Because of my Cuban heritage, I have always wanted to visit Florida. Miami is at the top of my travel list, but I got the chance to swing by Tampa for a quick work trip. My co-workers and I squeezed in just enough time to dine at the historic Columbia Restaurant in downtown Tampa. It is the oldest restaurant in Florida and was founded in 1905 by a Cuban immigrant. The menu is a fusion of Cuban and Spanish cuisine, which brought back lots of memories of my study abroad experience in Spain.
When you walk in, you are greeted by the stunning crystal chandelier and old-world ambiance. The restaurant may seem overbearing in size, but that is how it got the namesake of being the largest Spanish restaurant in the world. You may want to spend time reading their menu ahead of time–it’s full of stories and the descriptions of the food are detailed. Share a pitcher of the sangria, made table-side by the waiter. While you watch, good luck resisting the generous slice of Cuban bread with butter. My grandparents used to eat this for breakfast every morning and I could eat it with every meal, too. For food, I recommend starting off with Columbia’s famous “1905” salad. It reminded me of an Italian antipasto salad because of the serrano ham, cheese, olives and garlic dressing. If you’re not quite hungry enough for an entire, you cannot go wrong with the tapas. I loved the ones we ordered: Stuffed Piquillo Peppers, Devil Crab Croquettes, Gambas “Al Ajillo” and Scallops “Casimiro”. We did not order a dessert, but I would have loved to try the flan or the churros.
In case you missed it, read about my recent family vacation in Houston, Texas.
Love food. Love self. Love life.