Tuesday – February 25, 2014
Another day of adventure begins on a warm, sunny day here at E.G. Simmons Park in Ruskin, Florida. We visited Ybor City in Tampa, Florida today and had lunch at the Columbia restaurant. This is one of our favorite restaurants there. On our last visit in the late 1990’s, we had dinner at the Columbia and were entertained with a floorshow featuring Flamenco dancers.
Just prior to our arrival at the restaurant, a tour bus had arrived; blocking part of the street in front of the restaurant to drop off a large group of senior citizens that would have lunch there. It took only a few minutes for the hostess to seat the tour bus group, before we were seated at our table.
Sharon and I had one of their specialties, the Cuban Sandwich. This sandwich was featured on the Food Networks "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" program in September 2013. The sandwich is comprised of a special sauce that is spread on two pieces of french bread, then filled with layers of ham, other meats and swiss cheese. The sandwich is then heated in a hot press and served warm. Delicious!
In the late 1800’s Tampa’s Ybor City was becoming home to Cuban immigrants looking for a new homeland. Casimiro Hernandez, Sr. was among that group. In 1905, he opened a corner café which was frequented by local cigar workers. In honor of his new homeland, he named his café the "Columbia, Gem of the Ocean."
Through the years, local residents and tourists have visited the Columbia for its delicious cuisine as well as its lavish décor, part of which includes hundreds of hand-painted tiles depicting the fanciful world of Don Quixote.
Now in its fourth and fifth generation of family ownership and operation, it is the oldest restaurant in Florida and the largest Spanish restaurant in the world. More than 100 years later, the tradition of the Columbia Restaurant continues. The original restaurant in Ybor City seats more than 1,700 in fifteen dining rooms.
We completed a delightful visit toYbor City, with a vow to return much sooner than on our previous visit.
Tomorrow another adventure begins.