Florida Flavors: Authentic Spanish cuisine at the Columbia Restaurant

Columbia Restaurant (credit: HolidayTripper.com)

Columbia Restaurant (credit: HolidayTripper.com)

Florida Travel Guide: Florida’s oldest restaurant serves authentic Spanish/Cuban Cuisine

In 1905, the Hernandez Gonzmart family opened the Columbia Restaurant in Tampa’s Ybor City; today it’s the oldest restaurant in Florida and the biggest Spanish restaurant in the world. It is also 1 of 50 restaurants to receive an All-American Icon designation. When you go, make sure you eat in the patio dining room – built in the 1930s, the courtyard-like room was built to resemble those in Andalucia.

The Legacy

When Casimiro Hernandez Sr. opened a small café on a corner intersection that was frequented by cigar workers from nearby factories, he never thought that the Columbia would have grown to the establishment it is today. There are now six locations within Florida, each owned and operated by a generational member of the family.

The Food

The Columbia stays true to the family recipes that made the restaurant famous. Try the traditional Paella or Piquillo peppers stuffed with mushrooms, chorizo and Serrano ham, a favorite from Spain’s Basque region. The 1905 Salad and original Cuban sandwich are staples on the menu.

The Wine

The Columbia has more than 1,000 Spanish wines on its wine list, an impressive inventory that garnered it an Award of Excellence in Wine Spectator’s Wine List Selection.

Live Entertainment

If you go to Columbia for dinner, you can catch a flamenco show from Monday – Saturday. There’s also live jazz in the Café on  Thursday right through till Saturday.

Cigar Rolling

Step back in time during the week and watch cigar rolling demonstrations in the gift shop from 11 a.m. till 2:30 p.m.

Tell us…

What’s your favorite ethnic food?