have said was small enough to fit on a page and smart enough to make half of the items interesting to me. Try those entrees. And definitely try the desserts. We have had several great desserts,which they bake in-house and sometimes augment with herbs or fruits from their own garden. But when in doubt, have a burger, a beer, and one of my favorite nights out in Howard County.
(Update: Read the comments below. People are recommending a few of their favorite things.)
Victoria Gastro Pub
8201 Snowden River Parkway
Columbia, MD 21045
NEAR: Victoria is easy to reach from Rte 108 or Rte 100. It's at the intersection of Rte 108 and Snowden River Parkway, so you can take the Snowden exit from Rte 100 or come from either direction of Rte 108. It's down from Eggspectation and next to McDonalds.