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The Columbia Restaurant: Celebrating a century of history, culture, and cuisine.
  • Andy Huse, University of South Florida
The Columbia is Florida’s oldest and most honored restaurant. Founded in 1905 as a café catering to immigrant cigar workers in Ybor City, it has grown into one of the culinary touchstones of the state. Handed down from generation to generation, the Columbia remains family owned and operated, with six locations throughout Florida, from St. Augustine to Sarasota. Restaurants are sensitive barometers of culture. The Columbia’s history is not one of staid, changeless uniformity, but quite the opposite: to prosper, the restaurant has undergone nearly constant change. This book is rich with stories of secret stashes of liquor, backroom deals with gangsters, waiters who never forgot an order, and business challenges from the Great Depression to urban renewal and beyond. Even today, despite the constant presence of certain favorites, such as the tableside preparation of the 1905 Salad, the menu changes several times a year, and specials grace the tables daily. Owners and employees preserve key textures with a curator's dedication: Spanish tile, paintings of Don Quixote, the enigmatic fountain, the old-time bar, and the crystal chandelier. Classic recipes have been restored with profound reverence. Now, more than a century after its founding, the Columbia has reached a new height of fame and prosperity. In The Columbia Restaurant, Andrew Huse provides an in-depth look at the people who made the restaurant great. With a historian’s eye for accuracy and a storyteller’s ear for delicious anecdotes, he traces the fortunes of the Columbia from the founder, Casimiro Hernandez Sr., to his great-grandson, fourth-generation restaurateur Richard Gonzmart.
Publication Date
Univeristy Press of Florida
Citation Information
Andy Huse. The Columbia Restaurant: Celebrating a century of history, culture, and cuisine.. Gainesville(2009)
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