Columbia, Florida’s oldest restaurant, was founded in 1905 by Casimiro Hernandez, Sr. In addition to being the oldest restaurant, Columbia also claims the title of world’s largest Spanish restaurant. The original location still stands in Tampa’s Y-Bor City, in addition to 6 other locations throughout Florida (Sarasota, Clearwater Beach, St. Augustine, Celebration, Riverwalk Tampa, and the Tampa airport).
Columbia has won many, many awards over the years for its’ outstanding Spanish cuisine. The menu features an extensive assortment of dishes to suit everyone’s personal taste.
Each location offers its’ own unique setting, however, an evening visit to the original Y-Bor city location features the added bonus of live flamenco dancers. All locations feature the same fabulous award winning Spanish/Cuban cuisine.
Columbia Sarasota opened in 1959, making it Sarasota’s oldest restaurant. It also seems to be the most popular in the area, as evidenced by the hefty afternoon crowds. Located in beautiful St. Armands Circle, a beautiful outdoor dining and shopping destination, which is the perfect place to stroll around before or after your meal. Sarasota is home to a beautiful indoor/outdoor dining room combination. The interior is very pretty with beautiful statues, paintings, and plenty of trees.
Columbia is most famous for their Cuban Black Bean soup, a simple yet delicious combination of seasoned black beans, white rice, and onions. Columbia’s “1905 Salad,” is also very popular. In fact, there was not a table in the restaurant that wasn’t ordering this mixture of iceburg lettuce, baked ham, Swiss cheese, olives, tomatoes, Romano Cheese, and garlic dressing. The salad was named for the year in which the original Y-Bor city restaurant opened.
The menu features a large selection of Tapas, which are large sized appetizers meant to be shared across the table to make up a full meal. Tapas are very popular in Spanish cuisine. Black bean cakes, shrimp sauteed in olive oil and garlic, shrimp and crabmeat casserole, and sliced chorizo and onion sauteed in olive oil are just a few of the tapas presented on the menu.
The extensive seafood selection includes: a variety of Red Grouper, Shrimp, Salmon, and Mahi Mahi dishes. Meats include various Filet Mignon, Roast Pork, and Chicken dishes. The Chicken and Yellow Rice “Ybor” includes a delicious assortment of yellow rice, peppers, tomatoes, onions, spices, and olive oil topped with baked chicken.
You will find a variety of Paella dishes, including a vegetarian option. Paella is a rice dish originating from Spain. The dish combines meats, vegetables, beans, and spices with a variety of flavors. The Paella Vegetariana dish was excellent – a great combination of all sorts of vegetables and beans (artichoke hearts, green beans, tomatoes, garlic, peppers, onions, and La Bomba spanish rice cooked with a saffron broth).
Columbia is the perfect choice for those seeking great authentic Spanish/Cuban cuisine. If you find yourself in any of the aforementioned cities, be sure to plan a lunch or dinner stop at one of the world’s best Spanish restaurants.
Columbia Restaurant is located at : 411 St Armands Cir, Sarasota, FL 34236. Hours: Sunday – Thursday: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m., Friday & Saturday: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m., & Sunday: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Reservations: (941) 388-3987