Last weekend Traci and I tied the knot at St. Mary Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in St. Pete followed by a reception at The Columbia restaurant at The Pier. After months of planning, the big day came and went really fast.
We've had a few uneven experiences at other Columbia locations in the past (their restaurant in St. Augustine comes to mind and even at the flagship in Ybor), but last weekend the St. Pete Columbia was an excellent host at a reasonable price. Hors d'oeuvres for our reception included mini-Cuban sandwiches (I could have easily made a meal off these), crab cakes and bacon-wrapped plantains. The unlimited red and white sangria (try the white if you've never had it before) quickly livened things up.
Dinner choices included Arroz con Pollo (chicken and yellow rice), Shrimp Supreme (marinated and fried bacon-wrapped shrimp) and bacon-wrapped filet mignon Columbia. If you weren't a fan of the above, The Columbia also provided vegetarian meals for several guests on short notice. Each meal included the restaurant's signature "1905" salad made at your table. Service was prompt and attentive. The view of the Bay and downtown (we could see Ribfest in the distance) was perfect.
Our wedding cake and grooms cake was provided by Le Cheesecake, a St. Pete bakery that is known for, what else, their tasty cheesecakes. Perhaps our smartest move in planning the reception, outside of having it at The Columbia, was in hiring Carl Fuerstman as the entertainment. We first met Carl a year ago when he was the featured entertainment at Dino's Jazz Piano Bar and Grille. From grandparents to gradeschoolers, Carl played something for everyone.
The night before, we had our rehearsal dinner aboard the Starlite Princess paddle wheeler, which leaves out of South Pasadena (St. Pete Beach). We weren't expecting great food when we booked the touristy Starlite Princess. Instead, we were looking for a memorable experience. The three-hour cruise itself, once we were finally allowed to board the ship was enjoyable, while the food and service certainly wasn't. Live and learn. I'd still recommend taking the cruise, just skip the food.
Bottom-line: While the quality of service and food can vary depending on the location, overall The Columbia remains a good pick for large groups and out-of-town guests. The St. Pete location did a great job with our reception. As for the Starlite Princess, just take the cruise, skip the food.
Inspection Scoreboard: Last Inspection - August 2006 violations - Critical (1), Non-Critical (3).