Columbia grew up with the Waterside restaurant in the Sheraton Columbia.
When the Waterside opened in 1981, it was one of the few upscale restaurants in Town Center. Prom dates sat in the dining room overlooking Lake Kittamaqundi and struggled to make small talk. Couples raised toasts to their wedding anniversaries. Crisp, white tablecloths draped the tables, and French cuisine was prepared at the tables.
Columbia's restaurant choices have multiplied over the years, and the Waterside no longer requires jackets and ties, but its essence has not changed.
"We're still a special-occasion restaurant," manager Alan Biars said.
Today, the atmosphere is upscale casual. White tablecloths and fresh flowers decorate the tables. The dining room, which seats 110, is adorned with forest green walls and waterfowl prints.
To see real wildlife, patrons need only look out the bank of windows along one wall or around a raised rotunda dining area to see mallards and Canada geese on the lake below.
"We're known for our views," Biars said.
In warmer months, the Waterside offers outdoor dining, though patrons must be prepared to shoo away ducks that come begging for a taste of the restaurant's New American cuisine.
The luncheon menu features selections ranging from hamburgers to Prince Edward Island mussels and crab quesadillas beautifully presented by chef Tom Crenshaw.
The restaurant has been managed by MeriStar Hospitality Corp. since the Rouse Co. sold the hotel in 1998.
Biars said that while the restaurant's popularity had declined in recent years, a new staff is trying to recapture the restaurant's prominence.
"This was one of the most successful restaurants," Biars said. "We're trying to bring it back."
Upgrades so far have been subtle: refinishing hardwood floors and brightening the dining room with a white ceiling, and new variegated upholstery on the chairs. More changes are planned, but they have not been finalized, Biars said.
"It could be quite drastic," he said.
The restaurant's breakfast patrons are almost exclusively hotel patrons or their visitors.
Nearby office workers stop by for lunch.
It's the dinner and Sunday brunch that most Columbia residents know.
Brunch choices include omelets, Belgian waffles, eggs Benedict, carved meat and a full dessert selection laid out upon tables in the center of the dining room.
"It's a Columbia tradition," Biars said.
Where: Sheraton Columbia, 10207 Wincopin Circle; 410-730-3900.
Hours: Breakfast 6: 30 a.m. to 11 a.m.; lunch 11: 30 a.m. to 2: 30 p.m.; dinner 5: 30 p.m. to 10: 30 p.m. Monday through Saturday; Sunday breakfast 6: 30 a.m. to 10 a.m., brunch 10: 30 a.m. to 2: 30 p.m. and dinner 5: 30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Prices: Appetizers $4 to $9; lunch entrees $6 to $14; dinner entrees $12 to $24; Sunday champagne brunch $19.95, except holidays.
Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Diners, Discover.