For brunch, some days you don’t want to venture far from home. And you don’t want to get dressed up or deal with waitresses who are dressed like bartenders from some chi-chi lounge on a Saturday night. Sometimes you want simple food, no frills, and no make-up.
This particular Sunday, we were all a bit worn out. Becca and Tammy were getting over some summer cold from hell. Joanna and Eric were amidst house improvements and trying to escape a basement filled with water (what is going on with rain, already?).
And me? I’d just returned from a whirlwind four-day trip that saw just as many states. In short, we were pooped, we were hungry, we wanted to relax and we wanted to catch up … without being judged for wearing t-shirts and jeans. Hence we made the short trip (for me at least) to the Old Town Alexandria spot, Columbia Firehouse.
The restaurant describes itself as an American brasserie, but a lot of its dishes were focused on raw bar items or new Southern classics. We started with a few apps, which is a good thing, because we were missing any sort of bread basket. And regular readers know that the Bitches usually are working off a hangover. Where’s the bread??
The appetizers were an eclectic mix of, well, all things. For example, we got the tuna tartar tacos, which were not at all brunchy or Southern, but pretty darn good. The buttermilk onions rings were excellent, but what’s not to love about onion rings?
And Joanna ordered the one brunch-appropriate app of the day, the Greek yogurt with granola and fruit. She had high marks for it, but I don’t get it. You buy Greek yogurt, put in granola and fruit and call it a day. Right? Anyhow, onto the main course …
I went for my standard dish from Columbia Firehouse, the grilled chicken salad, which is served with blue cheese, mushrooms, green beans, potatoes and topped with a poached egg. I figure the poached egg makes it brunchy. But it is also unique and fulfilling—really good for brunch, lunch, or dinner. And I’ve yet to find a salad like it somewhere else.
Eric ordered the kettle of fresh Prince Edward Island mussles and fries. I didn’t partake, but saw that he sopped up every last bit with the thick slices of bread it was served with (oh, there’s the bread …). Becca had the surf and turf Benedict. She described it as being good, if not-memorable.
There was also a small truth-in-advertising issue with this particular dish. “Surf and turf” means some sort of seafood and beef, right? Doesn’t everyone know that? Well, in the Columbia Firehouse version, the ‘turf’ is actually the egg. While still good, the lack of meat was disappointing. The three-egg omelet with goat cheese and oven-dried tomatoes was described as well cooked and rich (rich because of the near entire log of goat cheese within). But the fried chicken and waffles? We’ve had better.
The menu was pretty diverse, and I’ll be back to try new things (Fried Green Tomato Benedict? Yes please).
The service was attentive without being stifling. We sat in the bar area, which was quiet on a Sunday, but perfect for catching up, and laughing and all for forms of banter. The highlight of the restaurant is really the room next door, the atrium—a beautiful space made of a high-domed glass ceiling and the walls of the neighboring buildings. Probably even prettier when it rains.
But the entire restaurant is deceivingly huge. It’s got four levels, and each room has a unique antique look. There was even a wedding reception planned for upstairs while we were brunching.
The Bitches say: Overall, we give it a B. Stellar atmosphere for a relaxed conversation, but the menu could use a few tweaks.
109 South Saint Asaph Street
Old Town Alexandria VA 22314