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October 13, 2011

Liquid Living Magazine

Columbia Restaraunt

Columbia Restaraunt 

2117 East 7th Avenue Tampa , FL 33605
(813) 248-4961


A few words…

Named to Nation’s Restaurant News Fine Dining Hall of Fame.

Earned the “Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DiRoNA) Award of Excellence” in 2005—One of the most prestigious awards in the fine dining industry. An anonymous, independent 75-point inspection of the property is conducted to review the quality of the food, wine, service, physical property and décor.

Named to Florida Trend Magazine’s Golden Spoon Hall of Fame in 2005 – the industry’s highest regional award as “One of the Top 25 Restaurants in Florida .” Named “One of Florida’s Top Restaurants” since 1967.

Named one of Southern Living Magazine’s “Favorite Regional Tastes” for Spanish and Cuban cuisine in the April 2005 “Our Favorites” issue.

Winner of Wine Spectator magazine’s Best of Award of Excellence, 2005 & 2004, for an outstanding collection of Spanish wines (more than 500 wines with an inventory exceeding 30,000 bottles). Also, Award of Excellence issued from 1993-2003.

Awarded Wine Enthusiast magazine’s Award of Ultimate Distinction, 2006 & 2005, given to restaurants that excel on all measures, offering the ultimate experience in wine with imagination and passion.

Chosen “Our Favorite Romantic Restaurant" by the Southern Living Magazine in 2004. Only nine restaurants in the Southeast United States were selected, and Columbia Restaurant was the only restaurant chosen in Florida.

Selected as One of the 50 Best Hispanic Restaurants in the United States by Hispanic magazine in 2004, stating; “ Columbia deserves to be a permanent fixture on this list.”

Honored with a Five Forks rating by the government of Spain as Outstanding Spanish Restaurant In North America .

Received the Epicurean Rendezvous Award for the Finest 100 Restaurants in the U.S.A.

Received the Five Star Diamond Award as one of the Top Ten Spanish Restaurants In The United States by the Academy Awards of the Restaurant Industry.

Named as one of the Top 100 Independent Restaurants by Restaurants and Institutions magazine.

Selected as one of the Top 100 Restaurants in the United States and Canada by Sales & Marketing Management magazine.

Community/Philanthropy Recognition
Richard Gonzmart awarded the National Restaurant Association's 2005 Humanitarian of the Year Award for the State of Florida.

Winner of the National Restaurant Association’s 2003 Restaurant Neighbor Award for the State of Florida.

Winner of the Tampa Bay Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s 2003 Public Spirit Award.

Richard & Casey Gonzmart inducted into the 2003 Tampa Bay Business Hall of Fame.

Winner of the 2001-2002 MassMutual National Family Business of the Year award.


“If you cherish your palate, visit the Columbia . Try the Paella “A la Valenciana,” the Red Snapper “ Alicante ,” and the Pompano en Papillot. Relish the black bean soup and fried ripe plantains. And with every iota of conviction you possess, order the flan. Made in the Cuban style with sweetened condensed milk, this evanescent egg custard tastes like a dream from which you hope to never awaken.” Southern Living - April 2005

"She's a Florida legend, the dowager queen of all restaurants in the state, owned by the same prominent Tampa family for 98 years. In two more years, she'll turn a dignified 100, a proud, powerful lady, still dressed to the nines in priceless antique crystal and colorful Spanish tile and though the menu has changed somewhat with culinary trends, its most popular dishes remain true to the originals. On my most recent visits there, I found a lovely, garlicky version of Cuban-style pork marinated in sour orange sauce, thick and rich Cuban coffee, terrific Spanish bean soup and the smoothest, creamiest flan. The food seems better now than it was a few years ago, maybe due to the new $2-million building that houses a state-of-the-art, 5,000-square-foot kitchen." Weekly Planet - February 27, 2003.

"We started our evening with a couple of Ybor Golds - the beer brewed right in Ybor City - then ordered the generous 1905 Salad (named for the year the Columbia opened) and the restaurant's specialty, paella. Nothing about the Columbia disappointed. Service was gracious and the spirited, colorful, four-woman-one-man flamenco show was thoroughly entertaining. We left in a decidedly Spanish state of mind." The Boston Globe - February 16, 2003.

"In Tampa , the hot spot these days is the restored cigar-making district known as Ybor City . Trendy nightclubs and restaurants make it the place to see and be seen in Tampa Bay . The jewel of Ybor City is the 97-year-old Columbia Restaurant, a Cuban classic and the oldest restaurant in Florida ." Toronto Sun - January 19, 2003.

The Tampa Tribune Lists the 10 Best Tampa Bay Attractions. "3. COLUMBIA RESTAURANT - We know it's cliche, but the grand dame of Spanish food is a must for visitors wanting a local taste and plenty of color. The Columbia Restaurant has been a proud part of Ybor City 's heritage for 97 years. Plan your dinner around performances by flamenco dancers, and be sure to order the classic paella and killer sangria. Bring the whole gang: the restaurant, which is undergoing a $4 million renovation, can seat up to 1,600 people." Tampa Tribune - December 28, 2002.

"The Columbia -- Order a Cuban sandwich, black bean soup or fresh seafood paella and sangria at this Ybor City landmark that's run by fourth- and fifth-generation members of the founding family. Spreading across a full block, the lively restaurant, with gorgeous tilework, serves Spanish cuisine in 11 dining rooms and stages Flamenco shows six nights per week." The Detroit News - December 24, 2002.

"The Columbia Restaurant has grown from a small corner shop opened in 1905 to a 1,660-seat, 11-room restaurant that takes up a city block in Ybor City . Yes, the Orlando area has a Columbia Restaurant in Celebration, but it's worth a trip to visit the original. The Columbia 's newest addition is a 5,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art kitchen. One of the restaurant's main dining rooms, the Don Quixote, is being refurbished to its 1950s decor. Dinner entrees are priced from $15 to $24.95." Orlando Sentinel - December 1, 2002.

"My own favorite place in town is the Columbia Restaurant, which opened in 1905, has been run by the same family ever since and has slowly gobbled up real estate till it now covers an entire block of La Septima. Said to be Florida 's oldest restaurant, it is filled with history and irresistible kitsch. You enter on 21st Street and see the same ornately carved, arched mirror behind the bar that has greeted visitors since Teddy Roosevelt was president. The Columbia seats 1,600 diners. The menu is Spanish, and, according to Mr. Gozmart, the restaurant is the largest seller of Spanish wines outside Spain ." New York Times - November 17, 2003 .

The Columbia Restaurant on St. Armands Circle in Sarasota has the best Spanish cuisine I've come across on these shores." Minneapolis Star Tribune - November 17, 2002.

"A few remnants of the old guard remain in Ybor City , including the Columbia Restaurant, which opened in 1905 with just one room. Through the years, it has expanded to take over an entire city block with 11 dining rooms that can hold more than 1,600 people. Have dinner there not just because of the history, not just because the food is good, but because you can enjoy your meal while watching a flamenco show. The dancers are terrific." Boston Herald - November 7, 2002.

"These days, Columbia can easily rest on its fame to draw a crowd, but surviving for so many years has actually required a delicate balance of maintaining traditions and changing with the times. Over the years, the Hernandez Gonzmart clan has learned some valuable lessons: keep the menu fluid, maintain the traditional style and atmosphere, and foster a personalized management style." Restaurant Business - September 1, 2002.

"Florida's oldest restaurant (1905) retains its youth thanks to the present generations of the founding Gonzmart family always looking for ways to improve - and to expand with spinoffs across the state. Lunch and dinner." Florida Trend - Top 250 Restaurants in Florida - February, 2001.

"Best one (meal) I had (in Tampa ) was at Columbia Restaurant down in Ybor City, 95-year-old restaurant. They tell me it's the oldest restaurant in the city. Cuban food. It's--it's far superior-highly superior." Bryant Gumbel - CBS The Morning Show - January 29, 2001.

"For those who prefer something besides steak in Tampa, it's a short cab ride over to Ybor City, where the Columbia, old and charming, reminds potential customers that is was "voted the best Spanish restaurant in Tampa Bay." Its seafood paella with a pitcher of sangria justifies those votes." New York Times - January 28, 2001.

"Columbia Restaurant exudes both Old World Spanish and Cuban traditions. Since 1905, the Gonzmart family has run nightly (except Sunday) Flamenco shows to entertain the families, high-profile locals and tourists who pack the eatery all week. Columbia 's Ybor branch (there are 5 other locations) can't be missed since it takes up a whole block on Ybor City 's Seventh Avenue ." USA Today - January 26, 2001

"You can throw a dart at a map of the historical district that is Ybor City , and the odds are good you will hit a fine restaurant. Maybe the best is Columbia ( East 7th Avenue at 21st Street ), which features fine Spanish food with a Cuban influence and fine flamenco dancing, as well." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - January 21, 2001.

"Fiery Flamenco dancers and spicy Spanish dishes make any visit to the original Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City a memorable feast of food and frivolity. Open since 1905, this culinary landmark is best known for its seafood-rich Paella a la Valenciana; a signature 1905 Salad, tossed fresh table-side; and fruit-filled sangria. For lunch try a tasty Cuban sandwich and café con leche. The gorgeous restaurant houses 11 dining rooms and a Cigar Bar Café pulsing with the rhythms of live jazz." Spirit Airlines "Skylights" - January 2001.

"Another oldtimer in the market, indeed, the pioneer of the market, is the internationally renowned Columbia restaurant. A 1989 inductee into the Nation's Restaurant News Hall of Fame, the Columbia opened in 1905 and is capitalizing on Tampa 's growing affluence and influence to broaden its market base. Today, Columbia is the crown jewel of Ybor City , a 1,600-seat beehive with another 200 seats coming. Gonzmart estimates the kitchen expansion and the additional seats will be a $1.5 million to $2 million upgrade. Boasting one of the state's most respected wine cellars -- particularly Spanish wines -- the Columbia serves up a Spanish and Cuban cuisine and has stuck to its roots in selling some 10,000 cigars a month." Nation's Restaurant News - 50 Cities that Sizzle Issue - January 2001.

"By offering a consistently excellent product, outstanding service (the average server has been with the restaurant for 15 years), and with steadfast allegiance to the welfare of the local community, Richard Gonzmart, Casimiro's great-grandson, has maintained a world famous institution." Boston Globe, November 19, 2000.

"Look at any travel guide to Tampa and somewhere the Columbia Restaurant will appear, noted as a city landmark and an award-winning restaurant. Occupying a whole city block, its menu boast Cuban and Spanish specialties. The Red Snapper Alicante is still a popular dish, closely followed by the Paella Valenciana." Named as One of the 50 Best Hispanic Restaurants in the U.S. by Hispanic Magazine - September 2000.