The TS team decided to try lunch today at Columbia Café…and it’s safe to say this experience was two hours of our life we wish we had back.
At first glance, Columbia Café appears to be exactly the kind of place we want to see more of in the Shreveport area. Located on the edge of the Highland neighborhood, the renovated craftsman bungalow is locally owned and operated, and has a funky, eclectic atmosphere. The concept of turning a historic home into a hip, hangout/eatery is exactly the kind of community revitalization we would love to see more of in that area.
Though the inside of the restaurant seemed interesting at first appearance, with its’ unique layout and local art, a closer inspection revealed a few problems. Specifically, the filthy upholstery of the seat cushions was a big turn-off. However, we chalked it up as a sign of the restaurant’s popularity, though it wasn’t the most pleasant thing to look at. Also, parking at Columbia Café is limited, and if you fail to snag a spot, be prepared for a hike down Kings Highway to the overflow lot. Nitpicking aside, the interior was certainly creative.
Our first warning that things were about to go terribly, terribly wrong occurred when our harried waitress recited a laundry list of food items they were out of already, which effectively took out a large portion of the limited lunch menu. It wasn’t even noon yet and the fact that a significant amount of standard menu items were missing spoke to a severe management problem. In the meantime, our waitress’s see-through shirt, inability to remember the side dishes and mostly unprofessional demeanor was not what we expected at a seemingly more upscale restaurant; however, we have to give her credit, because waiting on an entire restaurant by yourself at noon would hamper anyone’s performance.
To start our meal, N ordered both a cheese plate and a cocktail, which was served in a glass so small, we wondered if we were being punked. We remarked that it looked like a kid’s cup, because it was barely larger than a standard shot glass. We agreed that tiny, pricey cocktails were not a good way to start our meal. Meanwhile, in an effort to expedite our workday lunch, we went ahead and placed our entrée order: the roast beef sandwich and wasabi mashed potatoes for N, while S opted for the pesto bagel with sweet potato fries.
Forty minutes later, we began to wonder what was so difficult about cheese board to warrant that kind of delay. Placing some cheese and accompaniments on a plate can’t be that complex, right? The restaurant was mildly busy, but by no means was it packed. We began to fear that our order was lost or forgotten. When we finally did receive our appetizer, we were disappointed to find that the cheeses were just the basic fare from any local grocery store…nothing special, and certainly not worth the mind-boggling forty minute wait. Also, with no utensils included, we were baffled as to how we were supposed to eat the soft cheese. We were out of luck with solving that issue, because our overworked waitress was missing in action as she attempted to wait on an entire restaurant singlehandedly.
By now, we had already far surpassed our allotted time for lunch, and we both began to get antsy as to how long our entrees would take. In the meantime, we heard the waitress announce to another table they were now out of the sweet potato fries (something else?!?) and asked for substitution requests from the other side dish offerings. Since she never approached us, we assumed that our order must be up soon, and S had probably snagged the last of the fries.
Twenty minutes later, our frustration with the never-ending wait reached the breaking point. We had only ordered sandwiches for goodness sake, and by then we could have gone to the store, made it to our house, cooked the same things and still beat the service time of Columbia Café. S finally tracked down our mostly absent waitress and informed her that if our order wasn’t imminent, we would have to cancel it completely. She assured us that they were “just now putting the side dishes on our plate.”
Another ten minutes later, we finally received our entrees, only to find that the kitchen had automatically substituted S’s fries (without consulting her) with the wasabi mashed potatoes, with only a “hope that was alright” from our waitress as she slid the plate in front of us. Considering that S absolutely hates wasabi, this was stomach-turning in addition to being presumptuous and offensive.
As for our food, both our meals were bland and unimpressive. Even without the interminable wait and bad service, we still found it to be subpar for the price. S’s pesto bagel was not worth ordering, and N’s sandwich, though mildly better, was a soggy mess. Also, though he likes wasabi, even N couldn’t stomach the mashed potatoes, and both our plates remained mostly untouched.
The true tragedy of our meal was that the owner and manager of Columbia Café was onsite, and seemed truly oblivious to the problems at hand. Sure, he waited on a table here and there, but failed to check on his customers, especially ones who were visibly unhappy. Didn’t he start to wonder why we had been there so long, with no food in front of us? He obviously fails to manage his kitchen, because he can’t keep it stocked with food or ensure that even the most simple of dishes are prepared in a timely manner. If some cheese and sandwiches takes the kitchen nearly two hours to deliver, we shudder to think how terrible dinner service must be.
Overall, we were incredibly disappointed in our Columbia Café experience, especially since we wanted so much to like it. We really hoped to support a business that contributes to improving the Highland neighborhood, but even the best of intentions could not overcome the abysmal cluelessness we witnessed. The ideas are there, but the execution fails so terribly, we would be hard-pressed to ever give it a second chance.