Columbia Restaurant in beautiful St. Augustine, Florida has been a favorite of locals and tourists since 1983. I’m not exactly a tourist since my husband and I have visited St. Augustine many times for weeks at a time. Yet, we’d never managed to make it to Columbia Restaurant.
We recently visited this restaurant for lunch with actual first-time tourists in tow. Our overall experience was “muy bueno” – with a few caveats along the way. Here’s our restaurant review.
Columbia Restaurant Atmosphere
If you are looking for “atmosphere” with day or evening dining, you really can’t go wrong with the Columbia Restaurant. On a Saturday at noon, we were led to a lovely table on the second floor of the establishment. We were seated near the balcony, but looking around, I didn’t see a bad table in the place. Near us was a view downstairs to an inner courtyard, and around us were interesting pictures and authentic decor.
I can only imagine how romantic the Columbia Restaurant must look at night.
Our waitress was efficient, although a little brusque at the beginning. A caveat here, the wait staff at the Columbia seem focused on the “up-sell.” Our tourist friends ordered water and we also requested it in addition to our drink orders. In a blink of an eye, we realized that we had agreed to bottled water instead of tap – with no idea what we were in for as far as price. So, watch for this.
Appetizers also are pushed somewhat forcefully. Since we were interested in tasting and trying new foods, this wasn’t as much of a problem for us. But again, be aware and be prepared for the up-sell here.
Depending on your order, you may receive a 1905 House Salad prepared at your table. The wait staff obviously take pride in preparing the salad and providing a little history and list of ingredients as it is prepared.
Throughout the meal, our waitress was attentive and our food came in a very timely fashion. Overall, good job.
Columbia Restaurant Menu and Food
We all tried the black bean cakes appetizer with sour cream and guacamole. It was the first time that I had eaten black bean cakes so I would judge them as average in taste (although they may have been wonderful as black bean cakes go). I would have to try them at a few other restaurants before judging how well I liked them. On my next trip to Columbia Restaurant, I would probably select another appetizer, instead.
Our two tourist friends – who were trying Spanish/Cuban food for the first time – opted for a Cuban Sandwich with the accompanying 1905 house salad. The Cuban sandwich is of substantial size and the salad serving also generous, so this entree could be shared if you are looking only for a light lunch item. They both enjoyed the sandwiches and salad, although both thought the salad was a little spicy.
My husband ordered the Pollo Riojana (a boneless chicken breast served with tomato sauce and cheese over yellow rice) and I enjoyed the El Combo de Cuba (roast pork, boliche, and a empanada, accompanied with black beans, yellow rice and fried plaintains for “dessert”). My husband and I both agreed that our food was a little salty, but we have both cut way back on the salt in our diet, so we tend to have this problem anywhere that we go to eat. The extra saltiness dissipated after a few bites, so the food was probably seasoned well and the saltiness was just noticeable to us. In other words, probably not a problem for the average diner.
We tried some of the 1905 salad from the plates of our friends, and loved it. My husband and I did not find the salad spicy in the least. The salad does have a healthy dose of Worcestershire Sauce in it. If you like this condiment, you’ll probably like the salad. If this condiment isn’t your favorite, you may not find the dressing to your liking.
I also enjoyed a glass of Sangria with my meal and while it was not as sweet as the Sangria I have had in the past, it was perfectly nice and worked well with my entree.
Final Thoughts on Our Dining Experience
All in all, our dining experience at the Columbia Restaurant in St. Augustine was delightful. If you are looking for an upscale lunch experience in the historic district, this would be a good place to go. Our bill for 4 people was around $70. That included an appetizer, 4 ample entrees, one Sangria, one beer, and the bottled water we unwittingly ordered (which was priced in $3-$5 dollar range, I don’t remember the exact price but it wasn’t exorbitant).
We will return to the Columbia Restaurant, and hopefully soon, for a romantic evening meal. Just the two of us.
98 St. George Street
St. Augustine, FL 32084
Monday – Thursday (11 a.m. – 9 p.m.)
Friday – Saturday (11 a.m. – 10 p.m.)
Sunday (12 noon – 9 p.m.)
Open 365 days of the year.
Serving Lunch & Dinner daily.
Vegetarian and Gluten-free menu items are available
Takeout: lunch and dinner menu items available for takeout. Call (904) 824-3341 for order and pick-up details.
Columbia Restaurant has a bakery and store open to the public with dessert items, pottery dishes and other souvenir items such as 1905 bottled house dressing.