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Monday, December 10, 2007

Lunch Report: The Columbia, St. Augustine Style...

A premiere dining experience in Tampa's Ybor City district is The Columbia. Regardless of the many exciting and wonderful menu items they may have to offer, one need look no further than the Chicken and Yellow Rice. The problem with The Columbia is, it is not a fast, in a hurry experience. They want you to sit down, relax, enjoy the atmosphere and enjoy the food.
When my wife learned that there was a Columbia in St. Augustine, she made it clear that lunch would be a requirement.
As much as I tried to talk her out of it - sighting time as a factor - she persisted, and I have to confess, I was glad that she did.

On Saturday, as various groups of family members wandered about St. Augustine, some eating late breakfast and others checking out the abundant historical sights, my wife and I went back to the downtown area to take pictures and explore the shops. And suddenly, there was The Columbia.
The restaurant is beautiful inside and out with several dining rooms to enhance the dining experience.
We were in the door as they opened at 11am and like most of the other guests for lunch, asked for outdoor seating on the upper balcony so we could people watch along the streets below.Our waiter, a very nice young man originally from Connecticut, was a pro. You know you are in good hands when the waiter can easily interact with the diners at multiple tables, making each feel as though they have his personal attention, while moving along to insure everyone is served in as timely a manner as the restaurant's system will allow.For us, we probably saved ten minutes by knowing exactly what we wanted when he came to take the drink order; no menu needed, no special of the day requirement, this was a Chicken and Yellow Rice moment.
After our drinks were served, we watched as the couple next to us had their pitcher of Sangria de Cava made. It looked very tempting, but we had way too long of a day ahead of us to break the weekend Noon rule - especially considering it was only 10am San Antonio time!
Following drinks, the next course was the delivery of the Cuban bread. I asked our waiter what the difference between Cuban bread and French bread was and he was kind enough to consult the head chef and the general manager, both of whom disagreed. The thought was that Cuban bread is not made with eggs whereas French bread is. Wikipedia says it is the lard versus the oil. No matter, freshly baked Cuban bread is so awesome that if they offered us an entire loaf, I'd eat it and probably never leave.As we waited for the en tree, we were entertained by a street musician down below the the restaurant. The thing is, when we first walked up, he was playing some awesome sounding Spanish and classical tunes. But once we were seated, his selection changed to Kansas, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Led Zepplin and older classic rock tunes. I'm cool with that, but I have to confess it did change the atmosphere from Famous Romantic Cuban Restaurant, to High School Keg Party with Mediocre Garage Band.
So we used our time wisely and watched the many interesting people walk by below us. I particularly enjoyed this group of four in their convertible Bug. The couple in the back had some fancy hairdo's for sure.
One of the ways to enjoy many tourist communities is via scooter or in this case, weird three-wheeled vehicle, like these ladies.

My wife had pointed out a lady wearing a fairly see-thru sun dress, but in all honesty, I could not get my camera to focus quick enough after she suggested I take a picture instead of gawk. Sorry.
There was an interesting incident of another inappropriately dressed lady who we watched walk into a corner shop. She was wearing very short shorts and stripper heels (CFM's if you understand the lingo), and we both commented on how out of place it seemed, what with no strip clubs nearby.
After a few moments she excited the shop and was followed by a man. Over the next three or four minutes, they stood in the middle of the street with the lady in apparent tears while the guy seemingly yammered on about something. With this, my wife began a dramatic dialog filling in both sides of the conversation as though she had seen this exact event unfold in a scene from a soap opera.
In her version of events, the stripper lady had walked in and caught the man in the store gawking at another woman. The man was explaining to her that she was just a stripper he gave a few dollars to and that was as far as the relationship went and would ever go.
When the lady whipped out her camera to show that she had captured the man cheating on film, the man suggested she scroll back to last nights photos where she was... well, you get the idea.
Our little show was over when the food arrived and it was suddenly the moment of truth. Would the St. Augustine Columbia live up to our memories of the The Columbia in Ybor City?
Looking at the picture makes my taste buds water. The rice has somewhat of a sticky quality to it. The chicken falls off the bones and in all honesty, I could probably make myself ill if it were an all you can shovel down your gullet type arrangement. As my wife took three or four bites of her lunch, I promptly inhaled
mine leaving only bones and the cloth napkin that wasn't as tasty as the rest of it.

Make no mistake, the 45 minute wait was entertaining, and the end result was worth it. Going against my disfavor of hoity-toity, we'll feed you when we get around to it type restaurants, we have to give the St Augustine Columbia multiple Tasty Treats. Try whatever you like, but you can't go wrong with the Chicken and Yellow Rice.


Anonymous said...

I wonder if you could explain how you know so much about women shoes and where they are normally worn.

Guy D.

Dave said...

I spend a great deal of time watching the National Geographic Channel. Yea, that's it.

Daniel McKenna said...

The street musician is Marvin, who plays little pieces of everything and anything. I think he is on the street and not in clubs because I have never heard him play a song from start to finish. It's hard to tell when to change from classical to Jane's Addiction. I'm a street performer, I know...-Daniel

About Your Host

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San Antonio, TX, United States
I love to observe the odd things happening around me as I go about my day. I especially like it when I can get a picture of people being themselves. Here, I attempt to report the various people and events I have encountered in my neighborhood, and my city. I'd also love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail your experiences and photos of life in San Antonio.

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