There aren’t many restaurants in Sarasota as iconic as The Columbia Restaurant. Yes there are a few, but not a whole lot. I think it’s a safe bet that almost everyone that has spent any amount of time here has enjoyed “Florida’s Oldest Restaurant”. If you haven’t, well, I’m not sure what you’ve been doing all these years.
Before moving here 20 years ago, I vacationed here. Just like a lot of folks that end up making the move. We had our “to do” list when we would visit. Siesta Key beach, maybe a spring training game, and of course, The Columbia.
Back then when you ordered the “Toro” sangria, it was made with a mini bottle of Torres Sangre de Toro. That bottle had a small plastic black bull hanging around the neck of the bottle. When the bottle was opened and poured into the pitcher, your server presented you with the bull as a memento. We had a few pitchers of that tasty sangria over the years! Lots of souvenirs!
Fast forward to today. The sangria is still just as delicious. There aren’t any more tiny bulls to commemorate your visit. But the feel and experience of dining at The Columbia is pretty much unchanged. In a world where things change so quickly that you barely have time to adjust, The Columbia has stayed true to its roots.
A trip to this St. Armands restaurant is a little like stepping back in time. I mean that in the best and most nostalgic way possible. Servers in starched whites and ties, Spanish tile everywhere you look, and dishes that are still prepared the way they were when the restaurant first opened its doors in 1905.
One of those dishes is their classic 1905 Salad! This salad is so ingrained in Sarasota food culture that dozens of local restaurants have a 1905ish salad on their menu. The variations are endless and, in some cases, pretty imaginative. But, when it comes right down to it, there is only one 1905!
This brings us to our Make it at Home for this month. No guessing is necessary. We’re making The Columbia Restaurant’s 1905 Salad!
This is going to be a little bit different than our other Make it at Home pieces. Why? Because I have already had this salad, close to a hundred times. That means I’m not going to have to guess at how this should turn out. I know from years of experience what it should look and taste like. The real challenge will be whether or not I can replicate it in my kitchen?
First, let’s take a look at how the expert salad makers at The Columbia Restaurant make this signature dish.
Are you ready to give this a shot? Let’s go!!
THE COLUMBIA RESTAURANT - 1905 SALAD (ENSALADA 1905)
INGREDIENTS - SALAD
4 cups iceberg lettuce, broken into 1 ½" × 1 ½" pieces
1 ripe tomato, cut into eighths
½ cup baked ham, julienned 2" × ⅛" (may substitute turkey or shrimp)
½ cup Swiss cheese, julienne 2" × ⅛"
½ cup pimiento-stuffed green Spanish olives
“1905” Dressing (see recipe below)
¼ cup Romano cheese, grated
2 tablespoons Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce®
METHOD - SALAD
Combine lettuce, tomato, ham, Swiss cheese and olives in a large salad bowl. Before serving, add “1905” Dressing, Romano cheese, Worcestershire and the juice of 1 lemon. Toss well and serve immediately. Makes 2 full salads or 4 side salads.
INGREDIENTS - DRESSING
½ cup extra-virgin Spanish olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
⅛ cup white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
METHOD - DRESSING
Mix olive oil, garlic and oregano in a bowl with a wire whisk. Stir in vinegar, gradually beating to form an emulsion, and then season with salt and pepper. For best results, prepare 1 to 2 days in advance and refrigerate.
Well, let’s see how we did. My version looks pretty good!
Of course, no Make it at Home post would be complete without a trip to the restaurant. This is purely for comparison purposes, I assure you! (My server, Melanie did a terrific job on her salad!).
Here are some tasting, cooking, and plating notes for you.
The Columbia makes hundreds of these salads daily. The ingredients are all prepped when they come to the table. But, honestly, the prep is not difficult at all.
Use a chilled plate for this. Or, after the salad is made, plate it and put it back in the fridge for about 15 minutes.
Try and buy the ripest tomatoes you can find (especially if you live in Florida), you'll notice the difference.
THE VERDICT: YES! YOU CAN ABSOLUTELY MAKE THIS AT HOME AND IT WILL TURN OUT PERFECT! But let's be honest, half the fun of a 1905 Salad is the tableside show. The dish is extra special when it's prepared in the restaurant. You should make the trip to one near you!
** Special thanks to Michael Kilgore, Jeff Houck, and the Columbia Restaurant. This recipe was used by permission of the Columbia Food Service Company. All rights reserved.
A note (and a request) - If you own, or are a chef at, a Sarasota restaurant and would like to have your recipe featured in a future edition of Make it at Home, please get in touch with us through our Facebook page or our dineSarasota.com website. We want to cook your dish!!
COMING ATTRACTIONS: Next month we will be making a dish from a Sarasota restaurant that has been serving wonderful cuisine since 1987. It may not be 1905, but you have to be pretty special to have been around for 35 years!
Here are some links that we think you might find useful.
We’ve done all of the heavy lifting for you! All you need to do is make that reservation. Here are some upcoming local food events that we think you might find interesting…