Thursday, July 8, 2010

Victoria Gastro Pub in Columbia 2010

I keep coming back to Victoria Gastropub even thought I return to a corner of the restaurant's menu.

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.


Sarah said...

Their Cuban is also good, with a nice mango salsa, and is even good the next day (I can't finish the whole sandwich).

The lobster grilled cheese is absolutely a gimmick, but a delicious one, and it works.

Wendi @ Bon Appetit Hon said...

I haven't been in a while but the crabcake was always my go to menu item. And the biscuits are heavenly.

Jay Frank said...

I pretty much LIVE for their frog legs lately. Frog legs, half priced martini night with good friends is always a winner, and late night truffled popcorn... I just can't get enough, excellent staff and a great local atmosphere.

Elizabeth in Elkridge said...

How funny that we are going to have friends down for dinner this weekend, and I just suggested Victoria's. Haven't been in a few months and hoping I can convince the crew to go!

As you mentioned, I don't think I can get past the Kobe burger- I think I have ordered that almost every time we have been there.

Lisa said...

For adventurous imbibers, Victoria also has Beer & Wine Clubs. $20 fee gets you into one of the clubs, with prizes as you try new beers/wines. There are also special beer/wine dinners (once a month that anyone can sign up for) that the chef creates specifically to serve with beer/wine pairings (I've only done the beer dinner, but I can say that it's mighty delicious food!). Needless to say, the Beer Club has been a huge hit in our household (koff *Mr. Lisa* koff).

Jenny said...

I'm new to the area and had planned to try Victoria, but when we tried a couple of months ago on a rainy Monday night there was more than an hour wait. We haven't tried again, because we figured that if one can't get in on a rainy weeknight there's no hope any other time. Are people just used to that kind of a wait, or did I just catch a unique night?

Anonymous said...

I think you caught a busy time. We go between 1700 and 1800 and get in with no wait on weekdays.

-- David P

K8teebug said...

you can make reservations online so you don't have to wait!

I love their burger. It's one of the best!

I also think their bartenders are some of the nicest and most helpful I've ever met.

SpikeyD said...

My wife and I invariably love HowChow's recommendations, but this is the first place that has let us down. After a so-so first visit here, we gave it another try last night and were disappointed. Victoria seems confused about its identity: prices are steep for a pub, suggesting a bit more upscale restaurant, yet nothing seems very well prepared coming out of the kitchen. The menu is creative but relatively small. And last night they were out of draught beer. ALL of their draught beer! Inexcusable for a "pub" at any level, IMHO. Despite its reputation, I found the burger (which my wife initially had to send back) to be overspiced, which seems like a good waste of Kobe. Donna's - right next door - always has great food and seems like the obvious choice when you're in the area.

Holly Robot said...

I went for lunch as I was stranded in HoCo in between car service and CPA visits. Had the cuban and was disappointed--very dry. Wished for a more jam-like consistency of the mango salsa instead of the tiny bits littering out like confetti from my crusty ship of dry ham. If there is a next time, it will be the burger.

Anonymous said...

Visited Victoria Gastro Pub three times and had slow, unprofessional service each time.

Amanda said...

I've passed Victoria on my way into Ellicott City for years and always wondered what was inside. Thanks for the insight! I'm always looking for places with beer samplers, it's the best way to have your cake and drink it too.