The Colombia Restaurant’s 1905 Salad and Ropa Vieja

In the late nineteenth century, a wave of Spanish and Cuban immigrants came to Tampa, Florida to work in the cigar factories. Tampa was perfect for cigar factories because of its railroad and steamship facilities, as well as the natural humidity – perfect for the tobacco leaf. Vincente Martinez Ybor, a cigar manufacturer, moved his cigar business from Key West to Tampa in 1885, giving rise to an area of Tampa known as Ybor City. Thousands of Spaniards and Cubans left their homes to seek opportunity in this new community and as most were men, boarding houses and restaurants were needed. In 1904 Casimiro Hernandez I came from Cuba to Ybor City and in 1905 opened a small cafe which would become what is now known as the Colombia Restaurant. My husband and I are both from Florida and love the Colombia, “Florida’s oldest and most honored Spanish restaurant.”

These recipes are both staples on the Colombia’s menu. Ropa vieja, or “old clothes,” describes the shreds of meat, peppers, and onions resembling a mess of colorful rags and is a recipe that was originally introduced to Cuba by Spanish sailors. My husband tells me the Spanish sailors were so hungry during the last part of their voyage that they resorted to boiling rags. I have no facts to back that up but I think it’s interesting 🙂

The 1905 salad is their original recipe salad that is tossed at the table with a delicious garlic olive oil vinaigrette. Both are pretty easy to make and are perfect for dinner parties. Serve with Cuban bread, black beans and rice, and a nice Malbec or Tempranillo red.

Ingredients & Instructions

Ropa Vieja

  • 3 lbs. flank steak cut into 4-inch by 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, cut into strips
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 15 oz. can peeled whole tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • Water
  • S/P

In a large pot or dutch oven, brown the beef for a minute or two in olive oil. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Add enough water to just cover all ingredients and season with fresh ground S/P. Simmer uncovered for about 2 hours until meat is tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. When meat is cool, using a slotted spoon, remove from pan and shred as finely as possible. Using a hand mixer or a food processor, puree the vegetables (remove bay leaves). Set aside while you make the sauce.


  • 2 onions, sliced in half moons
  • 1 green pepper, cut into strips
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • S/P
  • 1 15-oz. can tomato sauce
  • 2 tsp. oregano
  • Green peas and/or pimento or roasted red pepper strips to garnish

In a large skillet, saute the onions and peppers in oil until tender. Add remaining ingredients (except garnish) and cook for 10 minutes. Add the sauce, shredded beef and pureed vegetables back to the dutch oven. Stir well, cover, and cook for 30 minutes over medium-low heat. Garnish with green peas and pimento strips.

1905 Salad

  • 2 heads iceberg lettuce
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 cup Swiss cheese, cut in julienne strips
  • 1 cup ham, cut in julienne strips (you can sub turkey)
  • 1/2 cup green Spanish olives, pitted
  • Romano cheese to garnish

Toss together all ingredients except Romano cheese.


  • 1/4 cup  white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp. oregano
  • 4 tsp. lemon juice

Mix all ingredients in a dressing container or mason jar and shake to combine. Or whisk ingredients in a bowl. Add dressing to salad and toss well. Garnish salad with Romano cheese and serve.

Serves: 6

Recipe Source: The Colombia Restaurant Cookbook

Time: About 3 hours