The Family-Owned Columbia Eatery: Florida’s Oldest Restaurant Creates a lovely Background To Suit Your Intimate Minutes

The Short variation: Since 1905, the Columbia eatery provides offered Spanish and Cuban-inspired dishes and products that signify a long-standing family history. Started by a Cuban immigrant in Tampa, the Columbia remains an area favorite simply because of its traditional foods and personable solution. Through the years, individuals from world-wide attended into attractive bistro to commemorate engagements, wedding anniversaries, birthdays, also monumental minutes. Today, the fourth and 5th generations on the household is the owner of and works 13 various restaurants throughout Fl. If you’re searching for great dining with a decent antique family sense, you’ll be able to reserve a table inside the stunning and romantic food rooms associated with Columbia eatery.


Over the past 30 years, my family’s preferred vacation destination is an oceanfront lodge in Sand Key, Florida. We have gone truth be told there over several instances to create sand castles, spot whales, and eat tasty meals on patios ignoring the gulf.

There is thoroughly discovered the town’s bistro variety, searching out the most readily useful neighborhood bones around, nonetheless it only therefore occurs that one cafe we all enjoy many is within strolling length of our own resort. The Columbia eatery’s white linen tablecloths, conscious solution, and mouth-watering food allow it to be our very own go-to place for dinner.

Once we happened to be children, my personal moms and dads would order us a mozzarella cheese pizza pie even though they visited this enchanting Spanish bistro alone; however, we have now enjoy tapas and drink as much while they would, so we’ve begun crashing their unique date night — often getting along dates your very own.

Since 1905, the Columbia Restaurant features wowed clients with Spanish and Cuban meals and an old-world atmosphere. Although it’s the oldest bistro in Fl, the organization still is operated from the descendants of this original founder. Every item throughout the menu has actually a tale behind it, and lots of for the dishes have already been passed from one generation of this Hernandez Gonzmart household to the next. Family members heritage is a huge area of the Columbia’s menu, background, and method of solution.

“The staff can slightly like household,” said Michael Kilgore, the Chief promotion Officer for your Columbia. “Many of our workers stay for 20 or 30 years. One of many things we love about our team is actually the length of time they stay with us. They show up right here and locate a house.”

You may enjoy this comfy and inviting environment on your after that night out by going to any of the Columbia’s seven different restaurants. The Columbia Restaurant at this time acts guests in Tampa, Sarasota, St. Augustine, Clearwater Beach, and party. Whether you are sipping wine on a picturesque balcony or seeing flamenco performers illuminate the stage although you take in tapas, you’re certain to have a remarkable evening from the Columbia.

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

The Columbia eatery can track the history back once again to Dec. 17, 1903 — alike time the Wright brothers successfully tested globally’s very first plane. Which was when a Cuban immigrant called Casimiro Hernandez Sr. started working a saloon for a regional brewing company in Tampa’s Ybor City.

In 1905, the industrious business owner switched the saloon into a prominent 60-seat cafe known for its authentic Cuban coffee-and snacks. Soon after their success, Casimiro ordered a cafe or restaurant next door and converted it into a gorgeous living area. In 1930, his daughter got more than ownership and process of the thriving bistro.

Throughout Great anxiety, their son Casimiro Jr. built the first air-conditioned kitchen in Tampa. He hoped its upscale look and raised party floor would draw individuals to the cafe that assist all of them forget about their own fears for a night. The Don Quixote Room was actually a winner, plus the Columbia surely could keep its doorways available even though many additional companies collapsed.

In 1953, Casimiro Jr. passed the Columbia to his only son or daughter, Adela Hernandez Gonzmart, an experienced musician that has satisfied her partner, Cesar Gonzmart, from the Tampa restaurant. This theatrical set introduced enjoyment and art with the Columbia, establishing a showroom that hosted numerous talented Latin dancers and artists. Under Adela and Cesar’s authority, the Columbia extended to Sarasota also areas in Fl.

Now, certainly one of Adela and Cesar’s two sons has had the reins and kept his family members’ business heading. Richard Gonzmart was operating at his family’s restaurants since he had been 12 years of age, therefore he’s thoroughly knowledgeable about its atmosphere and record. Richard can point out the dining table during the Columbia eatery where the guy and his awesome partner had their first date more than 43 years back.

“there’s lots of romance right here, therefore have actually a great story,” mentioned Michael. “under 15 restaurants in the United States are family-owned and more than 100 years old, therefore we’re in pretty elite company.”

Florida’s oldest bistro provides a happy and enduring history rooted in food, family, and fun. Michael informed all of us the 5th generation from the founding family members happens to be being groomed to take control one day. Richard’s daughters and nephew took on energetic management parts on restaurants and therefore are willing to keep consitently the family practice going for additional years to come.

The Columbia is known with a few in the greatest awards into the cafe business, including induction into country’s Restaurant Information’ “Fine dinner Hall of popularity,” gained the “notable Restaurants of the united states (SiRoNA) Award of Excellence,” Fl Trend’s “Golden Spoon Hall of popularity,” and Wine Spectator’s “good Award of Excellence.”

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

The Columbia Restaurant establishes a lavish table and gives a wonderful getting away from everyday life. It seduces the senses as soon as you walk-in the doorways. You’re surrounded by greenery, water fountains, and artwork just like the sounds of laughter as well as the scents of new fish and shellfish meals waft through the atmosphere. Before my purchase even gets to me, my mouth area is definitely watering with anticipation. Luckily, each visitor gets his/her own newly generated loaf of Cuban bread, thus I have actually one thing to fulfill my preferences while we wait.

The 14-page menu is filled with good food but additionally supplies simple talk beginners for daters simply learning one another. Each entrée, appetizer, and dessert boasts an enticing description and interesting history details. By way of example, the cafe’s coconut ice cream had been a preferred of ice-cream entrepreneur Gustavo Hernandez, the next boy in the original Columbia founder, and today this nice plate is actually supported in the respect.

From vegetarian paella (Spanish rice combined with satisfying greens) for the shrimp supreme (shrimp wrapped in wafer-thin bacon), the foods within Columbia are bursting with flavor. The shareable dishes, labeled as tapas, get this bistro ideal for couples on a romantic date since you will come closer together by discussing little dishes of empanadas, sliced chorizo, croquetas, or stuffed peppers. It is simple to make a budget-friendly food by buying many of these appetizers collectively — remember to save lots of area for treat!

The Très Amigos churros would be an excellent selection for couples since they are tactile, nice, and simply only a little dirty. You’ll be able to drop the piping-hot churros in candy, caramel, or guava sauce generally there’s a little something for everybody. Plus, Columbia’s signature light Chocolate Bread Pudding is an indulgent treat ideal for splitting with a night out together who may have a taste for white candy and rum sauce.

In 2017, the Marriott Traveler blog called the Columbia eatery among St. Augustine’s leading date-night spots, promoting partners to “focus on Columbia’s popular 1905 Salad, assembled table-side with a lot panache, then discuss an enormous plate on the Paella a la Valenciana, overflowing with shellfish, aromatic rice, and chorizo.”

Your own intimate night will be-all the more enjoyable should you combine 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 would be to perish for. Really, it comes of the glass but you can also split a pitcher of white or purple sangria with a date to improve the dinner knowledge. Generously large slices of fruit float inside the wine and infuse it with wealthy types. Whether you are buying this traditional sangria or the restaurant’s family wines, the high-caliber beverages usually do not let you down.

Michael told you the group helps make an attempt available inexpensive however top quality wines to whet guests’ appetites. “our very own wine selection should always be perfectly fitted to the meals we serve along with your price,” the guy said.

Countless partners & Families Have Shared specialized Moments Here

When i believe associated with the Columbia, I think for the evening we made a decision to have treat for supper, and my moms and dads ordered churros, essential lime pie, mango mousse cake, white chocolate loaves of bread pudding, and five spoons. I think of my twin-brother attempting grouper the very first time on all of our twentieth birthday and claiming excitedly, “Take my photo” because the guy wished to reveal their girl (that is now their partner) which he liked taking fish whenever she performed.

In so many ways, the Columbia feels as though all of our location, but my children is not the sole household to possess produced memories only at that bistro and its six sister areas across Fl. People started to the bistro after all phases of existence because it supplies an unique atmosphere that pairs really with any occasion.

Notoriously, Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio happened to be regular friends with the Columbia in early 1950s. The Columbia staff members paid tribute to your few additionally the loving recollections they shared from the restaurant by naming a dish after all of them. The Marilyn & Joe “Salteado” — a sautéed blend of tenderloin tips, boneless chicken, shrimp, and chicken — is actually a delicious reminder on the extended reputation for love in the Columbia’s eating areas.

Whether you are going on a primary time or honoring a marriage anniversary, you will discover closeness and enthusiasm flourish in the soft candlelight in the Columbia eatery.

“its our targets,” Michael stated, “for people feel as if the Columbia is the place to come quickly to commemorate life’s milestones.”

The Columbia Restaurant has group Values for the Table

The Columbia Restaurant charms daters with genuine meals, divine atmospheres, and friendly solution. The hosts, at the least at the Columbia in Sand Key, look closely at their particular visitors and are fast to state “Welcome right back” to devoted consumers exactly who, like my loved ones, are returning to the stylish eating rooms time and again.

This long-standing eating organization has actually grown and changed through the entire years, but it hasn’t forgotten its century-long family members origins. Richard features committed intends to offer diners and daters throughout Fl in years into the future. “All of our holder doesn’t rest,” Michael mentioned with a laugh. “He’s always thinking right up new things.”

The Columbia staff intends to start at the least two brand new restaurants for the coming decades. One will end up being easily positioned correct across the street from original Columbia in Tampa. Casa Santo Stefano, set-to start in autumn 2018, pay homage to a tiny village in Sicily in which a lot of Tampa’s Sicilian immigrants arrived from — the real menu aims to deliver these people a tasty reminder of residence.

Enduring leadership and top quality styles make the Columbia Restaurant as well as its brother restaurants really impressive spots where singles and lovers can invest an evening together with those they like greatest.