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Columbian Restaurant in Ybor City Tampa

I'm from New England and will be in Tampa this weekend and the beginning of next week for the Women's Final 4. Someone just invited me to dinner at the Columbian Restaurant. Website menu looks interesting. What do you locals think about it? What are the best things on the menu to order? Paella looks like it's a specialty....

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  1. Well, it's been a long time since I've been to the Columbia, but I've enjoyed myself everytime I've been. For entrees, the paella is good and also ask about seafood specials. For me, though, the most memorable item on their menu is the 1905 (?? - not sure of which year, but you'll know when you see the menu) Salad - if they have it on the menu still. It's a fabulous salad, made tableside with a flair. Hope you enjoy.

    1. The Columbia is a Spanish restaurant, not a Colombian restaurant. I vote for the soups, salads and maybe appetizers only- their main dishes have not impressed me.

      3 Replies
      1. re: rikkikm

        Rikkilm is so right......
        Their main dishes are terrible and I keep saying that the only good think they have is the 1905 salad............

        1. re: rikkikm

          I've had some great entrees there. Just had the Snapper Adelita a couple weeks ago, topped with hearts of palm, artichokes and sun dried tomatoes. I assure you there was nothing shabby about it. The steak chacho is wonderful, with a demi and flabeed in bourbon. You can't go wrong with the salteado--- any meat. I also enjoyed the veal Isabella a while ago. The palomilla is always a winner for lunch or dinner. and the Cuban comboi is hard to beat. The company has been improving their food for the last 10 years, and I'mn often impressed. I had a ho hum experience in St. Augustine, but that is another story...

          I agree that the soups, salads, and tapas are great as well. But I wouldn't shy away from entrees. Try them for lunch if you're unsure. I usually don't go for chicken sandwiches, but theirs is great, with roasted red peppers, etc.

          and be sure to have the bread pudding! It is a gem, just be prepared to share, the portion in huge.

          For drinks, mojitos, the mango tango is a great frozen daquiri thing, which i don't usually care for, but that drink is special. The sangria is good, if a little sweet for me.

          1. re: andy huse

            I also had that snapper dish and it was very good though the snapper was a scoach over cooked. Loved the sauce though.

        2. Definitely have the sangria, which is made tableside (yes, a bit corny) and is delicious. Agree that seafood specials and paella are the way to go; the food isn't stellar, but is quite good, and the atmosphere of the place is interesting.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Miss E

            How does the "branch" in downtown St. Petes compare with the one in Ybor City?
            It's a lot closer for us.

            1. re: fjs08

              You need to go to Ybor . It really is a beautiful restaurant and the decor and feeling of history is needed for a true experience.

          2. I agree with the other three posters. Everyone should go at least once, it is an institution but there are other Spanish/Cuban restaurants that are as good or better. Probably the most frequented is La Teresita on Columbus in Tampa. It is handy to the St. Pete Times Forum where the games are.

            1. The Columbia restaurant is definitely an institution in Tampa. When I go with my parents (I live in MD now, so I only go when I visit), we always order the sangria and the 1905 salad, both made at your table. I try different things every time I go, but half of the experience is the atmosphere. If you can see the flamenco show, that's excellent.

              I love Ropa Vieja. That was the first thing I ordered off the adult menu at age 10. It's now a staple in my diet as an adult.

              Have fun!

              1. Mojitos, 1905 salad, and white chocolate bread pudding. They also make the mojito tableside.

                1. I like the previously mentioned 1905 Salad and White Chocolate Bread Pudding, too. My appetizer faves are the Mussels w/ Chorizo and the Empanadas de Picadillo. I agree that the main courses are somewhat eclipsed by the salads and starters, but there's a Lobster and Shrimp Canneloni with a Lobster Sherry Mornay Cheese Sauce that I really like. Oh, and everything tastes better with a pitcher of Cava Sangria. ;)

                  1. I just had lunch there and among the dishes we thourougly enjoyed were black bean soup, garbanzo soup, empanadas, 1905 salad, and cuban sandwich. The mojitos and sangria were excellent.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: RevrendAndy

                      The RevrendAndy nailed it. I haven't had many of the other dishes on which the posters above have complimented the Columbia. On the sangria--I learned this from a waiter at the branch in Sarasota, so I don't know whether it holds true everywhere--there are two kinds: an inexpensive, cloyingly sweet variety, made with cheap wine and lots of fruit juice, and a much more expensive version, made with a much drier red wine and Spanish brandy (as well as some fruit, etc.), which is absolutely delicious. I think that you have to make a point of asking for the more expensive version or they will just automatically bring you the candy-store variety.

                      1. re: gfr1111

                        Yeah, the kind made with the brandy is much better. Now I'm sad that I can't have it when I go home in a month :-(

                    2. i love the 1905 salad. make it at home, frequently.
                      all protein dishes have come to me in very good proportions and taste.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Shirley U. Jest

                        I am not familiar with the 1905 salad. What is it?

                          1. re: Sinicle

                            Sinicle, here's my guess as to what goes in to a 1905 salad: grated parmesan cheese, salty ham, swiss cheese, tomatoes, iceberg lettuce, green olives, and lemon juice or lime juice squeezed over the salad just before serving. The dressing consists of quite a bit of worcestershire sauce, an even larger amount of finely chopped garlic, a small amount of sugar, extra virgin olive oil (or maybe a blend of EVOO and some other vegetable oil to lighten it up some), wine vinegar or white vinegar, salt and freshly ground pepper. All the vegetables are chopped finely into pieces no more than a half inch wide (or half inch cubed or whatever), except that the swiss cheese is julienned and the parmesan (which is sprinkled over the top) is finely grated.

                            I'm doing this off the top of my head and I hope that I haven't forgotten some vital ingredient (or maybe one that I've never identified!). No doubt the board will know, if I have. It sounds simple and is absolutely delicious. I don't think anyone does it better than The Columbia.

                        1. Definitely, as others have mentioned, the 1905 salad (which I have as my entree), the white sangria ("Sangria Cava"), and garbanzo bean soup. My husband always gets the Palomina steak, a marinated skirt steak, which he loves.

                          1. I love the Columbia. i don't get to down to Tampa much anymore, but every time I do, I go to the Columbia. Try their gespatcho bloody marry for openers. I seem to always go back to the 1905 salad, Boliche (braised eye of round stuffed with chorizo served with a hearty gravy made of the braising liquid and vegtables, black beans and rice and fried plantains), and a couple pitchers of the imported sangria. for dessert, try the bread pudding, and cafe con leche. you can't smoke indoors anymore, but in times past we would always go next door and pick up some cigars rolled on site to enjoy in their beatiful bar while we recoverd from the meal.

                            1. I just wanted to thank all the Tampa area Hounds for their suggestions and opinions. I went to the Ybor City Columbia and certainly enjoyed the decor, the flamenco dancers and the overall genuine ambience. I had the seafood paella and thought it was just okay. My expectations were pretty high though and while it was not terrible, it was definitely not the best paella I've ever had. The 1905 salad was quite good and the Sangria while good, didn't seem to be too alchoholic. Thanks to Chowhounds, I had a woderful lunch at Cafe Dufrain in Harbor Island. An excellent Chilean sea bass, nice atmosphere and impressive presenation. Thanks again to all!

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: chowmensch

                                I forgot to mention this--- paella is noyt my fave there at all. Many of their dishes are far superior than tha paella. Same with chicken and yellow rice--- i like the dish and would order it for lunch, but not for dinner.

                                Had lunch there today and really enjoyed their grilled jumbo shrimp appetizer with their emulsified 1905 salad dressing. sublime!

                                1. re: chowmensch

                                  a little off-topic here, but I thought Terra Sur in Carrollwood had a decent paella. Although it's not something I eat a lot of and do not consider myself an expert on. They have delicious Peruvian/ South American cuisine. Their marinated red onions are to die for and the papas rellena was very good.

                                  1. re: rikkikm

                                    Does anybody have information on a bar called Casablanca, was in ybor city back in the 50's and 60's. Had the best deviled crabs, They were down the street from the columbia?