If you’ve got a date who loves the TV show “Mad Men,” then Columbus’ very own Clarmont Steak and Seafood restaurant may be the perfect retro-styled, date night destination.
The Clarmont is a little more than three miles south of campus on High Street. The drive and the not-so-1960s prices make this Columbus landmark a special occasion kind of joint.
The sign outside is illuminated at night with pink neon lights that would look right at home in 1960s Las Vegas. Opened in 1947, this classic styling is authentic.
It is that effortlessly cool exterior along with the many high-end cars parked outside every night that set this place apart from other Columbus steakhouses.
Unfortunately, the cool, retro vibe is noticeably absent on the interior. The styling feels like the 1960s as imagined in 1993. The booths have faded pastel, floral fabrics and many of the laminate finishes are chipped on the corners. The effect is less than impressive.
One thing that is impressive about the Clarmont is the wine list, which offers 17 by-the-glass selections and about a hundred options by the bottle. Though the prices may stretch a student budget, they are not totally out of reach. A glass of wine will cost between $5.25 and $8.50. We opted for two glasses of Chianti at $5.75 each.
My date and I started our meal off with salads. She ordered “The Clarmont Wedge” and I ordered a Caesar. The lettuce was crisp and fresh and the tomatoes on the wedge salad were bursting with juicy flavor. The Caesar was topped with flakes of Parmesan cheese and perfectly-toasted croutons.
Maybe it was just the wine, but we soon got over our disappointment with the interior and noticed every booth has a telephone jack in the wall just above the salt and pepper shakers. They are evidence of the place’s history; of a by-gone era, before cell phones, when Columbus’ movers and shakers took important phone calls with their lunch-time scotch.
The waiter brought out the main course and disappointment came rushing back. My New York strip steak, ordered medium, was charred and flavorless. My date’s prime rib was roasted to medium-rare perfection, but it was under-seasoned and lacked flavor.
It is difficult to describe the consistency of the whipped potatoes I ordered, but the word lumpy comes to mind.
High expectations may have led to this disappointment, but considering the Clarmont is one of Columbus’ oldest steakhouses, it seemed reasonable to expect a good steak. This disappointment was the toughest to swallow, figuratively and literally, because the steaks cost $23.99 for the strip and $19.59 for the prime rib.
Hope remained, however, in dessert. Our waiter told us the chef is from the South and makes a great pecan pie. It was music to this Carolina boy’s ears.
The pie came out on a plain white plate with five dollops of runny whipped cream scattered around it. It looked like a 7-year-old plated it. I assumed the generous helping of whipped cream was to make up for the absence of ice cream – pecan pie’s traditional companion – but it just made it look bad.
Luckily, the pie tasted great. The perfect blend of salty and sweet ended the meal on a high note.
But when the check came out, the price tag for two steaks, two salads, two glasses of wine and one pecan pie was about $75. This might have been reasonable for a better meal, but it felt like a waste of money given our experience.
While the Clarmont seems like a good place to grab a cocktail, I wouldn’t recommend it for a date night. It seems that unlike the wine they serve, the Clarmont has not grown better with age.