The oldest restaurant in Florida is still pretty exciting- Columbia Restaurant (Spanish/Cuban, Tampa, Ybor City)

A few weeks ago my parents were visiting South Florida (staying up in Delray Beach) and they had made their return flights to Portland from Tampa. My aunt and uncle had just moved to Tampa from Antigua so it was a great chance to see them. I drove my parents from Delray to Tampa Saturday morning and then came back Sunday afternoon to Miami. Obviously not a ton of time to see much, but I did enjoy walking along their Riverwalk and also getting dinner in Ybor City.

My aunt and uncle made reservations at the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City for their dinner show featuring flamenco dancing. Coincidentally one of my friends had suggested checking out the restaurant when he heard I was going to Tampa, so I was excited to go. The restaurant opened in 1905 (making it supposedly the oldest restaurant in Florida) and sits in a huge, historical building in Ybor City. While we waited to be seated I checked out a lot of the intricate tile work, stained glass, and antique chandeliers (see pics below). Inside there are numerous different rooms each with their own feel and “theme.”

The restaurant is Spanish/Cuban and it had a lot of Spanish tapas that I’m used to from Miami. There were then a lot of different meat, chicken, and fish dishes. I would say it reminded me of a Spanish restaurant than the typical Cuban restaurant in Miami, but I did notice some Cuban usuals like the ropa vieja. Excitingly they had a gluten-free menu that denoted everything gluten-free on the regular menu. They also had paellas, which were all gluten-free.

I went for a glass of sangria and the paella Campesina, which has beef tenderloin, pork, chicken, chorizo, and green beans. My parents both went for the paella a la Valencia, which has a lot of different seafoods, meats, and vegetables, while my aunt and uncle went for seafood (can’t remember what type exactly).

I really enjoyed my paella. It had great flavor from both the meats and sauce and I enjoyed how “saucy” it was. One thing I would change is that I’m not a huge green bean fan. I figured I’d have a couple, but it came out with A LOT of green beans. Knowing that now I’d ask for it with no green beans the next time. Despite that the paella and the meat was awesome and get a big recommendation from me. My parents were similarly happy with their paella and we knew why my aunt and uncle liked this restaurant so much, even after just three months of living in Tampa.

The flamenco dancing was an interesting add to the evening. I hadn’t seen flamenco dancing very much in person, so it was a good experience to check off. Some of the routines (especially the one with more stomping and clapping) I found pretty interesting. While I might not seek out flamenco dancing on its own, it was a nice addition to the great dinner and overall experience/atmosphere of the Columbia.

If you’re in Tampa I highly recommend visiting the Columbia. It’s an awesome space (very interesting in it’s own right) with a lot of delicious Spanish/Cuban food to choose from. If you’re from a place where that cuisine is not as common it’s definitely worth a try and Columbia is a great representation. The Columbia is also in the middle of Ybor City, which is a really cool neighborhood of Tampa to check out. I didn’t have the opportunity to explore too much, but that’s at the top of my list next time. Take a look at some of the pics of the restaurant (although unfortunately some are a bit dark) and the food below.

The Columbia Restaurant- 2217 East 7th Avenue Tampa, FL (with other locations across Florida)





The dining room for the flamenco performance
One of the entrances

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