Last month, I had a business trip in Tampa, Florida, so I snuck in a day early to spend 24 amazing hours with my friend Anna. I'll recap the rest of our adventures soon, but I wanted to kick off with our dinner out at Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City.
I'd never heard of Columbia before, but everyone I talked to who ever lived in the Tampa (or even Florida) area knew what I was talking about when I mentioned it. The first think I thought when we got there was, "Where did they get all of this Spanish tile?" That is, the colorful tiles absolutely transported me back to Sevilla.
Columbia was founded 110 years ago in 1905 by Cuban immigrant Casimiro Hernandez, Sr. It claims to be Florida's oldest restaurant, and the largest Spanish restaurant in the world. Now the restaurant has multiple outlets, but the Ybor City location is the original. And when you step inside, you can see why... they just don't build restaurants like this anymore!
No girls' night is complete without some beautifully colored cocktails, right? Anna had the sangria, while I sipped the El Floridita daiquiri. I've been a daiquiri girl all these years, and I never knew it! This one had a splash of grapefruit, which is my favorite cocktail addition these days.
Our dinner at Columbia was different for me... because I don't eat salad (or very many veggies, truthfully), and they're absolutely famous for their 1905 Salad, which has iceberg lettuce and julienne of baked ham, Swiss cheese, tomato, olives, Romano cheese, and a garlic dressing. At Anna's behest, I ordered the small side salad, which was actually huge, but quite tasty. While I skipped the olives, I managed to eat half of it. And to those who know me, that's saying something about this salad! I'd never to date eaten more than a weak-hearted bite of any salad ever, and here I ate a serving.
Anna made sure there was photographic evidence, which I promptly texted to my family so they would believe me. I also texted them an "after" shot of the plate, but I'll spare you because it's ridiculous.
For my main dish, I had the delicious Pollo Manchego. (By the way, the menu is extensive and there's so much to pick! I could go back a half dozen times and never be bored!) The dish was boneless, breaded chicken breast with grated Spanish Manchego cheese. I loved the flavor from the sun-dried tomatoes, basil, and citrus sauce. HUGE portions too!
I was feeling indulgent having so much fun with Anna, so I insisted that we splurge on dessert. We had the delectable White Chocolate Bread Pudding, which is made with Cuban sandwich bread and Florida eggs and cream. It was THE BOMB. We couldn't even finish it. I would pick this every time. Dang, I love bread pudding. It just melted in your mouth.
I'm so glad that Anna got us a reservation for dinner at this place. I hear they also have flamenco dancers sometimes! It was truly the kind of meal that feels like you've been transported back in time, to another place. I loved Columbia Restaurant!