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May 2013:

Ale House Columbia: Doing Many Things Well

By Reed Hellman,

May 6, 2013

Posted in: News

Ale House Columbia

6480 Dobbin Center Way

Columbia, Md. 21045


Ale House Columbia is a handy place. After a few visits, it’s easy to see how it neatly fills so many roles.

For business lunches, quick, attentive service gets diners fed and back to work; during happy hours and after work, the place simply rocks. The dinner menu is reasonably priced and ideal for families, then during late nights, the younger crowd holds sway. And live entertainment on Fridays draws a large crowd.

Located on the corner of Route 175 and Dobbin Road in the building that once housed the Rocky Run Tap & Grill, Ale House Columbia touts more than 50 beers (with as many as 30 on tap), with 24 televisions encircling the dining areas, yet it’s definitely more than a typical sports bar.

The interior feels open and expansive, with long sight lines that add to the impression of spaciousness. The music and many televisions are kept muted, so they’re not overly loud or oppressive. “We purposely keep the television and music volume down to a decent level so it’s not overwhelming,” said Manager John Linderman. “Our interior is well planned and thought out. We put $3 million into renovating the original building.”

The main bar stretches the width of the restaurant. Several dining areas offer a choice of seating, and a smaller second bar serves a lounge area that can be used for private parties or gatherings. An outdoor patio area features a third bar and is equipped with roll-up doors that make it convenient to serve outside and inside patrons.

Planning Pays Off

The menu is equally well planned. At first glance, it seems to focus on typical “bar food,” with a range of appetizers, flatbreads and burgers. Linderman characterizes the cuisine as “comfortable with a twist.”

Everything is made from scratch and Chef Juan T. Valdez has gone well beyond standard pub fare. His four-mussel dishes include Thai Chile mussels ($13.49) prepared with Sriracha sauce, coconut milk, lime juice, fresh cilantro and roasted pineapple. Three taco dishes present handmade corn tortillas, with the signature Al Pastor tacos ($13.49) packed with chunks of adobo pork, roasted pineapple, avocado and chipotle remoulade. The bite of the tangy adobo is neatly sweetened by the pineapple.

Crab cake sliders ($13.99) offer an unusual take on the Maryland classic. Served with mustard aioli on fresh brioche rolls, a touch of garlic and lime enhances the flavor of the fresh crabmeat.

Ale House Columbia’s dinner entrées are reasonably priced, ranging from $12.99 for Blackened Chicken Pasta to $24.99 for crabcakes. Prime Rib, at $22.99, is available only on Friday and Saturday evenings. The Mustard Crusted Salmon ($21.99) presented a substantial piece of salmon filet on a bed of vegetable risotto. The mustard crust complemented the salmon’s rich flavor and the risotto served to soak up the meld of differing tastes.

But it’s the rare brew pub that offers homemade “mac and cheese” — complete with lobster, pulled pork or a half-dozen other add-ons. Also note that made-from-scratch turkey burgers, brussels sprouts with maple bacon, shallots and caramelized onions, or prosciutto and roasted pepper flatbread rarely appear on sports bar menus. All desserts also are made in-house, with the brownie sandwich being a particular favorite.

Living Up to the Name

But, at its core, Ale House Columbia is an ale house, and owners Donald Kelly and Justin Dvorkin are passionate about beers. They also own the Pratt Street Ale House in Baltimore and another restaurant on Hilton Head Island which also featuring craft-brewed beers. Brewmaster Steve Jones makes eight types of Oliver’s Ales, the restaurant’s signature. The 3 Lions Ale, a popular strong English brown ale, is rich and full of flavor, with a creamy finish; and know that many of the restaurant’s dishes are prepared with its ales and beers as a culinary element.

Along with the beers and ales, Ale House Columbia has a selection of specialty ciders on tap. “As You Wish” is a pear cider aged in chardonnay barrels, and finished with honey and vanilla. The ominously named “Prepare to Die” mixes apple cider, aged in red wine barrels, with killer bee honey and organic blood orange. The ciders are an excellent alternative for people wanting to try a refreshment that’s a little different.

Opened in December 2012, Ale House Columbia has actively sought to become a part of the regional landscape. “People in the Columbia and Ellicott City area enjoy dining out,” said Linderman. “We are very involved in our community. It is important to us to be an amenity to our community.”

On Sundays, the restaurant hosts Service Industry Night, and sponsors a local softball team, so that illustrates that intent; perhaps the only drawback to Ale House Columbia is its somewhat difficult location off of Dobbin Center Way, with limited parking. However, the restaurant mitigates that problem by offering complimentary valet parking.

With great service, quality food, a welcoming ambiance and an abundance of beers, ales and ciders, the establishment is sure to please a range of tastes.

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