Before COVID-19 took apart the best restaurant industry scene in the country, Washington, D.C.'s pulsating dining-out culture was created in part due to the efforts of Derek Brown's peerless The Columbia Room. Pretty much every major award was won, deservedly so, by the exquisite composed cocktails as well the diverse and interesting bottle collection. I know I personally have celebrated numerous special events at The Columbia Room's Library, a seated four-course composition of meticulous tasty visually arresting cocktails, so when I heard The Columbia Room's doors were opening back up after quarantine, I couldn't wait to make my reservation.
Unlike before, when you could sit inside, now the socially distant outdoor space called "The Punch Garden" is the only seated area available. Without air conditioning in the muggy head of July in Washington, D.C., I was melting even more I sat and automatically felt wilted after I sat. "We have on order outdoor air conditioners but they haven't arrived yet," the bartender mentioned when asked if there were fans anywhere.
Our friends were annoying late but we were started to cool down with the delightful Froze. The Froze is one of their two sweet, slushie drinks with alcohol and it is dangerously refreshing. But once our friends arrived, the evening's drinking festivities began to go awry.
Justifiably, The Columbia Room has a requirement those who chose to sit-in have to order via app. Every restaurant in D.C. is using the app-based ordering system Unfortunately, the Tock app which The Columbia Room uses is virtually unusable. First, in order for drinks to arrive, the request must be closed out and fully paid for (along with the service surcharge). There is not ability to continue to keep the tab open thus guaranteeing a 20-30% surcharge on every drink order. Additionally, the card which was used to make the reservation -- a $30 deposit, aka $15 per person -- has to remain the card for the entire order. If you lose your credit card or brought a different credit card, you can't make a change.
Second, other than the two frozen drinks (such as the Froze) the remaining other drink selections come in an order for two at a price of $30. Most of us do not want to have two cocktails come out at one time, especially when there is no air conditioning to keep the drink cold.
Third, more annoying than the first two, is the drink portion for two is barely big enough for one. I think the drink is served in a bottle with around 8 ounces of liquor -- and I would certainly say the drinks have a very low alcohol quotient.
PHOTO: Toasting to the post-quarantine life (c) Sery Kim
After spending more than $200 for a few drinks, most of which were watered down, I would have to say I won't be returning to The Columbia Room for a great long while. It's too hot. The drink selection is too small. And it is absolutely no fun, aka zero ambience. You can try it for yourself, but I could have used that same amount of money for six full bottles of wine at Costco and so I resented the whole experience as a result.
Of course, it goes without saying, I do wish The Columbia Room well as they try and make money during this difficult phase for restaurants, but until it is into Phase 3 I won't be returning.