Time to visit another favorite city in Florida. Less than 1.5 hours and 72 miles away lies a historic neighborhood northeast of Tampa…….Ybor City.
Founded in the 1880s by Spanish cigar manufacturer Vicente Martinez Ybor, he moved his cigar operation from Key West. He liked the nearby port of Tampa and the opportunity to expand his business. Thousands of immigrants, mainly from Cuba, Spain and Italy became a part of the business. As indicated in the shot below, it was an art and respectable livelihood that had additional benefits.
When visiting the area, this is one of the best places to dig into Ybor City history.
While not a huge state park, mainly encompassing half a city block, their exhibits are extremely informative. Let’s start with the obvious, cigar making. Here are a few shots from one of their exhibits.
With the finished product being a well-made cigar.
They had what they considered a ‘special’ ingredient – Cuban tobacco. Cuba has a sub-tropical climate and is renowned for the unsurpassed quality of its tobacco. There you have it.
There’s a nice adjoining courtyard great for eating your lunch or hanging out to enjoy the Florida weather or maybe snapping a few photos. 🙂
You do have to watch out for these guys: Ybor City chickens.
They are wild, direct descendants of chickens that lived in nearby backyards over 100 years ago. Penalties are levied if caught disturbing them. Yep, Eric is in the background – photo bombing my shot.
Another reason to drive to Ybor City? The original Columbia Restaurant resides here. It is Florida’s oldest restaurant and the largest Spanish restaurant in the world. It can seat 1700 guests within their 15 dining rooms. They now take up a city block.
I usually like to add in a few ‘fun facts’ in my blog posts and OMG, when I started some preliminary research I found LOTS more info that I was unaware of and restaurants outside of the Columbia name this family operates.
They operate five ‘Columbia’ Restaurant locations in Florida, two ‘Columbia’ Cafes and four additional eating establishments that I listed below.
~1989 opening, Cha Cha Coconuts in Sarasota, tropical Floribbean flavors.
~2014 opening, Ulele in Tampa serving indigenous ingredients (been there – great!).
~2016 opening, Goody Goody Burgers, actually took ownership of a local favorite place in Tampa’s Hide Park Village that had closed, specializing in handmade pies & burgers using original recipes from 1925.
~2020 opening, Casa Santo Stefano, home-style Tampa-Sicilian recipes, a rooftop ‘drinkeria’ and cigar lounge.
Sounds like future roadtrips need to be planned!\
Okay – back to their food.
A natural start to their dining experience, Sangria, homemade table-side, of course. It’s always the beverage of choice for Adrienne and myself – sorry Eric, you’re driving home.
We brought along our new ‘roomie’ to experience something uniquely Florida.
Warm Cuban bread and delicious butter arrives at each table – more!
Someone usually orders the 1905 Salad, also made table-side.
While maybe not the prettiest piture, google the recipe. Eric has made it in the summer months, and it hits the spot. Sorry, hon, theirs’s tastier, but yours is a close second.
And now to the meals:
Once in a while we order dessert, but not today. Always enjoy coming to original Columbias for the dining and eating experience.
Until next time…………….