Jorge Castillo: You're talking about the original restaurant in Ybor City – the historic Cuban section of Tampa?
Glenn Lindgren: Yes, what they call "the Gem of All Spanish Restaurants." The day was hot and I started my meal with a great chilled gazpacho. The thick tomato and vegetable puree had a wonderful citrus tang.
Jorge Castillo: There is nothing like gazpacho on a hot day.
Glenn Lindgren: I was in the mood for seafood, and the Red Snapper "Alicante" was just the ticket. The fish was baked in a heavenly Creole sauce of onions, green peppers, roasted almonds, and garlic. And as if this wasn't rich and flavorful enough, the chef added fried eggplant and several shrimp wrapped in bacon. What a feast!
Raúl Musibay: I have had that dish. At the Columbia they call it Shrimp Supreme, a great entrée to order alone.
Glenn Lindgren: My wife was making a meal of the restaurant's signature salad, the 1905. It's a huge salad so I got plenty of bites of this wonderful dish reminiscent of a great Caesar with a strong flavor of garlic, oregano, and Romano cheese.
Jorge Castillo: At the Columbia they smother this salad with strips of ham and Swiss cheese.
Glenn Lindgren: Somehow, we saved room for dessert. We capped off our meal with a delicious slice of creamy guava cheesecake.
Raúl Musibay: And a Cuban coffee?
Glenn Lindgren: No, no coffee. I still hadn't acquired a taste for café Cubano. That came years later.
Jorge Castillo: So much has changed at Ybor City over the years. It's become a lot more theme park and less of an historic site.
Raúl Musibay: The food at the Columbia has not changed – it's still the same.
Glenn Lindgren: They have stuck with the same dishes – why mess up a good thing? The Columbia has expanded with branches in St. Augustine, the Pier in St. Petersburg, Sarasota, and the new community of Celebration, south of Orlando. However the original is still the most historic – they've been serving great food since 1905.
HOURS: Monday through Thursday 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. | Friday and Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. | Sunday noon to 9:00 p.m. | Open 365 days of the year.
PRICES: Entrees $15 and less for lunch | Dinners around $25.
DRESS: Slightly formal.