Columbia Cafe (Airport)
 Tampa, Florida        Date of Visit  09/09/16       

Two days of driving to Florida are capped by a flight back home to shoot a wedding on a tight schedule. No time for culinary adventures in the sunshine state. Almost. Having been to the fancy-dancy location under different circumstances years ago and having discovered I was in the way wrong terminal at the Tampa airport to try the restaurant recommended, I was pleased to see a small version of the Columbia in the airport.



It really does seem a small version of the St. Pete location. They brought in just enough stuff to give you a whiff of the 110 years of family owned history. My server was efficient but seemed pretty bored beneath a thin veneer of hospitality. Alone, I still managed three courses, soup, sammitch and dessert. The dessert I had to have again…the first two were new and listed by the menu as house specialties.

The Spanish Bean Soup is loaded with garbanzo beans and enriched with ham, chorizo, in a rich chicken and ham stock bumped to new heights with saffron, garlic and onion. A nice blend of health and not so. Fortifying without being too unwieldy. I would certainly do this again.


Inside Doesn't Feel Like The Airport

Luscious Spanish Bean Soup

  I don’t know why, I do believe with gusto that sandwiches are better where they come from. Is it ingredients, devotion, technique, air and water? I don’t know. But to me, the roasted pork and cheesesteak are never as good as they are in Philly, the hot dog is better in Chicago, pit beef only comes from Balitmore, Po’boys are poorer unless they herald from the Crescent City and Cuban sandwiches are better in Florida. If I understand the menu correctly, this is the original? Formerly known as The Mixto, it changed over time as different nationalities joined the local cigar industry. The Spanish brought ham, Sicilians added Genoa salami, Cubans their mojo marinated roast pork and buttered/pressed Cuban bread, with Germans and Jews adding the Swiss Cheese, pickle and mustard. Currently using the 1915 recipe, I’ve had other Cubans in Florida, which focused more on the mustard and pickle. This thing is all about the pig in its various forms. Distinct but cooperative the meats are the reason this sandwich exists. The mustard, pickle and cheese are present but are pointing to the pork. More things need to be stuffed into Cuban bread's super crispy crust and soft tender interior btw.





Class In The Terminal

The Cuban

More Original Than Others I've Tried, Hail The Original, All About The Pork

Look Like Chips, Are Actually Starchy Fried Plantains

I had to repeat the guava pastry I had sooooo enjoyed in St. Pete. It was a little less impressive at the airport (go figure). Flaky pastry with a crunchy crystalized sugar frost is stuffed with guava and cream cheese. Can’t get guava easily in Ohio…a unique and tropical treat for me. Add the flaky dough and light tang of the very young cheese and it is awesome. It does miss the vanilla laden crème anglaise from the fancy spot but remains a treat. I guess it goes to show…if you look around a little bit…you can find some adventure when you’ve only got minutes in town.

Soooooo Not A Hot Pocket

The World Needs More Guava



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