Wine Dine and Play: Columbia Restaurant

Columbia Restaurant

The Columbia Restaurant in the Ybor section of Tampa, was Floridas first restaurant opening in 1905.

October 2019 review  /  February 2016 review

First Florida Restaurant
Ybor City, Florida, USA
Cuisine Style: Cuban, Spanish
Average Price: $$$
Overall Rating: 5/5
Dined: October 2019

By Sean Overpeck (CFE)
**A full article and index glossary of restaurants, wines, recipes and travel for 
Wine Dine and Play are in the pages section above, or by following these links:

Columbia Restaurant Zomato rating:

Columbia Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Columbia Restaurant Executive Chef:
Richard Gonzmart

Columbia Restaurant is the oldest restaurant in the state of Florida opening in 1905 in the Spanish / Cuban section of Tampa known as Ybor City. Today it is being run by the 4th and 5th generations of the same family, and now has branched out to seven more locations. They are also famous for a small sandwich creation that has become a household name and is now available in many Florida Restaurants called the Cubano Sandwich. This is roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard on homemade Cuban bread. There are arguments that the sandwich was created by Cuban immigrants in Miami which adds salami to the sandwich. This was due to the Italian influences. The truth is it started at Columbia in Tampa. 

The Cuban bread is made in Tampa then sent to Miami where the sandwich was made for the workers looking for a cheap lunch to eat. The original version of this sandwich was made by the Taíno tribe in Cuba 500 years ago. With the European influence and melting pot, the sandwich is much different today. In 2012, the "Historic Tampa Cuban Sandwich" was designated as the "signature sandwich of the city of Tampa" by the Tampa City Council. Their menu is a combination fusion of Spanish and Cuban cuisines, with recipes handed down for five generations starting with their great-grandfather Casimiro Hernandez, Sr., and tweaked on occasion. Some recipes still remain the same way they were served back in 1905 such as their Spanish Bean Soup. 

Columbia Restaurant Menu:
Bebidas, Cerveza, & Cocktails

Other Columbia Restaurant locations include the historic district in St. Augustine, Sand Key on Clearwater Beach, Central Florida's Town of Celebration, the Columbia Cafe on the Riverwalk in Tampa, the Columbia Restaurant Cafe at Tampa International Airport, and where we dined and wrote the first review for Wine Dine And Play at the location on St. Armand's Circle in Sarasota. All Columbia locations are owned and operated by the members of the founding family except for the Tampa International Airport; which is operated in partnership with HMSHost.

On the first visit and review on Wine Dine and Play to Columbia Restaurant in Sarasota, our party had the Camarones Rellenos “Jesse Gonzalez,” of jumbo-sized prawns stuffed with crabmeat topped in a lemon-herb butter. The Cannelloni de Langosta “7 Portes,” based on a recipe from one of the family's favorite restaurants in Barcelona called the “7 Portes,” founded in 1836. The famed 1905 salad prepared à la minute table-side and the Queso Fundido.

The dining room was much fancier in style and opulence compared to the other Columbia Restaurant locations we had been to, with large chandeliers, white linen tables, servers in tuxedos, and the back wall of the restaurant containing the enclosed wine cellar with over 300 bottle selections. Speaking of drinks, we started with a Pepito cocktail which is made from a blend of Añejo Rum, Dry Vermouth, Aperitif Wine, Columbia’s hand-selected Private Barrel Casa Noble Reposado Tequila, Torres Magdala Orange Liqueur, and Champagne finished with fresh cucumbers and lime juice, shaken and served “up” with a salted rim. I had the Free Dive IPA from Coppertail Brewing Company out of Tampa and according to the beer makers tasting notes the appearance is of a pale golden color, perfect clarity with active head, the aroma is of clean malts, heavy citrus, and pine, the taste is hoppy with a crisp malt backbone and on the palate, it is medium with a lingering bitterness.

The main dining room of the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor's Tampa, Florida
Columbia Restaurant / Dining Room

The stuffed piquillo peppers are a sweet pepper from Spain, cooked together with a mushroom, chorizo, and ham filling, baked in an almond pepper sauce and topped with manchego cheese. The pepper was mild in spice which was made up of with the spicier chorizo Spanish sausage, and the great textures from the cheese and mushrooms. The pepper sauce was also piquillo pureed down with the almonds and some emulsified olive oil. I am very glad that our server recommended this starter dish to us. 

The stuffed piquillo peppers appetizer has chorizo and mushrooms with Spanish manchego cheese at the Columbia Restaurant in Tampa, Florida
Columbia Restaurant / Stuffed Piquillo Peppers

The pollo manchego from the dinner menu is a boneless chicken breast, breaded with seasoned Cuban bread crumbs and grated Spanish manchego cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil, cooked on a flat-top griddle. The dish is then topped with a citrus sauce and served with some “Good Rice” and fresh seasonal vegetables. The chicken was crispy on the outside but still moist and juicy on the inside with a wonderful complexity of flavors from the basil and tomato.

The pollo chicken manchego dish at Columbia restaurant in Tampa, Florida is part of the dinner menu served with good rice and vegetables
Columbia Restaurant / Pollo Manchego

The grouper “Jimmy” selection from the lunch menu is seasoned and flame-grilled and topped with fresh lump blue crabmeat, and finished with a drizzle of lemon butter sauce. The dish is served with yellow rice topped with green peas and asparagus. The grouper is lightly dusted with seasoning, baked, and each bite of the soft flaky fish with the crabmeat made it feel like you were sitting at a table of royals enjoying only the best of what could be offered. Living in Florida you have many choices in food, but the seafood, in my opinion, is under-rated and when restaurants like Columbia prepare these dishes with Spanish and Caribbean twists, it sends an already fantastic dish over the top.   

The grouper Jimmy lunch dish is topped with jumbo lump crab meat, served with asparagus and yellow rice at the Columbia Restaurant in Tampa, Florida
Columbia Restaurant / Grouper Jimmy

With our entrees, we shared a bottle of the La Val Sur Lies Albariño from the Rias Baixas region of Spain that was a brilliant straw yellow hue with lustrous green sparkles. Intensely aromatic, and at the same time complex and pleasant, mature white fruit, floral, hints of laurel, citrus similar to the grapefruit and a mineral background. A real twist of sensations. While the wine is oxygenated in the mouth, the aromatic sensations perfume the palate with fruit, laurel, and citrus. Vibrant bitterness that provides freshness, flavor, and persistence can only be attributed to the best Albariño’s. According to wine and food experts, it is recommended with baked fish or cooked in sauces, seafood, fresh semi-cured cheeses, foie gras, and white meats.

For dessert, our server recommended the flan made by the pastry chef who has worked there for 30 + years and it was the best we have ever tasted. The original flan recipe for the restaurant dates back to 1935. The Spanish caramel egg custard is prepared the old-fashioned way dating back to the recipes used all over Europe from the 1400s and was introduced to the Americas when Columbus came to America. Other desserts on the menu include a mama guava cheesecake, white chocolate bread pudding, and a chocolate Brazo gitano.

The flan at Columbia restaurant in Tampa, Florida is prepared the old Spanish method and was the best we had ever tasted.
Columbia Restaurant / Spanish Flan

Plus check out some of these wonderful selections from Wine Dine and Play: 

Please see these guidelines for Tipping in Restaurants and on following proper etiquette, customs, cultures, and avoiding assumptions when you dine out.

Wine regulatory’s for the tastings in this article:

“In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is the strength, in the water there are bacteria.” - David Auerbach

European Union: 


Other noteworthy Spanish and Cuban cuisine articles and restaurants similar to Columbia Restaurant
Cuban cuisine is a blend of Native American Taino food, Spanish, African, and Caribbean cuisines. Some Cuban recipes share spices and techniques with Spanish and African cooking, with some Caribbean influence in spice and flavor. This results in a unique, interesting and flavorful blend of the several different cultural influences, with strong similarities with the cuisine of the neighboring Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Chinese influences can also be accounted for, mainly in the Havana area.

Bongos Bar and Grille Eclectic beachfront bistro, Cuban and American cuisine, in St. Pete Beach, Florida 
Tangilo’s Grille A small Cuban centric restaurant with a sidewalk patio in downtown Gulfport, Florida

Spanish cuisine is heavily influenced by regional cuisines and the particular historical processes that shaped culture and society in those territories. Geography and climate had a great influence on cooking methods and available ingredients, and these particularities are still present in the gastronomy of the various regions that make up the country. Popular dishes include Paella, tapas, and Jamón Ibérico charcuterie.

Table 9 Stylish modern Spanish and global cuisine at the Hilton Dubai Creek in Deira Dubai, UAE 
Tapas 218 Cozy tavern severing traditional Spanish small plate cuisine in Canton, Ohio
Vizacaya Restaurante and Tapas Bar Vibrant spot for classic Spanish dishes and tapas in Tampa, Florida

See the whole list by visiting “The Wine Dine and Play Article Glossary

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See the whole list by visiting “The Wine Dine and Play Article Glossary by country

Final notes, review basics, observations, and more pictures:

Most reviews are subjective, depending on the writer; but they should also be responsible, and respectfully written, upholding the truth, and accurately conveying the experience to the best of the writer's knowledge, even if it includes metaphors the restaurant may not like to read about. My ratings are by the stars I award (from 0 to 5). The rating is calculated on a point accumulation of six separate factors based on individual experience. They include wine and other beverage selections, plate presentation, customer service, restaurant or café ambience, food quality, and wow factor. 
To see more details of this rating list, read this article:

Overall from this experience, and the score factors outlined in the ‘about page’ section, based on my individual experience and rating, I give Columbia Restaurant a 5 out of 5 stars, meaning that they not only exceeded my expectations and were far above the average dining experience of most restaurants, but they surpassed outstanding and were extraordinary. The first review score was 3 of 5 stars, so they have improved from my last visit to the Sarasota location.

Scores are detailed in the factor chart below:

Formula Factor Conclusions and Overall Ratings for Columbia Restaurant, Ybor
Max Points Possible:
Total Points Awarded:
Total Points deducted:
Food quality
Plate presentation
Customer service
Alcohol and other beverages
Total regular points awarded
Total percentage — less the Bonus


“Wow” factor BONUS
Total bonus percentage


Total percentage and bonus for a final star rating


Stars Awarded (see chart below)
- 0 - 5

**A full break down and explanation of the observations and point disbursement is available in the linked article above. To receive a detailed copy of your score, feel free to contact me at any time and I will provide it to you.**

Overall Star Rating:
5 of 5 Stars: 
95% Rating with a 1 point “wow” bonus
An Extraordinary Dining Experience
Wine List:
Columbia Restaurant Wine rating:
6 of 10
Old World selections: 

New World selections: 
California, Chile, Argentina, Washington State, Oregon, Australia, 
Andrea Gonzmart Williams
Corkage fees:
Columbia Restaurant does not list any corkage fee’s however, most American restaurants charge $25.00 per bottle
Casual dining
Cuisine Style at Columbia Restaurant:
Cuban, Spanish
Allergen or dietary accommodations: 
Farm to Fork, Gluten-Free, Local, Low Carb, Pescatarian, Sustainable, Vegan Options, Vegetarian
Not Required, But Recommended
Accepted, but not guaranteed
Dress code:
Smart casual attire or casual attire

It’s Florida, everybody wears flip-flops!
Child policy:

The Restaurants reviewed on this site may have a kids menu or cater to them; however, for full enjoyment of food and wine, it is recommended that kids not to be in attendance, unless they have been trained in proper etiquette. 
If not then:
Hire a Babysitter! 
Columbia Restaurant Experiences:
Place for foodies, Contemporary, Modern, Trendy, Lounge, Business parties, Romantic, Hot spot, Great bar, Great outdoor dining, Good for special occasions, Beautiful décor, Rustic, Tourist grabber, and a neighborhood gem.
Cash, Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express
Columbia Restaurant has a public lot or street meter parking
The restaurants reviewed on this site may have Wi-Fi, but do not require you to go online, because the excitement of the food and wine alone will keep you too entertained instead of checking your social media and emails.
Noise level:
Columbia Restaurant is a non-smoking restaurant
Patio or terrace:

Food Prices 
(excludes, alcohol, taxes & 20% gratuity’s)

$£€¥ -                Under 50.00 (inexpensive)
$£€¥ x 2 -          51.00- 99.00 (moderate)
$£€¥ x 3 -          Over 100.00 (pricey)
$£€¥ x 4 -          Over 200.00 (expensive)
$£€¥ x 5 -          Over 400.00 (very expensive)

**Currencies reflect the world’s major travelers, restaurant, or wine connoisseur’s**

United States Dollar (USD)
Great Britain Pound Sterling (GBP)
Canadian Dollar (CAN)
Chinese Yuan (CNY)  
European Union (EUR)

 Alcohol prices:

$72.00 USD

Columbia Restaurant:

2117 East 7th Ave
Tampa, Florida 33605

Contact Information: 

Restaurant website:
Maître d or host:
+1 941 388 3987
Online reservations
Email Us:
Serving hours:
Eastern Standard Time
(GMT, Zulu, or UTC - 5:00)

Sun - Thur
11:00 am - 10:00 pm
Fri - Sat
11:00 am - 11:00 pm 

Social Media 
Accolades for Columbia Restaurant:
Columbia Restaurant Facebook Link                

The world’s best restaurants is a subjective list of who is writing it and changes on a regular basis. The Wine Dine and Play best experiences are based on my highest rated stared restaurants, meaning that the visit was an outstanding or extraordinary experience. From cafés, chains, mom + pops, hole in the walls, to fine dining including a few Michelin spots. Visit the Top 100 page to see the entire list.

A few to tease you with…
Impeccably prepared French fine dining
Dublin, Ireland
Countryside French Bistro
Cheverny, France
New American dining on a restored ship
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Other Columbia Restaurant Pictures:

The entrance to the Columbia Restaurant in Tampa, Florida
Columbia Restaurant / Entrance

The main banquet dining room at the Columbia Restaurant in Tampa, Florida
Columbia Restaurant / Banquet Dining

The wine cellar at the Columbia Restaurant in Tampa, Florida with over 300 bottle selections to choose from
Columbia Restaurant / Wine Cellar

The Cuban bread with fresh herbs at the Columbia Restaurant in Tampa, Florida
Columbia Restaurant / Cuban Bread

The La Val Sur Lies Albariño wine enjoyed with our lunch menu at the Columbia Restaurant in Tampa, Florida
Columbia Restaurant / La Val Sur Lies Albariño

The Free Dive IPA is from a local microbrewery called Copeprtail based in Tampa, Florida
Columbia Restaurant / Free Dive IPA

“Culinary perfection consists not in doing extraordinary things, 
But in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.”
-Angelique Arnauld (1591-1661)

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