The Inn Crowd
With its perfect equipoise, the new Columbus Inn is again the place to be.
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2216 Pennsylvania Ave. Wilmington, 571-1492
Surf and turf, milk-fed veal, peekytoe crab
The Columbus Inn closed in 2007, and that’s still hard to fathom. Even if you’d never eaten at the Columbus Inn, you knew it was an important place. You knew it had history, and you knew powerful people hung out there.
I associated the Columbus Inn mainly with special occasions. It’s staggering to think of all the anniversary, birthday, engagement and graduation celebrations those dark wooden walls had seen. Somehow, you felt those memories when you walked inside.
When Louis Capano & Associates bought the building and saved it from repurposing limbo (what ever happened to those condos, anyway?) it initiated an extensive physical overhaul and modernizing effort. Floors were refinished, ceilings were ripped out, new furniture was purchased and the kitchen was rebuilt.
Perhaps miraculously, after all that, the Columbus Inn still feels special, still feels important. The new owners shot for a compromise between Old Columbus Inn and New Columbus Inn, and it works. At its best, Columbus Inn strikes a remarkable balance between classic and modern. This is the Columbus Inn of the 21st century: contemporary and sleek with all of its signature brawn intact. The U-shaped bar remains untouched, and even some of the new features—a stone entrance, the (slightly brighter) dark wooden walls, the expensive whiskeys—have a stoic feel. Need more proof? There’s Old School Onion Soup on the lunch menu, and New School Onion Soup on the dinner menu.
The new owners hired wisely, too. Theirs is a very talented staff that includes general manager Richard Snyder, designer Ron Fenstermacher and acclaimed Philadelphia chef Chris D’Ambro. At 25, D’Ambro has built quite a reputation in the Philly restaurant scene for his work at Bocca, where he was responsible for such upscale culinary wizardry as citrus-cured foie gras torchon with blueberry mostarda and pink peppercorn-infused tapioca pearls.
D’Ambro doesn’t need to unleash such nouveau elements on Wilmington. He has wisely crafted a menu that’s both modern and accessible, with plenty of muscle. There’s still an element of meat-and-potatoes, which is smart, but now it’s grilled deckle with curried almonds, and surf-and-turf means seared scallops and beef short ribs. (The sacred Caesar salad, of course, does not get messed with.)
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