If you get near St. Augustine, Florida, make a point to dine at The Columbia Restaurant. Florida’s oldest restaurant, it was founded in 1905 as a café catering to immigrant cigar workers in Ybor City on the west side of Florida.
The restaurant offers a variety of classics. The hot-pressed Cuban sandwich is based on founder Casimiro Hernandez Sr.’s 1915 recipe — crusty Cuban bread, smoked ham, pork loin, salami, Swiss cheese, pickle chips and yellow mustard.
Other items include:
- Queso Fundido: Mild Tetilla cheese baked in a Rioja tomato sauce and served with toasted Cuban bread points
- Empanadas de Picadillo: spiced ground beef, garlic, tomato, onions, raisins and olives wrapped in pastry
- Stuffed Piquillo Peppers: Sweet Piquillo peppers filled with a mushroom, chorizo and Serrano ham filling, baked in an almond pepper sauce and topped with Manchego cheese
- Champiñones Rellenos: Baked Silver Dollar mushrooms stuffed with spinach, artichoke hearts, garlic and cheese.
- Cannelloni de Langosta “7 Portes”: cannelloni pasta filled with Maine lobster meat, shrimp, scallops and shallots blended with a lobster sherry cream reduction and smothered with a lobster sherry Mornay cheese sauce.
- Merluza “Russian Style”: Atlantic Merluza breaded with Cuban bread crumbs, grilled and garnished with a Russian sauce of lemon butter, parsley and hard-boiled eggs.
- Guava Turnover “Carmita”: Guava and cream cheese baked in a pastry and drizzled with vanilla bean sauce.
Visit The Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City, Sarasota, Clearwater Beach, Celebration, Riverwalk Tampa and the Tampa Airport.
Columbia Restaurant history and recipes
Purchase a copy of Andrew Huse’s book, “The Columbia Restaurant: Celebrating a Century of History, Culture, and Cuisine,” for an “indepth-look at the people who made the restaurant great. With a historian’s eye for accuracy and a storyteller’s ear for delicious anecdotes, he traces the fortunes of the Columbia from the founder, Casimiro Hernandez Sr., to his great grandson, fourth generation restraurateur Richard Gonzmart.”
Recipes in the book include:
- Croquetas de Langosta (Lobster Croquettes)
- Garbonzo y Gambas “al Ajillo” (Garbanzos and Shrimp)
- Mejillones y Chorizo “Andres” (Mussels and Chorizo)
- Queso Fundido (Spanish Fondue)
- Caldo Gallego (Turnip Greens Soup)
- Three styles of Paella: “Campesina,” “Marenara” and “Valenciana”