Monday, November 9, 2015

Columbia Restaurant – Ybor City

When we visited the Ybor City neighborhood in Tampa Florida in early September, it was lunch time.  I knew where we ‘had’ to go for lunch as I’d eaten there at least twice before…


My choice was the original Columbia Restaurant on East 7th Avenue.  As the mosaic sign above clearly states, the restaurant was established back in the prosperous heyday of Ybor City when it was the cigar making center of the USA and thousands of folks were busy rolling and selling cigars.

This restaurant has not only survived the vagaries of an up and down economy over the years, it has grown into a multi-unit operation as well!  In addition to the original Ybor City/Tampa location, other Columbia restaurants are located in Sarasota (We’ve eaten there too), St. Augustine, Clearwater Beach and Orlando.  In addition, the company operates cafes in the Tampa Bay History Center and at the Tampa International Airport.    




The outside of the Ybor City location is eye catching and classic with ornate tile work, Moorish arches and even an impressive entrance… 

The Columbia Restaurant seems to serve as an anchor at one end of Ybor City Historic District’s main street.   This overall National Register of Historic Places Historic District includes a total of 956 buildings!




The interior of the Columbia Restaurant is every bit as impressive as the exterior!  The photos above of the lobby/reception area, enclosed center dining courtyard and one of the dining rooms are just a sample of the highly decorative nature of this entire enormous restaurant.

The Columbia Restaurant is the oldest continuously operated restaurant in Florida.  It’s also the oldest Spanish restaurant in the United States and one of the largest Spanish restaurants in the world with 1,700 seats in 15 dining rooms.  The structure occupies a full city block with 52,000 square feet of space.  After 110 years, this landmark restaurant is still owned by members of the founding family!

Now onto our luncheon…


Laurie started out with a glass of Sangria. ($7.00)  I had a Miller Lite ($3.95) and Dawn Marie had a club soda. ($3.00) Laurie liked her Sangria but it couldn’t compare with the version that she enjoyed at Brooklyn’s Backyard Restaurant in Ocala a day earlier…

My first dining experience at the Columbia Restaurant was in the late 1980s and I’d really enjoyed my dinner.  I’d been back to this location one additional time in the mid to late 1990s and I hadn’t been as enamored with the cuisine as I was the first time…


This was our appetizer, the Columbia’s version of Queso Fundido. ($9.00) This version consisted of mild Tetilla cheese from Galicia in northwest Spain which is baked in a Rioja tomato sauce until it’s melted.  It was served with toasted Cuban bread points.  There was nothing wrong with it but we prefer the spicier Mexican Queso Fundido…


Laurie ordered the Coca de Langosta for her lunch. ($12.50) Coca, a Catalonian flatbread, is brushed with the restaurants 1905 sauce, then its topped with Spanish chorizo, diced vine-ripe tomatoes, Maine lobster meat and Manchego cheese.  It was baked until crisp and then it was drizzled with Piquillo pepper aioli.  She did enjoy her lunch giving it a very good rating…


I ordered the Havana Club Sandwich. ($9.95) I was looking for something other than a Cuban sandwich…which I’ve always felt were bland…at least for my taste.  I will note that the Columbian Restaurant prides itself on its version of the Cuban…

The Havana Club Sandwich included turkey, bacon, ham, Swiss cheese, tomato and mayonnaise on Cuban bread. It was served with plantain chips.  It was OK if not great…


Dawn Marie went with the Half and Half Combo for her lunch. ($12.50) She chose a half Cuban Sandwich accompanied by the restaurant’s original 1905 Salad.  Her half sandwich was made up with ham, Genoa salami, Cuban mojo-marinated roast pork, Swiss cheese, pickle and mustard.  It is all layered on sliced, freshly baked Tampa Cuban bread.  Dawn thought that her lunch was just fine…

It’s hard to really evaluate a restaurant based on a lunch consisting of flatbread and sandwiches.  The ambience in the courtyard was very nice, service was efficient and our lunch was just fine but nothing special either.  No matter what, this restaurant is worth the visit just to experience the architecture and over the top decorative embellishments.  The original Columbia Restaurant is located at 2117 East 7th Avenue in the Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa Florida.  Phone: 813-248-4961.  The company’s Website is at: http://www.columbiarestaurant.com/.  
  
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit to a Tampa area icon!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


3 comments:

  1. It's hard to imagine a place that can serve really good food with that many seats - I wonder how many kitchens they have.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Visited there last weekend with a group of friends, and had all the fun we could handle. I really like the ambiance at these Chicago venues. There's a decent draft beer selection at a reasonable price and the bartenders are good at what they do.

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