Yes, our goal was lunch at the Columbia.
Yes, the Columbia is the oldest restaurant in Florida.
Yes, the Columbia is the largest Spanish restaurant in the world.
… and yes, everyone in Florida and the world seemed to be eating at the Columbia that Sunday. Seriously, I have eaten in hundreds (probably thousands) of restaurants and I have never, EVER seen a longer wait line. Not even at Grand Luxe, a place where you can actually do most of your Christmas shopping between giving the hostess your name and actually getting seated. The line outside of the Columbia, stretched down the entire blog and someone said she had already been waiting an hour …
So, sadly, we left. We headed over to the history museum (where our new friend Henry was docent) and ate at the Columbia “branch” cafe. The food was the same, but the room was open, airy and contemporary and for some reason I took no pictures. So much for old world Tampa ambiance.
The Columbia signature dish is their 1905 salad, named for the year the restaurant first opened.
The 1905 (according to the website) as the following ingredients.
4 cups iceberg lettuce, broken into 1 ½” × 1 ½” pieces
1 ripe tomato, cut into eighths
½ cup baked ham, julienned 2″ × ⅛” (may substitute turkey or shrimp)
½ cup Swiss cheese, julienne 2″ × ⅛”
½ cup pimiento-stuffed green Spanish olives
“1905” Dressing (see recipe below)
¼ cup Romano cheese, grated
2 tablespoons Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce®
With the following dressing:
½ cup extra-virgin Spanish olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
⅛ cup white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
We were also on a hunt for the best piece of key lime pie, ever. The Columbia’s was good, but a little thicker than we liked, but the best was yet to come. (By the way, true key lime pie is yellow, not green.)
The cafe was delightfully air-conditioned with some delightful iced tea because that Florida sunshine was still weighing down on us.
So we decided to go on a boat ride …