Columbia Cafe

As the home of the first Columbia Cafe, The Tampa Bay History Center is proud to partner with the historic and critically-acclaimed Columbia Restaurant.

The Columbia Cafe, in the Tampa Bay History Center on the Tampa Riverwalk, creates the charm and flavor of the original Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City. The Cafe offers a sampling of the Spanish-and Cuban-inspired dishes that made the 109-year-old restaurant famous.

The Cafe is open daily from 11am to 9pm. Call 813-229-5511 for more information. Downloadable Menu

Founded in 1905 by Cuban immigrant Casimiro Hernandez Sr., The Columbia of Ybor City is Florida’s Oldest Restaurant, and the largest Spanish restaurant in the world. Menu favorites include: Spanish Bean Soup, Columbia’s Original “1905” Salad,® Chicken and Yellow Rice “Ybor,” The Original Cuban Sandwich, Café con Leche and Flan.

Today, all six Columbia locations – including the Columbia Cafe at the Tampa Bay History Center − are owned and operated by 4th and 5th generation members of the Hernandez Gonzmart family.

The family’s seventh location, Columbia Restaurant Cafe at Tampa International Airport is operated in partnership with HMSHost.

The chairs in the Cafe at the History Center were originally used in the Don Quixote dining room at the Columbia Restaurant’s original Ybor City location. They date back to 1935 when the Don Quixote was built. The Don Quixote room at the Columbia was Tampa’s first “dining room” and helped the restaurant gain prominence for fine dining. It was also Tampa’s first air-conditioned dining room!

The chairs were made in pre-World War II Czechoslovakia. In 2005, they were placed in storage and renovated for use at The Columbia Cafe at Tampa Bay History Center. Inside the Columbia Restaurant Cafe, guests can dine at a scaled down version of the original Brunswick bar, built over a century ago in 1905 at Columbia Ybor City.

Popular Choices from the Cafe menu include the following:

Ybor City Devil Crabs
An Ybor City favorite of spicy Blue Crab mixed with Cuban cracker crumbs, paprika, onions, peppers and garlic, then breaded and fried golden brown.

Scallops “Casimiro”
Fresh scallops baked in a clay casserole with lemon butter and topped with seasoned bread crumbs and white wine.

Columbia’s Original “1905” Salad ®
The Columbia’s legendary salad of crisp iceberg lettuce with julienne of baked ham, Swiss cheese, tomato, olives, grated Romano cheese and our famous garlic dressing (our 100-year-old family recipe of fresh garlic, oregano, wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil).

Spanish Bean Soup
The soup that made the Columbia famous. Garbanzos, smoked ham, chorizo and potatoes simmered in a delicious ham stock.

Black Bean Soup
Frijoles Negros expertly prepared. Served over white rice and topped with diced Spanish onions. 100% vegetarian.

Popular Choices from the Cafe menu include the following:

Cuban sandwich
The Cuban sandwich is a Tampa treasure. The “Mixto,” as it was known in the beginning, was created in the late 1890s for the cigar workers as they walked to and from work. The sandwiches underwent changes as immigrants from different countries came to Ybor City. The City of Tampa was like the sandwich, a mixture of cultures and food. The Spanish brought the fine ham, the Sicilians the Genoa salami, the Cubans the Mojo marinated Roast Pork, the Germans the Swiss Cheese, pickle and mustard. Put it all together between sliced, freshly baked Tampa Cuban bread from La Segunda Central Bakery and life is great. Today, we are using the original 1915 recipe of Casimiro Hernandez, Sr. – using the same proportions of meat with each ingredient layered on top of one another, with the Cuban bread brushed with butter on top, pressed to a crispy finish.

Popular Choices from the Cafe menu include the following:

Chicken and Rice Ybor
The traditional dish from Tampa’s Ybor City: One quarter chicken baked with yellow rice, green peppers, onions and tomatoes, spices and virgin olive oil. Served with Cuban bread and butter.

Mahi Mahi “Cayo Hueso”
Boneless fillet of Mahi Mahi marinated in citrus juices and grilled. Served with yellow rice, platanos and mojo.

Popular Choices from the Cafe menu include the following:

Spanish egg custard

White Chocolate Bread Pudding
The favorite of Richard and Casey Gonzmart’s father, Cesar. Made with white chocolate and topped with a rich Bacardi Rum Sauce.