The Family-Owned Columbia Eatery: Florida’s Oldest Restaurant Produces a lovely Backdrop To Suit Your Passionate Times

The Quick Version: Since 1905, the Columbia eatery has actually served Spanish and Cuban-inspired meals and products that express a long-standing family history. Created by a Cuban immigrant in Tampa, the Columbia remains an area favored simply because of its conventional foods and friendly service. Over time, folks from all over the globe attended on the attractive bistro to commemorate engagements, anniversaries, birthdays, and various other monumental minutes. Now, the 4th and 5th generations of this family is the owner of and operates 13 different restaurants throughout Florida. If you’re looking for fine eating with a good conventional family feel, you’ll reserve a table within the spectacular and romantic food areas of Columbia eatery.


Over the past three decades, my loved ones’s favored vacation destination happens to be an oceanfront lodge in Sand Key, Fl. We’ve gone there over several instances to create mud castles, spot whales, and eat delicious dishes on patios ignoring the Gulf of Mexico.

We now have completely investigated the town’s restaurant variety, looking out of the best local bones about, but it merely therefore takes place the one cafe we-all enjoy a lot of is within taking walks range your lodge. The Columbia Restaurant’s white linen tablecloths, attentive solution, and mouth-watering food succeed our very own go-to spot for supper.

Whenever we had been kids, my personal moms and dads would order you a parmesan cheese pizza as they checked out this romantic Spanish cafe alone; but we have now enjoy tapas and drink equally as much as they do, therefore we’ve begun crashing their unique date night — often bringing along times of our very own.

Since 1905, the Columbia eatery provides wowed clients with Spanish and Cuban dishes and an old-world atmosphere. Although it’s the oldest bistro in Fl, the company still is operate from the descendants with the original president. Every object regarding eating plan features a story behind it, and lots of for the quality recipes have been handed over from one generation regarding the Hernandez Gonzmart family to the next. Family practice is an enormous area of the Columbia’s menu, history, and approach to service.

“The staff can be a bit like family,” stated Michael Kilgore, the principle advertising Officer when it comes down to Columbia. “a number of our staff remain for 20 or three decades. Among situations we like about all of our team is actually how long they stay with you. They are available here in order to find a house.”

You can enjoy this comfy and welcoming environment on the after that date night by visiting any one of the Columbia’s seven various restaurants. The Columbia eatery presently serves friends in Tampa, Sarasota, St. Augustine, Clearwater seashore, and party. Whether you are sipping wine on a picturesque balcony or watching flamenco dancers illuminate the phase although you eat tapas, you are sure to have a memorable night from the Columbia.

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

The Columbia Restaurant can trace the record back once again to Dec. 17, 1903 — exactly the same time the Wright brothers effectively tried the planet’s very first airplane. That has been when a Cuban immigrant called Casimiro Hernandez Sr. started running a saloon for a nearby preparing organization in Tampa’s Ybor City.

In 1905, the industrious business person turned the saloon into a popular 60-seat cafe noted for its genuine Cuban coffee and snacks. After his achievements, Casimiro purchased a cafe or restaurant next-door and switched it into a gorgeous kitchen. In 1930, his child got more than ownership and process in the thriving restaurant.

Throughout the Great anxiety, his daughter Casimiro Jr. created the most important air-conditioned dining area in Tampa. The guy hoped their trendy look and elevated dancing flooring would draw individuals to the bistro that assist them forget about their unique worries for a night. The Don Quixote area ended up being a winner, while the Columbia managed to hold their doorways open even though many various other companies folded.

In 1953, Casimiro Jr. passed the Columbia on to his just son or daughter, Adela Hernandez Gonzmart, an established artist that has met her husband, Cesar Gonzmart, within Tampa bistro. This theatrical set brought enjoyment and artistry on the Columbia, creating a showroom that hosted numerous talented Latin dancers and performers. Under Adela and Cesar’s leadership, the Columbia expanded to Sarasota alongside locations in Fl.

Today, one of Adela and Cesar’s two sons has taken the reins and held his family’s company going. Richard Gonzmart has-been functioning at his family members’ restaurants since he had been 12 yrs old, very he could be closely knowledgeable about its environment and history. Richard can point out the dining table on Columbia eatery in which he and his awesome partner had their first big date over 43 in years past.

“There’s a lot of love here, therefore have a great story,” said Michael. “below 15 restaurants in the United States tend to be family-owned and more than 100 years outdated, therefore we’re in pretty elite business.”

Fl’s oldest cafe has actually a happy and enduring history rooted in food, family members, and fun. Michael told all of us the 5th generation with the founding household is now getting groomed to dominate someday. Richard’s daughters and nephew have chosen to take in energetic administration roles at the restaurants and therefore are prepared keep the family tradition going for many more a long time.

The Columbia has been recognized with associated with the highest awards inside restaurant industry, including induction into country’s Restaurant Information’ “great dinner Hall of Fame,” obtained the “notable Restaurants of North America (SiRoNA) Award of Excellence,” Florida Trend’s “Golden Spoon Hall of Fame,” and Wine Spectator’s “Best of Award of quality.”

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

The Columbia Restaurant sets a magnificent table and provides an enjoyable escape from everyday life. It seduces your own senses from the moment you walk-in the doors. You’re enclosed by greenery, h2o fountains, and artwork just like the noise of laughter together with scents of fresh fish and shellfish dishes waft through the air. Before my personal purchase actually extends to me personally, my mouth is obviously watering with anticipation. Luckily for us, each guest becomes his or her own recently generated loaf of Cuban loaves of bread, and so I have actually one thing to meet my preferences while we wait.

The 14-page menu is full of good food but also provides effortless dialogue beginners for daters simply learning each other. Each entrée, appetizer, and dessert includes an enticing explanation as well as fascinating back ground information. Including, the cafe’s coconut frozen dessert had been a favorite of frozen dessert entrepreneur Gustavo Hernandez, the third daughter from the initial Columbia founder, and after this this nice recipe is supported in his respect.

Through the veggie paella (Spanish grain combined with hearty greens) for the shrimp great (shrimp covered with wafer-thin bacon), the foodstuffs at the Columbia are bursting with flavor. The shareable dishes, also known as tapas, get this to restaurant well suited for lovers on a date as you may come closer with each other by discussing small plates of empanadas, sliced chorizo, croquetas, or stuffed peppers. To create a budget-friendly food by purchasing many among these appetizers collectively — keep in mind to truly save place for dessert!

The Très Amigos churros is a fantastic option for couples since they are tactile, sweet, and simply a little dirty. It is possible to drop the piping-hot churros in chocolate, caramel, or guava sauce so there’s something for everyone. Plus, Columbia’s trademark light Chocolate Bread Pudding is actually an indulgent dessert excellent for splitting with a date who may have a taste for white chocolate and rum sauce.

In 2017, the Marriott Traveler blog site named the Columbia eatery among St. Augustine’s top date-night places, promoting partners to “start out with Columbia’s famous 1905 Salad, assembled table-side with much panache, then discuss a massive platter regarding the Paella a la Valenciana, filled with shellfish, fragrant grain, and chorizo.”

Your own intimate evening will be-all the greater amount of enjoyable should you decide set with your dinner one cup of the Melanie Chardonnay, a wealthy wine called after Melanie Gonzmart, Richard’s high-school sweetheart and wife.

Plus, at Columbia eatery, the sangria should die for. Seriously, referring by the cup but you can also divide a pitcher of white or red sangria with a date to increase your dining experience. Amply large cuts of fresh fruit drift when you look at the drink and infuse it with wealthy styles. Whether you’re buying this traditional sangria or among the cafe’s family members wines, the high-caliber beverages you should never let you down.

Michael told you the group makes an endeavor available affordable but quality wines to whet visitors’ appetites. “All of our wine variety should-be perfectly suited for the foodstuff we serve as well as your price point,” the guy mentioned.

Many Couples & groups have actually Shared specialized times Here

When I think of the Columbia, i do believe with the night we made a decision to have treat for supper, and my personal parents ordered churros, crucial lime pie, mango mousse cake, white chocolate breads dessert, and five spoons. In my opinion of my twin brother attempting grouper the very first time on the twentieth birthday and stating excitedly, “Take my picture” because the guy desired to show their girlfriend (that is now their spouse) he enjoyed eating fish around she did.

In so many techniques, the Columbia is like our destination, but my loved ones isn’t the only real family to have generated recollections during that cafe and its own six sister areas across Florida. Individuals visited the restaurant at all stages of existence since it supplies a unique atmosphere that pairs well with any event.

Famously, Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio happened to be repeated visitors in the Columbia during the early 1950s. The Columbia staff members paid tribute toward pair together with enjoying recollections they provided from the restaurant by naming a dish after them. The Marilyn & Joe “Salteado” — a sautéed combination of tenderloin guidelines, boneless chicken white meat, shrimp, and pork — is actually a delicious note associated with the very long reputation for relationship during the Columbia’s eating areas.

Whether you are going on an initial day or honoring a marriage anniversary, you will discover intimacy and passion achieve the smooth candlelight associated with Columbia eatery.

“It is one of our targets,” Michael stated, “to own people feel like the Columbia is the perfect place to come calmly to commemorate existence’s goals.”

The Columbia eatery has household Values with the Table

The Columbia eatery charms daters with real meals, divine atmospheres, and friendly service. The servers, no less than at our very own Columbia in Sand Key, look closely at their own guests and are also fast to say “Welcome back” to dedicated consumers whom, like my loved ones, find themselves going back to the classy dining areas time and time again.

This long-standing dining establishment has grown and changed for the years, nevertheless hasn’t forgotten about their century-long family roots. Richard has ambitious intends to serve diners and daters throughout Fl into the a long time. “our very own holder doesn’t sleep,” Michael stated with fun. “he is constantly dreaming right up something new.”

The Columbia team plans to open up at the very least two brand new restaurants from inside the impending many years. One will be conveniently found correct across the street through the original Columbia in Tampa. Casa Santo Stefano, set-to open in fall 2018, can pay homage to a tiny community in Sicily in which a lot of Tampa’s Sicilian immigrants arrived from — the authentic selection is designed to bring these individuals a delicious reminder of residence.

Enduring leadership and high quality styles make Columbia eatery and all their aunt restaurants genuinely great places in which singles and lovers can invest an evening with those they like greatest.