Columbia Restaurant receives “Fresh from Florida Century of Excellence” award

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Ybor City’s Columbia Restaurant received the “Fresh from Florida Century of Excellence” award Friday, recognizing the legendary eatery’s more than 100 years of promoting Florida agriculture and seafood.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam presented the Award to the fourth generation of the family operating Florida’s oldest restaurant.  

“Because of the hard work, passion and commitment of the Hernandez-Gonzmart family,” said Putnam in a statement issued today, “the Columbia Restaurant is a Florida landmark.” 

Founded in 1905 by Cuban immigrants, the Columbia is the not only the oldest continually operated restaurant in Florida, but it is one of the oldest Spanish restaurants in the U.S. and one of the largest Spanish restaurants in the world. The restaurant now takes up an entire city block. 

Former Governor Bob Martinez joined in distinguishing the Columbia, paying special tribute to the Hernandez-Gonzmart family.

“The Columbia Restaurant receiving the ‘Fresh From Florida Century of Excellence’ Award reflects their place as the cultural and culinary heart of Ybor City for the last century,” Martinez said. “My father worked as a server at Columbia Restaurant for nearly 40 years, so I couldn’t be happier to see them receive recognition for their more than 100 years of hard work promoting Florida products.”

Today, there are seven Columbia locations throughout Florida serving a mix of Spanish and Cuban cuisine, which features its famous Devil Crab Croquettes, Snapper “Adelita” and the Original ‘1905’ Salad. The menu uses  Florida produce exclusively, and is inspired by the immigrant residents of the Ybor City Latin quarter.

The Columbia is the second recipient of the “Fresh from Florida Century of Excellence” Award, the first presented to Joe’s Stone Crabs of Miami Beach.

For information and recipes using Fresh from Florida products, visit the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services website at www.FreshFromFlorida.com.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.