With my teen daughter away at camp this week, I took advantage of my momentary freedom and an open social schedule to attend a concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland. Columbia is an easy two hour drive south of the Harrisburg area and is located between Baltimore and Washington.
Merriweather first opened in 1967. It was designed by architect Frank Gehry, and was named second best amphitheater in the U.S. by Billboard magazine in 2010. Although originally intended for a symphony orchestra, Merriweather has a long history of hosting well-known rock artists, including Led Zeppelin, the Grateful Dead, the Who, and Janis Joplin.
Popular artists still perform there today, and this years selections include Bob Dylan, Phish, Keith Urban, the Lumineers, and Alan Jackson. And if you didn't know, Jimmy Buffet holds the record for performing at Merriweather, with over 40 performances.
I arrived in plenty of time to make a late afternoon stop at Victoria’s Gastro Pub in Columbia.
Now for those unfamiliar, a “Gastro Pub” is generally understood as a place that has a casual welcoming pub atmosphere and serves a simple, yet slightly more sophisticated style of food than the typical bar fare such buffalo wings and pizza.
I pulled up to Victoria’s and noticed it was located in what was previously a fast food restaurant. When I walked in, however, the interior gave me a far different impression.
The distinctive decor immediately transported me to an English-style pub, which was a stark contrast to the outside suburban neighborhood. The interior was paneled with dark wood from floor to ceiling, and heavy vermillion velvet curtains hung in the doorway to dining room.
As I sat down for a quick bite to eat before the concert I quickly realized the restaurant had quite an eclectic choice of food offerings; items which included Spanish Chorizo Pizza, Lobster Grilled Cheese, Prince Edward Island Mussels, and the extremely popular Duck Fat Fries.
"...I was pleased to find that it was an extensive beer list, in fact, more extensive than any other list I had ever seen in a casual restaurant."
As I sat down the bartender handed me what appeared to be a heavy leather bound book, which I initially thought to be a wine list.
Upon further inspection, I was pleased to find that it was an extensive beer list. In fact, more extensive than any other list I had ever seen in a casual restaurant.
Amazingly, Victoria’s also offers their top notch draft beers in growlers, too. Each entry listed the individual beer's qualities, alcohol content, style and place of origin as if each libation were a fine wine from France.
I read the list for some time and found it to not only be entertaining, but quite informative as well. While reading, I ordered a Perrennial Saison de Lis, which is a Belgium Style Ale with citrus and floral undertones.
I must say, although there has been quite a buzz about Victoria’s food and decor, the thing that impressed me most was the selection and the respect with which the craft beer selection was presented. If this is any indication, I certainly hope the Gastro Pub trend continues.
Victoria’s has received many good reviews in the Baltimore area, including being named as one of Baltimore’s top 50 restaurants in Baltimore Magazine in 2010.
After my mini-feast at Victoria's, I made my way toward the Amphitheater. The oppressive heat wave we've suffered through this week here in the northeast was not yet in full swing, and it was a pleasant evening to enjoy such an event.
I walked up the long pavement through a green park which led to the Amphitheater entrance. I admired a large modern sculpture against the backdrop of the setting sun.
After walking around a bit, I made note of the food selections offered. Thankfully, gone are the rubbery overcooked hot dogs and cheese whiz nachos I remember from concerts of my youth. Merriweather now has a broad selection of top notch food items including Chicken Caesar Wraps in sun-dried tortillas, Grilled Jerk Chicken Sandwiches with grilled pineapple, Pit Beef, and Roasted corn on the cob.A far cry from what was once served.
Drink selections were no less impressive and included; Hawaiian shaved ice, fruit smoothies, fresh squeezed lemonade, as well as a large selection of imported beers. Various cocktails were also offered, including; Jose Cuervo Frozen Margaritas, Captain Morgan’s Mojitos and Bacardi coolers.
On the way to my hotel after the concert, I stopped at Union Jack’s. The British style pub had a respectable selection of beers and included outdoor seating and a friendly staff.
The next day it was back to work and as I drove the two hours north back towards central Pennsylvania, and I could not resist making a few more short stops to enjoy the pleasant weather before weight of a long work week and heat wave descended upon me. In any event, while it lasted, it was a Very “Merriweather” weekend.