The new Ale House Columbia has opened off Dobbin Road in Columbia. This is the former Rocky Run, which they ripped back to the studs and renovated.
Timothy stopped in yesterday for lunch and knocked off an awesome update for HowChow readers. This has turned into a week of new opening announcements. Timothy has provided the first report from the new Ale House, and he got a great lunch on takeout:
I just got back from ordering lunch to-go from the new Alehouse in Columbia (the former Rocky Run). I wanted to stop by to get a feel for the place since I enjoy going to many of our local bars, namely T-Bonz, Frisco and Judges Bench. The Alehouse wins the proximity war to both my home and office, so even if the food was just "okay" there was a very good chance I would frequent it often.
The good news is that I may have just had the best burger I have ever eaten. I ordered their "Classic Bacon Cheeseburger" to-go since I was on a quick break, and I had a small Olivers Stout to tide me over while I waited. Note that there appears to be choice in 10, 16 and 23oz pours for each draft, but I could not confirm because the draft menu's were still printing when I arrived. That size choice is familiar at a place like TGI Friday's but lacking from our more specialized watering holes thus far.
The staff was incredibly friendly and the atmosphere leaned towards upscale without being inaccessible or snobby. The main bar where I sat was very attractive. It was large with seating for maybe 30, flanked by an array of 55 inch LCD's tuned to sports, news and an in-house channel with pictures of the building re-hab and a listing of the available beers. The taps were aligned handsomely on the back wall in the center of the bar. They lacked branded tap handles in favor of a large chalkboard above them. In this instance, only the brewery was named in chalk and not the beer itself (I.e. Oskar Blues instead of Mama's Little Yella Pills). This could present an issue in identifying what you actually want to order, but once those tap lists finish printing I think we'll be okay.
After catching up with one of the bartenders who it turns I knew from another establishment, my order arrived after about 7-10 minutes wrapped and ready to go. I took it on the 5 minute drive back to my office and ate it at my desk. The burger was thick, juicy and delicious. I ordered it "Medium" and it arrived "Medium". I can be picky about red meat temperatures. This was a perfect medium. The bacon was of the thick-cut variety, the bun was a perfectly toasted potato roll and the cheese was probably American, but that was of little consequence. The hero of this sandwich was the meat, as it should be. It required no additional sauces or seasoning. From the first bite I knew I had just tasted the best burger in Columbia. I mean it! If you are a burger fan, go to the Alehouse now! FYI, the price was $12, which is a comparable price for a burger of this size. Most menu items seemed to be over $10 with an average price of $16.
The french fries. Oh the french fries. This is another food that I can be picky about. I don't eat them a lot, but when I do it's usually because they are exceptionally delicious (duck fat fries from Victoria's, as an example). These fries were thick-cut with about 50% of them containing pieces of potato skin. They were perfectly seasoned and delicious with or without ketchup. The salt on these fries reminded me of the salt one would get on a soft pretzel: large, flavorful chunks. These fries could easily have been over-seasoned with this type of salt, but they came out perfectly.
The one thing I cannot speak it is how well the place will run with a full house (there were maybe 20 guests at 11:30 today) or how difficult it will be to converse with your dining mates. The Ale House is open-concept but with clearly defined sections and ceilings that are an average height for restaurants. That should help with the noise-factor.
As a family man and father to a young daughter, fellow families will be happy to know as that there is a dining area away from the main bar, separated by a glass partition that should help filter out the bar noise. There is also a pretty cool kid's menu that arrives on a small, tablet-sized chalkboard with a wooden frame for little hands to grip. The bartender told me that each kids menu will come with some chalk so the little ones can doodle on the back. Pretty neat idea! Most items on the kids menu ranged from $4-8 and had your standard burger, corn dog, mac & cheese, chicken nuggets and so on. Drinks include juice, milk, chocolate milk and in-house root beer.
Overall I was very impressed during my brief stay and will definitely be back again soon, maybe even after work today. I see the Ale House as the perfect middle ground between niche beer bar and family-friendly restaurant. You could go there with your buddies to watch the game, meet up with fellow beer lovers after work or take your grandparents out for a nice meal with the grand-kids. There is definitely room in Columbia for a place like this, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.If you're into beer, check out the Twitter feed of the MDBeerGuy. He is talking there about the Ale House Columbia, the beers, the pricing, and more.