Columbus Grill was named for legendary explorer Christopher Columbus—an apt moniker, given chef Nuno Duarte's own trans-Atlantic voyages. The culinary maestro manned his own restaurants and catering companies in Switzerland, the United States, and his native Portugal before founding Columbus Grill as a way to flaunt his diverse epicurean skills locally. Today, he helms a team of chefs who boast similar international aptitude, drawing from their know-how of French, Greek, and Italian cuisines to sprinkle eclectic influences into Columbus Grill's eclectic recipes. Each member calls upon unique skills and talents to whip up Mediterranean, Portuguese, and Spanish dishes punctuated by classic American steak house fare and fresh, housemade desserts.
Columbus Grill's chic environs evoke elegance via custom-made furnishings, exposed beams that support a lofty ceiling, and a full bar surrounded by flat-screen TVs. A dark wooden wine rack looms above the dining area, where rich hardwood floors extend out to semiprivate dining enclaves carved into the room's walls. Further inside, a chic banquet hall hosts up to 140 revelers, and outside, a covered patio cushions diners during good weather or local mockingbirds' annual symphonies.
Typically, the only time a public bar is lit like a cozy living room is when patrons bring chandeliers with them. But at Jake's City Grille's Plymouth location, homey lamps illuminate a wooden bar, which competes with the elegance of the fireplace inside Eden Prairie’s dining room. Red umbrellas, meanwhile, keep the sun in check on Maplewood’s outdoor patio. Each location cultivates its own one-of-a-kind ambience, such as the warmly lit interior of Eagan’s space and the rustic feel of Gull Lake’s confines. These finely tuned atmospheres create a welcoming place to enjoy seared Ahi tuna, marinated chicken breast sandwiches, and cowboy ribeye steaks so fresh they still have the lasso on them.
Romance is in the air at Carmello's, where diners perch on ivory padded chairs surrounded by the warm tones of exposed brick walls, dark wood, and golden accents. In crafting its dishes of seafood, pasta, and chops from scratch, the kitchen draws on Italian and Portuguese influences. The ingredients are fresh from local purveyors, so the offerings change with the seasons. These dishes can be complemented by selections from the eatery's wine menu—its more than 50 Portuguese wines earned it Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence and two thumbs up from Bob.
Red Hot & Blue draws from many corners of the Southern map to bring together a mix of classic barbecue and traditional southern fare served amid an array of handpicked blues memorabilia. Red Hot & Blue cooks top-quality meats atop a smoky bed of hickory logs where relatively low temperatures and long cooking times infuse eats with succulence. The meaty mélange encompasses three ways to order ribs ($22.99 for a full slab, $15.99 for a half-slab): wet, slathered with mojo mild barbecue sauce; dry, rubbed with a blend of Memphis-style spices; or sweet, dripping with a more-sugary sauce and a never-ending stream of compliments.
Strap in for speed and follow the fast-tracked wisdom of NASCAR-licensed drivers at Stock Car Driving Experience. Ultimate Ride Package guests will take a seat beside a veteran stockcar speed demon and encircle the full track at Old Dominion Speedway for five heart-pounding laps, in addition to laps for warm up, cool down, and victory. Stock cars are capable of reaching speeds in excess of 200 mph, and because you'll be on a speedway track, your dashboard speedometer is sure to get plenty of exercise. If you opt for the Extreme Driving Experience, you'll fly through the same shotgun ride of the Ultimate Ride, and, to fulfill your insatiable throttling thirst, you'll take the driver's seat for a full 15 laps of automotive bliss. All instruction is done onsite, so guests don't have to worry about buying their own stock car or mail-order driver in advance.