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“Go For the Food, Tolerate the Service”

Columbia Restaurant
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Ranked #10 of 2,490 Restaurants in Tampa
Certificate of Excellence
Price range: $15 - $40
Cuisines: Cuban, Spanish
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Good for: Business meetings, Special occasions, Large groups, Romantic, Local cuisine
Dining options: Late Night, Lunch, Dinner, Breakfast, Delivery, Reservations
Dining style: Casual Dining
Neighborhood: Historic Ybor
Cross street: 21st street
Description: Open 365-days a year, including all holidays. Serving lunch & dinner daily. Reservations accepted. In addition to award-winning Spanish/Cuban cuisine, the Columbia features flamenco dance performances nightly, Monday - Saturday. The Hernandez Gonzmart family has been making restaurant history since 1905 when they opened their landmark Columbia Restaurant, which today is Florida's Oldest RestaurantSM. Today, 4th & 5th generation family members work hard to preserve the family's legacy that their great-grandfather Casimiro Hernandez, Sr. created over 113 years ago when he opened the Columbia as a corner café frequented by local cigar workers. Casual attire is fine, but we don't allow sleeveless shirts on men. Our guests enjoy many of the same century-old family recipes that have made the Columbia famous like Paella "a la Valenciana," Snapper "Alicante," and the Original Cuban Sandwich. Don't miss Columbia's Original "1905" Salad(R), prepared tableside.
Reviewed March 14, 2013

I was solo, so I ate at the bar. The chorizos were a fantastic appetizer and the Grouper a la Rusa was excellent. The breading on the grouper was not too heavy and served to keep the fish tender and hold the flavors. I would not recommend the mojito for a cocktail. It is authentic, but way too sweet and flat, since they don't use soda.
The service, even at the bar, was very bad. They were great when my food arrived and when they were handing me (finally) my check, but otherwise I was actively ignored. The male bartender needed to hear each order several times. Several of us at the bar were laughing about it at first, but it really slowed things down -- and that's when he favored us with his attention.
Still, if you're not in a hurry, the food is so good it's worth the poor treatment.

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    • Food
Thank rugbyroadster
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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3,917 - 3,921 of 4,824 reviews

Reviewed March 13, 2013

We visited The Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City, Tampa, Florida recently and arrived around 11:30 a.m. It is a very large restaurant with many dining rooms. The decor is beautiful between the dark wood throughout and the tiled walls. We were seated immediately and there were a few diners seated as well. Between the time we were seated and shortly after 12:00 p.m., the restaurant filled up and this was a Tuesday lunch hour so seemed to be a very popular spot. There were many waiters throughout the restaurant and we were waited on and served very promptly. I had the Roast Pork Cubana (on wonderful Cuban bread) and my husband had the Mahi Mahi en Papillot (mahi mahi with crab wrapped and cooked in parchment paper). Both were delicious. We wished we had been able to return during our time in the Tampa area but will visit again the next time we are in town.

Parking is very convenient to the restaurant and is just across 7th Street from the restaurant. As a part of visiting The Columbia Restaurant, we took a stroll up and down 7th Street which is the main avenue of Ybor City and it was very fun and interesting to see.

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Thank BarbatMSU
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 13, 2013

We've been to different Columbia locations in the last few years and this one is special. The service was great, not overwhelming and just a treat for a late, lazy lunch. We ordered an array of appetizers and made our own creations; the chorizo was very good if a tad overcooked but the ambiance and the rest of the meal along with the wonderful salad more than made up for that. The wine selection was good and varied; and the bar is amazing! We were there quite late for lunch as we were on vacation and there was never a sense of rushing or anything other than a lovely experience. We had friends who didn't come with us but instead went to a burger place nearby and didn't have a good experience at all - next time, they'll go to the Columbia I think after our nice experience.

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Thank Sherry L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 12, 2013

I joined TripAdvisor just so I could write this review on my experience at the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City. I read the reviews here on Trip Advisor and other places- good and bad. Decided it was worth the risk and made a reservation on their web site which is really a link to the Open Table reservation system.

Here is what the confirmation screen looked like:

--------Complete Your Reservation at Columbia Restaurant - Ybor City
Wednesday, March XX, 2013 at X:30 PM for 4
Message about reservations on this Day:
This restaurant takes reservations for lunch, dinner only, and dinner and the show, please specify in the special requests section below which reservation your looking for.
Special Requests: Yes, we would like to be seated for dinner and show. -------

We completed the reservation, showed up promptly for our reservation and checked in with the hostess. We were told it would be a few minutes so we took a seat and watched as people filtered in to also check in and/or place to-go orders. If you are worried about the dress code; don't; It's safe to say one cannot under dress here but most people looked very respectable.

After a short wait, we were called up to the hostess stand and directed to follow another hostess to our table. We marched right past the flamenco show stage into an adjacent room. We mentioned that we had made reservations for "dinner and show" and she was ready with- "I don't know what's wrong with the system... this keeps happening...I'm going to tell my manager" but she was clear in saying we would not be seated in the show room. Instead we were seated at a round table that could easily seat 8 (we were a party of 4).

With the sound of dancers booing from the dancing in the next room, we awkwardly sat down. It took about 30 seconds to realize I should have heeded the negative reviews regarding service and experience. All was not lost, we wandered down 7th Street, found a great Cuban restaurant and enjoyed a great time in Ybor.

My advice is not to use Open Table when making a reservation at the Columbia Restaurant and to be sure and directly call the restaurant and make clear you want to reserve a table for "dinner and show". If you take the time to read their web site, you will also find the same admonition. I cannot comment on the quality of food or drinks.

Emptor Caveat when dining at the Columbia.

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1  Thank RSS955
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
guestservices1905, Public Relations Manager at Columbia Restaurant, responded to this reviewResponded March 14, 2013

Thank you for taking the time to let us know about the problem you had with our online reservation service. I am going to share your comments with one of our managers to find out how to make the reservation form clearer. We apologize for letting you down when you visited us.

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 11, 2013

A really amazing restaurant. I had the signature salad and the paella. Both were excellent, the atmosphere is beautiful as well as the architecture, and the service was excellent. Finished off dinner with the flan. I can't wait to get back.

Thank JJHenley
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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