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The Family-Owned Columbia Eatery: Florida’s Oldest Restaurant Creates a Beautiful Background For The Romantic Times

The Quick Version: Since 1905, the Columbia eatery provides offered Spanish and Cuban-inspired meals and beverages that signify a long-standing genealogy. Created by a Cuban immigrant in Tampa, the Columbia continues to be a nearby favored due to the traditional foods and friendly solution. Over the years, people from world-wide have come to the attractive bistro to celebrate engagements, wedding anniversaries, birthdays, as well as other monumental times. Today, the fourth and fifth generations from the family possesses and works 13 different restaurants throughout Florida. If you’re searching for fine food with a good old-fashioned household sense, you’ll be able to reserve a table in the stunning and passionate dining rooms associated with the Columbia eatery.


Over the past 3 decades, my family’s favorite vacation destination was an oceanfront hotel in Sand Key, Fl. We have now gone indeed there over 12 occasions to construct sand castles, area dolphins, and consume delicious dinners on patios overlooking the gulf.

We now have completely discovered the town’s cafe variety, searching out of the greatest regional bones about, but it just very happens the one restaurant all of us enjoy many is within walking length your lodge. The Columbia Restaurant’s white linen tablecloths, mindful solution, and mouth-watering meals enable it to be all of our go-to place for lunch.

As soon as we happened to be young ones, my moms and dads would order united states a cheddar pizza even though they went to this passionate Spanish bistro by yourself; however, we currently enjoy tapas and wine just as much as they do, therefore we’ve started crashing their particular date night — often taking along times in our very own.

Since 1905, the Columbia eatery features wowed patrons with Spanish and Cuban dishes and an old-world ambiance. Even though itis the earliest bistro in Florida, business continues to be run because of the descendants regarding the original founder. Every object from the selection has actually an account behind it, and many with the dishes are transmitted from one generation of this Hernandez Gonzmart family members to a higher. Household heritage is a large a portion of the Columbia’s selection, background, and method to service.

“The staff is also somewhat like household,” stated Michael Kilgore, the principle promotion Officer for your Columbia. “Many of our staff members stay for 20 or 30 years. Among the many circumstances we like about our very own party is the length of time they stay with you. They are available right here in order to find a home.”

You may enjoy this comfortable and inviting environment on the subsequent date night when you go to any one of the Columbia’s seven various restaurants. The Columbia eatery presently acts friends in Tampa, Sarasota, St. Augustine, Clearwater seashore, and party. Whether you’re sipping drink on a picturesque balcony or watching flamenco dancers light the stage although you take in tapas, you are certain to have a memorable evening during the Columbia.

In 1905, a Cuban Immigrant went a Saloon That Became a Sensation

The Columbia eatery can trace their history returning to Dec. 17, 1903 — equivalent day the Wright brothers successfully tested the whole world’s very first aircraft. That has been when a Cuban immigrant called Casimiro Hernandez Sr. began running a saloon for an area preparing organization in Tampa’s Ybor City.

In 1905, the industrious entrepreneur switched the saloon into popular 60-seat cafe recognized for their authentic Cuban coffee-and sandwiches. Following their success, Casimiro bought a restaurant next door and switched it into a striking dining room. In 1930, his son took more than control and operation on the thriving cafe.

Throughout Great anxiety, their child Casimiro Jr. built the initial air-conditioned dining area in Tampa. He hoped their trendy look and elevated dance floor would draw people to the cafe that assist all of them forget about their own fears for every night. The Don Quixote place ended up being a winner, and the Columbia surely could keep the doorways available although additional organizations collapsed.

In 1953, Casimiro Jr. passed the Columbia onto his only kid, Adela Hernandez Gonzmart, an established artist who had satisfied the woman partner, Cesar Gonzmart, within Tampa bistro. This theatrical pair brought activity and art with the Columbia, setting up a showroom that hosted numerous skilled Latin dancers and performers. Under Adela and Cesar’s leadership, the Columbia expanded to Sarasota and various other locations in Fl.

Now, one of Adela and Cesar’s two sons has taken the reins and kept his family’s business heading. Richard Gonzmart happens to be working at their family members’ restaurants since he had been 12 years of age, therefore he could be thoroughly knowledgeable about their atmosphere and record. Richard may actually suggest the table within Columbia Restaurant where he and his partner had their unique very first big date a lot more than 43 years back.

“there are many love right here, so we have a great story,” mentioned Michael. “significantly less than 15 restaurants in the us tend to be family-owned and more than 100 years old, so we’re in pretty elite organization.”

Fl’s earliest cafe has a proud and enduring background grounded on food, household, and fun. Michael told you the fifth generation of the founding family members is currently being groomed to take-over someday. Richard’s daughters and nephew took on productive administration roles from the restaurants and tend to be prepared keep consitently the family heritage going for numerous years to come.

The Columbia has-been recognized which includes from the highest honors from inside the bistro sector, including induction into Nation’s eatery Information’ “great Dining Hall of Fame,” received the “Distinguished Restaurants of the united states (SiRoNA) honor of quality,” Fl Trend’s “Golden Spoon Hall of popularity,” and Wine Spectator’s “good Award of quality.”

Look In! A Delectable Menu of Sharable Tapas & Indulgent Desserts

The Columbia Restaurant sets a luxurious table and a wonderful getting away from daily life. It seduces your senses as soon as you walk-in the doorways. You’re in the middle of greenery, h2o fountains, and artwork while the noise of laughter additionally the scents of new seafood dishes waft through the atmosphere. Before my personal order also reaches me personally, my personal lips is always watering with expectation. Fortunately, each guest becomes his / her very own recently produced loaf of Cuban bread, thus I have actually something to fulfill my personal taste buds while we wait.

The 14-page selection is filled with good food additionally supplies easy talk beginners for daters simply observing each other. Each entrée, appetizer, and treat has an enticing explanation also interesting background details. For-instance, the bistro’s coconut frozen dessert had been a preferred of ice cream entrepreneur Gustavo Hernandez, the 3rd boy from the initial Columbia president, and today this nice recipe is supported in his honor.

From the vegetarian paella (Spanish rice mixed with satisfying greens) on the shrimp great (shrimp covered with wafer-thin bacon), the meals within Columbia tend to be bursting with flavor. The shareable plates, also known as tapas, make this restaurant well suited for couples on a date since you can come closer collectively by discussing tiny plates of empanadas, sliced chorizo, croquetas, or packed peppers. It is possible to create a budget-friendly food by purchasing multiple of the appetizers collectively — keep in mind to save lots of area for dessert!

The Très Amigos churros might be a fantastic selection for partners because they’re tactile, sweet, and merely just a little dirty. Possible dip the piping-hot churros in candy, caramel, or guava sauce generally there’s a little something for all. In addition, Columbia’s signature White Chocolate Bread Pudding is actually an indulgent dessert excellent for splitting with a romantic date that has a taste for white candy and rum sauce.

In 2017, the Marriott Traveler blog known as the Columbia Restaurant among St. Augustine’s top date-night areas, motivating couples to “start off with Columbia’s popular 1905 Salad, assembled table-side with a lot panache, after which share a huge plate from the Paella a la Valenciana, overflowing with shellfish, fragrant grain, and chorizo.”

Your own intimate night will be-all the more satisfying should you pair together with your meal a glass of the Melanie Chardonnay, a wealthy drink called after Melanie Gonzmart, Richard’s high-school sweetheart and partner.

Plus, at the Columbia Restaurant, the sangria should perish for. Really, it comes of the glass you could additionally divide a pitcher of white or red-colored sangria with a night out together to boost your own dinner knowledge. Amply large pieces of fruit float in the wine and infuse it with rich styles. Whether you’re ordering this classic sangria or among the restaurant’s household wines, the high-caliber drinks don’t disappoint.

Michael informed you the group can make an attempt to offer inexpensive but top quality wines to whet guests’ appetites. “the drink variety should-be perfectly designed for the meal we provide and your price point,” he mentioned.

Countless partners & Families Have Shared Special Moments Here

When I think from the Columbia, i do believe from the night we decided to have dessert for dinner, and my personal moms and dads purchased churros, key lime pie, mango mousse cake, white chocolate bread dessert, and five spoons. I think of my twin-brother trying grouper for the first time on the twentieth birthday and saying excitedly, “simply take my picture” because he wanted to show his girlfriend (who is today his spouse) which he liked taking fish everything she performed.

In so many means, the Columbia feels as though our spot, but my loved ones isn’t really the only family members for made recollections at this restaurant and its particular six sister locations across Florida. People come to the bistro after all phases of life since it supplies a special environment that pairs really with any event.

Famously, Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio had been repeated guests with the Columbia in the early 1950s. The Columbia personnel paid tribute on pair as well as the warm memories they shared on bistro by naming a dish after them. The Marilyn & Joe “Salteado” — a sautéed mixture of tenderloin ideas, boneless chicken, shrimp, and chicken — is actually a tasty note associated with long reputation for relationship from inside the Columbia’s eating areas.

Whether you are taking place an initial big date or honoring a wedding anniversary, you will discover closeness and enthusiasm flourish in the gentle candlelight from the Columbia Restaurant.

“It’s one of our targets,” Michael said, “getting men and women feel as if the Columbia is the perfect place to come quickly to celebrate existence’s goals.”

The Columbia eatery Brings Family standards to your Table

The Columbia eatery charms daters with real meals, divine atmospheres, and personable service. The computers, at least at the Columbia in Sand Key, look closely at their particular visitors and therefore are rapid to express “Welcome right back” to loyal customers who, like my family, are time for the stylish dining areas over repeatedly.

This long-standing food establishment has actually cultivated and changed throughout the decades, it never forgotten about their century-long family origins. Richard features challenging intentions to offer diners and daters throughout Florida inside years into the future. “Our holder doesn’t rest,” Michael mentioned with a laugh. “he is always thinking upwards something new.”

The Columbia staff intends to open up no less than two brand-new restaurants into the upcoming decades. One will end up being easily found appropriate across the street from the original Columbia in Tampa. Casa Santo Stefano, set to start in autumn 2018, can pay honor to a tiny village in Sicily in which most Tampa’s Sicilian immigrants came from — the genuine eating plan aims to bring these households a tasty indication of house.

Enduring leadership and top quality flavors make the Columbia Restaurant as well as their sibling restaurants really great spots where singles and partners can spend an evening together with those they love most readily useful.


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