By Alessandra Berrojo
Is there a local restaurant with outstanding food, history, and entertainment? The answer lies right in the heart of Ybor City, Florida. The Columbia Restaurant is Florida’s oldest restaurant and the largest Spanish restaurant in the world, making it a historic landmark. It was opened in 1905 by Casimiro Hernandez I and since then been family owned and operated. The Columbia is definitely a fan favorite for tourists and Floridians alike.
When walking into the Columbia Restaurant, there is an immediate burst of Spanish culture. The walls are filled with painted portraits, intricately painted tiles, and old family photos. Throughout the restaurant there are several spacious rooms that are named after important Spanish figures such as Don Quioxte and Sancho. The Columbia also has a formal feel as each of the waiters are dressed in matching tuxedos and everything is served in glass plates and cups.
The food is absolutely spectacular! The Columbia offers a wide array of Spanish cuisine from Cuban sandwiches and seafood, to classic black beans and rice. The average price range for a meal at the Columbia is $25-$30 per person. Some tasteful appetizers to start with include black bean soup, tapas, and the world famous 1905 salad. This salad gave the Columbia the honor by making it on USA Today’s list of 10 Great Places to Make a Meal Out of a Salad.
After choosing an appetizer, next comes the main course. Their steak, chicken, or shrimp plates are a great choice and they usually come with sides such as rice or fresh vegetables. Another delectable main dish is their paella. Often shared among the guests, paella is a large pan that features rice, vegetables, chicken, clams, pork, and mussels. The Columbia’s desserts are definitely a must-have and they offer a wide range of choices for the sweet tooth. Three of these classic Spanish desserts include the flan, the churros, and the white chocolate bread pudding that are all baked to perfection. Something very interesting about the Columbia’s menu is that it also includes facts about the history of the food and the origin from which these recipes came from.
Aside from the food, perhaps the best reason to come to the Columbia is to watch one of their flamenco shows live. Flamenco is a classic Spanish dance that has been performed at the Columbia ever since their opening. Guests have the opportunity to eat dinner while watching the impressive professional flamenco dancers. Getting the chance to see this show is an incredible experience because it is as if one were watching an authentic flamenco show in Spain. The popularity of this show has sparked throughout the years and it continues to win the hearts of the Columbia’s guests.
The right way to end a trip to the Columbia Restaurant is to visit their gift shop. The gift shop is filled with gorgeous hand-painted plates, vases, and pitchers that are available for purchase. Customers can also take home the same delicious sangria mixes, wines, hot sauces, and spices that are used by the chefs of the Columbia Restaurant.
The Columbia is a wonderful place to spend an evening with friends or family while enjoying classic Spanish food. A great time to come is when celebrating a special occasion. The Columbia offers complimentary desserts to guests that are celebrating a birthday or anniversary. To visit the world famous Columbia Restaurant, click here to make a reservation today!
Header photo from the Columbia Restaurant Group Facebook page.