Columbia in St. Augustine, Florida
Gem of the Spanish Restaurants
Don and I spent a few days in St. Augustine last January. We were delighted by the atmosphere of the historic city.
Many times, we'd walked by this wonderful building with whirling fans and trickling fountain.
1905 is pretty young for St. Augustine, which was founded in 1565! But the building was inviting and 1905 is old in my book. How could we resist?
So Many Options for Seating!
We entered the charming building at 9:30, on a Sunday evening. Luckily, there were still enough diners to make things festive. The hostess seemed a little tired, though.
She walked us through the arched entrance of the room marked "El Patio". She put menus down, at a cramped table for 2. When I cheerily asked for another table facing the fountain, she yawned and moved us. I didn't ask her to move the broom and dustpan that rested up against a column. I'm pretty sure someone was eager to use that and get home, but I tucked them behind the column where I didn't have to stare at the eyesore.
Before ordering, I did a quick "Race to the Ladies Room", which means, I went exploring. There were so many rooms in this great old place.
I wanted to know all about the 5 generations of The Hernandez Family who have been running Columbia since it first opened.
And More Seating
The murals, stucco, iron and tile felt very Spanish, but Mr. Hernadez, Sr., evidently immigrated from Cuba. The foods on the menu reflected that.
I took a quick glance down towards our table from the railing above. My photo doesn't show a very clear shot of fountain in the center of the dining room, but there was quite a curious sculpture. The glowing, white legs are wrapped up in the tail of a dolphin! It gave us lots to ponder.
Food and Drink
I was hoping for a very old server who could tell me some stories, but our young server was at least very gracious and didn't rush. She brought us warm Cuban bread, which was heavenly. Don had a Pisco Sour and I celebrated with a Margarita. Then she tossed up our "1905 Salad" right next to the table.
The salad was iceberg, mixed with ham, Swiss, tomato, Spanish olives, Romano cheese, Worcestershire and lemon. I actually liked the plate it was served on, just as much as the salad!
The Original Cuban Sandwich
A recipe from 1915 was used for this perfect sandwich.
Genoa salami, smoked ham, pork loin, Swiss, pickle, and yellow mustard was pressed and melted inside long slices of Cuban bread.
Not only was it the best tasting sandwich I've had... since a Muffaletta in New Orleans... But it was just plain fun.
Look at Don. He looks like he's eating giant cigar. Which is kind of funny because I found out later that some of Mr. Hernandez's first customers were workers from a nearby cigar factory. They often bought the Cuban sandwiches to eat walking to and from work.
The Bad News
Don and I enjoyed our dinner, even though we sort of closed the place down. We even managed to laugh at the disappointing restaurant trivia, that we learned after our meal.
I asked about Columbia's history and our young server answered with a smile. "Oh it's been here since the 1980's" I cringed and asked, "Well is the building old?" "No, it used to be a parking lot." What? So there are 6 locations of Columbia. The original is in Tampa. So much for my love of historic dining!
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The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.