Columbia Restaurant Columbia Restaurant

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Columbia Restaurant

A must-visit restaurant while in Tampa, with history and tantalizing Spanish cuisine.
Openings: Lunch & Dinner daily


Columbia Restaurant, Tampa, FL

Columbia Restaurant Restaurant Review:

Columbia Restaurant was founded in 1905 by Cuban immigrant Casimiro Hernandez Sr. in Ybor City, which was at the time the cigar manufacturing capital of the world. From its beginnings as a little café frequented by local cigar workers, it is now the largest Spanish restaurant in the world with 1,600 seats in sixteen rooms, each of which has a completely different décor and ambience. You might want to ask for a tour before you're seated so you can admire the art and the beautiful and antique azuleros. Flamenco shows are presented most nights ($8 cover charge applies). The restaurant, which survived the area's depression in the late 50s, is now operated by the fourth and fifth generation of the Gonzmart family. The longevity and success of Columbia Restaurant proves that they are doing things right. Begin your Columbia immersion with the house-made-since-1905 mojito or the sangría prepared with cava tableside before venturing into the menu. On top of the rather precise description of each dish, every page expands on a bit of history, so it can take a while to fully peruse. Start with the Cuban black bean soup or the gazpacho Andaluz. You must order "The Original 1905 Salad" that is trademarked and made tableside. It was created using the different native products available to the immigrants: tomatoes, iceberg lettuce, baked ham, Swiss and Romano cheeses, olives and the very distinctive garlic dressing. Also based on local influences is the traditional Cuban sandwich. Expect tapas ranging from seasoned pork, chorizo, gambas, piquillo peppers and much more. For "mariscos" entrées, try the shrimp supreme, the snapper "Alicante" or the baked stuffed grouper. If you want meat, the filet mignon will be flambléed at your table with bourbon (ask your waiter for the story behind it), or opt for the chicken breast topped with grated manchego cheese served in a citrus sauce. Of course, another must-have is one of the paellas; allow 30 minutes for preparation. Do not leave without enjoying dessert. We highly recommend the white chocolate bread pudding and the guava turnover. One more very important detail: the wine list. It is over 200 pages and boasts 1,050-plus wines for a total of 50,000 bottles, with numerous verticals. The selections from Spain make this the largest Spanish wine cellar in the world. You will most assuredly not forget your time at Columbia Restaurant, the oldest restaurant in Florida, which is appropriate for family, friends, business, romance or just a simple night out.