Monday, October 5, 2009

Columbia Restaurant: Ybor City

A couple weeks ago I was showing some friends from Austria around the Tampa area and was very lucky when we stumbled upon Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City. I had heard a little about how good the restaurant was but had no idea how great it would actually turn out.

Columbia Restaurant was founded in 1905 when Colombian immigrants were making their home in Tampa's Ybor City. It is the oldest restaurant in all of Florida and has grown to become the largest Spanish restaurant in the world. The large dining rooms are extremely beautiful and very authentic. It did not take long before the atmosphere had me feeling like I was vacationing in Spain again as I sipped on my Sangria.

I know that I normally blog about attractions in the area that are cheap or free but this dining experience is worth every penny! I ordered the Boliche "Criollo" which is "Roasted eye round of beef stuffed with chorizo and roasted in flavorful gravy." The food was absolutely amazing! The beef practically fell apart in my mouth and was so full of flavor. I was very surprised by how much I loved something as simple as the black beans, rice, and plantos that came as a side dish with my meal. I also had the chance to try the Pampano en Papillot. The dish is described as a "boneless fillet of Pompano with seafood stuffing of shrimp, crab meat, artichoke, butter and white wine, wrapped in parchment paper and baked". I will admit that I am not a big fan of seafood, but I would order this dish in a heartbeat if given the opportunity. If the entrees were any indicator of how good the deserts would turn out to be, then I definitely wish I would have saved room for desert!

For those that are looking for more than just a dining experience, Columbia Restaurant Ybor also touts a cigar bar, live music and nightly traditional Flamenco Dancing shows Monday through Saturday. If you can't make it out to Ybor, Columbia also has locations in St. Petersburg, Sarasota, Celebration, St. Augustine, and Clearwater Beach.

If you are coming to visit the Tampa Bay area and are looking for things to do or live in the Tampa area and have never experienced this "Gem of Spanish Restaurants", I highly recommend doing so! Your taste buds will thank me...

You can find more information at the Columbia Restaurant Website.

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