The Family-Owned Columbia Eatery: Florida’s Oldest Eatery Produces a lovely Backdrop For The Enchanting Times

The Quick Version: Since 1905, the Columbia Restaurant has offered Spanish and Cuban-inspired dishes and drinks that represent a long-standing genealogy and family history. Based by a Cuban immigrant in Tampa, the Columbia stays a regional preferred due to its standard ingredients and friendly solution. Over time, individuals from world-wide came on the glamorous bistro to commemorate engagements, anniversaries, birthdays, alongside monumental minutes. Now, the last and fifth generations on the family members owns and works 13 different restaurants throughout Florida. If you’re searching for fine eating with a decent old-fashioned family members sense, it is possible to reserve a table for the stunning and enchanting eating areas associated with the Columbia Restaurant.


Over the past 3 decades, my family’s preferred destination has-been an oceanfront resort in Sand Key, Florida. We’ve gone there over several times to construct mud castles, spot whales, and consume tasty meals on patios overlooking the gulf.

We completely discovered town’s cafe choice, looking from the best regional joints around, it merely so happens your one bistro most of us enjoy many is within taking walks length of our hotel. The Columbia Restaurant’s white linen tablecloths, mindful service, and mouth-watering meals enable it to be the go-to area for supper.

Whenever we had been young ones, my personal parents would get all of us a cheese pizza pie while they visited this intimate Spanish bistro alone; however, we have now enjoy tapas and drink as much as they do, so we’ve begun crashing their date night — occasionally bringing along times of our own.

Since 1905, the Columbia eatery provides wowed clients with Spanish and Cuban dishes and an old-world ambiance. Although it’s the oldest bistro in Florida, the business still is operate by the descendants with the initial president. Every product on the menu has a tale behind it, and lots of of dishes currently passed from one generation for the Hernandez Gonzmart family members to another. Family tradition is a huge a portion of the Columbia’s selection, record, and way of solution.

“the employees normally a bit like family members,” mentioned Michael Kilgore, the Chief promotion Officer when it comes to Columbia. “Many of our staff remain for 20 or 30 years. The circumstances we love about all of our class is how much time they stick to you. They arrive right here in order to find a home.”

You can enjoy this comfy and inviting environment on your own then date night when you go to any of the Columbia’s seven various restaurants. The Columbia eatery presently serves friends in Tampa, Sarasota, St. Augustine, Clearwater seashore, and party. Whether you’re drinking wine on a picturesque balcony or enjoying flamenco performers light up the level while you take in tapas, you are sure to have a memorable evening in the Columbia.

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

The Columbia eatery can locate its history to Dec. 17, 1903 — alike day the Wright brothers effectively tried the entire world’s basic aircraft. That has been whenever a Cuban immigrant called Casimiro Hernandez Sr. started working a saloon for a local preparing business in Tampa’s Ybor City.

In 1905, the industrious entrepreneur switched the saloon into a prominent 60-seat cafe recognized for the authentic Cuban coffee-and sandwiches. After his achievements, Casimiro bought a cafe or restaurant nearby and changed it into an attractive living area. In 1930, his child got more than control and procedure of thriving bistro.

During Great Depression, his boy Casimiro Jr. created the most important air-conditioned dining room in Tampa. The guy hoped its upscale appearance and elevated dance floor would draw visitors to the bistro and help them forget about their unique fears for per night. The Don Quixote area ended up being a winner, and also the Columbia was able to hold its doorways open while many other companies folded.

In 1953, Casimiro Jr. passed the Columbia onto their only child, Adela Hernandez Gonzmart, an established artist who’d met her husband, Cesar Gonzmart, at Tampa bistro. This theatrical pair delivered entertainment and artistry toward Columbia, developing a showroom that hosted many skilled Latin performers and artists. Under Adela and Cesar’s leadership, the Columbia extended to Sarasota along with other areas in Fl.

Today, certainly Adela and Cesar’s two sons has had the reins and held their family’s company going. Richard Gonzmart might working at his family’s restaurants since he had been 12 yrs . old, very they are intimately acquainted with their environment and record. Richard can actually point out the table at the Columbia eatery in which the guy and his wife had their unique first big date significantly more than 43 years ago.

“there’s lots of romance right here, and in addition we have an excellent story,” mentioned Michael. “under 15 restaurants in the us tend to be family-owned and more than a century outdated, therefore we’re in pretty elite business.”

Fl’s earliest cafe has actually a pleased and enduring background grounded on food, family members, and fun. Michael told us the fifth generation from the founding house gayhold is now being groomed to take control someday. Richard’s daughters and nephew have taken in effective management parts in the restaurants and tend to be ready to keep your family heritage going for numerous a long time.

The Columbia has-been acknowledged with for the greatest honours when you look at the restaurant market, such as induction into Nation’s Restaurant Information’ “okay food Hall of Fame,” attained the “notable Restaurants of America (SiRoNA) Award of quality,” Fl Trend’s “Golden Spoon Hall of Fame,” and Wine Spectator’s “better of honor of quality.”

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

The Columbia eatery sets a luxurious dining table and an enjoyable escape from daily life. It seduces the sensory faculties as soon as you walk-in the doors. You’re in the middle of greenery, drinking water fountains, and artwork just like the noises of laughter and smells of fresh seafood dishes waft through the air. Before my personal order also extends to myself, my mouth area is often watering with expectation. Thank goodness, each visitor will get their very own newly generated loaf of Cuban breads, therefore I have actually something you should please my tastebuds while I wait.

The 14-page selection is filled with great meals but provides effortless discussion starters for daters simply getting to know the other person. Each entrée, appetizer, and treat comes with an enticing explanation along with interesting background information. For example, the bistro’s coconut ice cream was actually a favorite of ice cream business owner Gustavo Hernandez, the 3rd son with the initial Columbia founder, and today this nice recipe is actually offered within his respect.

Through the vegetarian paella (Spanish rice blended with satisfying veggies) on shrimp supreme (shrimp covered with wafer-thin bacon), the foodstuffs at Columbia are bursting with taste. The shareable dishes, called tapas, get this to restaurant perfect for lovers on a night out together since you can come closer together by discussing small plates of empanadas, sliced chorizo, croquetas, or packed peppers. It is possible to create a budget-friendly dinner by ordering some of those appetizers together — keep in mind to save lots of room for treat!

The Très Amigos churros would-be an excellent selection for lovers because they’re tactile, sweet, and simply a little messy. It is possible to dip the piping-hot churros in candy, caramel, or guava sauce so there’s a little something for all. Additionally, Columbia’s signature light Chocolate Bread Pudding is an indulgent treat ideal for splitting with a romantic date who has a taste for white chocolate and rum sauce.

In 2017, the Marriott Traveler weblog called the Columbia eatery among St. Augustine’s top date-night spots, motivating lovers to “start out with Columbia’s famous 1905 Salad, assembled table-side with a lot panache, and then share a massive plate regarding the Paella a la Valenciana, full of shellfish, aromatic grain, and chorizo.”

Your romantic evening will be-all the greater pleasurable should you decide set with your meal one glass of the Melanie Chardonnay, a wealthy wine known as after Melanie Gonzmart, Richard’s high-school sweetheart and partner.

Plus, from the Columbia Restaurant, the sangria is die for. Seriously, it comes of the cup you could additionally separate a pitcher of white or red sangria with a romantic date to boost the eating experience. Nicely huge cuts of good fresh fruit drift in wine and infuse it with rich flavors. Whether you are purchasing this classic sangria or one of several bistro’s family wines, the high-caliber beverages dont let you down.

Michael informed us the group tends to make an endeavor to offer inexpensive however quality wines to whet guests’ appetites. “Our drink choice must be completely suited to the meal we serve as well as your selling price,” he stated.

Countless Couples & households Have Shared particular Moments Here

When i believe of Columbia, I think on the evening we chose to have dessert for dinner, and my parents purchased churros, crucial lime pie, mango mousse cake, white chocolate breads dessert, and five spoons. I think of my personal twin-brother trying grouper for the first time on the twentieth birthday and stating excitedly, “get my image” because he planned to reveal their gf (that is now their partner) he enjoyed taking in fish whenever she did.

In numerous techniques, the Columbia is like the destination, but my family isn’t really the actual only real family having generated memories at the restaurant and its particular six sister locations across Florida. Men and women arrive at the restaurant after all stages of existence given that it provides a unique atmosphere that pairs well with any event.

Famously, Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio were repeated guests from the Columbia in the early 1950s. The Columbia employees settled tribute on the pair and also the loving recollections they provided during the restaurant by naming a dish after all of them. The Marilyn & Joe “Salteado” — a sautéed mixture of tenderloin tips, boneless chicken breast, shrimp, and pork — is a tasty indication on the extended reputation of love within the Columbia’s dining areas.

Whether you’re going on an initial date or honoring a marriage anniversary, you will discover intimacy and passion flourish in the gentle candlelight regarding the Columbia eatery.

“It’s a targets,” Michael stated, “to own folks feel like the Columbia is the perfect place to get to celebrate life’s goals.”

The Columbia Restaurant has group Values on the Table

The Columbia eatery charms daters with genuine meals, divine atmospheres, and personable service. The machines, at the very least at our Columbia in Sand Key, look closely at their unique guests and are generally fast to say “Welcome right back” to loyal customers which, like my children, are going back to the classy dining areas over and over repeatedly.

This long-standing eating business has actually cultivated and changed in the decades, nonetheless it has not forgotten its century-long family members roots. Richard provides challenging plans to serve diners and daters throughout Fl inside a long time. “the holder does not rest,” Michael mentioned with a laugh. “He’s constantly thinking right up something new.”

The Columbia staff plans to open about two new restaurants in the upcoming years. One will end up being conveniently positioned appropriate next door from original Columbia in Tampa. Casa Santo Stefano, set-to open up in fall 2018, are going to pay respect to a tiny town in Sicily where a majority of Tampa’s Sicilian immigrants emerged from — the real menu aims to deliver these households a delicious reminder of house.

Enduring management and quality flavors improve Columbia eatery and all sorts of the aunt restaurants undoubtedly remarkable spots in which singles and partners can invest an evening in the company of those they like greatest.