Famous Columbia 1905 Salad Recipe

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Juicy tomatoes, crispy iceberg lettuce, salty green olives, sweet ham, and a variety of cheeses make up the Columbia 1905 Salad Recipe.

The Columbia Restaurant is a local institution in my hometown area of Tampa, Florida and it’s no wonder this salad made the USA Today’s list of top 10 America’s Best Salads. It’s full of great umami flavor. 

Pin the 1905 Salad to make later. 

Side view of salad on a plate.

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The first time my son had the Columbia 1905 salad, he was hooked. It was his first visit to The Columbia and he was in first grade. While he was in elementary school I would make this for his lunch, at his request. He devoured it.

My Mom friends couldn’t believe my son ate salad for lunch at such a young age! Now that he’s in college I don’t send him with his lunch any longer but I do make it regularly.

Columbia's 1905 Salad Recipe in a bowl with dressing being poured over it.

The Columbia Restaurant

Steeped in tradition, Tampa’s Columbia Restaurant is a local treasure that has been family owned and operated since 1905. The Columbia is Florida’s oldest Spanish restaurant with seven locations throughout the state, including St. Augustine, the nation’s oldest city.

The original location, located in the heart of Ybor City, a neighboring town to downtown Tampa, has grown through the years to become the largest Spanish restaurant in the world and Florida’s oldest restaurant. Read more about Columbia’s rich history. It’s an iconic Tampa classic with a famous salad.

You can even enjoy live Flamenco dancers at the Ybor location. USA Today calls Columbia one of the most historic restaurants in America.

Columbia’s 1905 Salad History

This original recipe for the Columbia 1905 salad is prepared and tossed tableside. The award-winning salad won honors from USA Today as “One of 10 Great Places to Make a Meal Out of a Salad.”

The signature 1905 salad, named for the year the restaurant was founded in Tampa’s Latin district of Ybor City, was inspired by immigrants to the Cigar City: Romano cheese from the Sicilians and the famous garlic dressing used by Cubans to marinate fresh roast pork, plus Florida tomatoes, iceberg lettuce, julienne of baked ham and Swiss cheese.

Fun Fact: Every year on Columbia’s anniversary, they roll back prices to what they were in 1905. Every location is packed and they do not take reservations. Coffee is 5¢.

Overhead photo of a bowl with salad ingredients.

1905 Salad Ingredients

There’s a reason for each ingredient in the Columbia 1905 salad. No substitutions are allowed because then it would just be another salad and the Columbia’s.

  • Crisp Iceberg Lettuce – Do not substitute other types of lettuce. Iceberg is fresh, crisp, and crunchy giving this salad great texture. It’s neutral in flavor and lends itself to the other wonderful flavors in the salad and dressing.
  • Swiss Cheese – Sweet, mild, and nutty, it pairs nicely with the saltiness of the ham and Spanish olives. Think ham and Swiss sandwiches.
  • Ham – Adds sweetness as well as a bit of a salty flavor. I love to use Honey Baked Ham and it’s a great salad to make using leftovers.
  • Ripe Tomatoes – Beefsteaks are the best because they are the most flavorful but I have also used cherry and plum due to availability and how they look at the store.
  • Green Spanish Olives – A firm texture yet soft and meaty and less bitter than black olives.
  • Romano Cheese – So there are different types of Romano cheese. I prefer Pecorino-Romano for its nutty profile. It’s another layer of flavor in this amazing salad.
  • Worcestershire Sauce – This can be an acquired taste but DO NOT skip it. It’s a unique flavor that can’t be duplicated. You don’t use much, a mere two tablespoons.
  • Fresh Lemon Juice – The acid perfectly balances the flavor.

1905 Salad Garlic Dressing Ingredients

If you have a mason jar, it’s an easy way to make the original salad dressing.

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Use one with a flavor you love! I’m a bit partial to Spanish olive oil since this salad is from a Spanish restaurant.
  • Fresh Garlic Cloves – It must be fresh, none of the jarred variety, and certainly not garlic powder.
  • Dried Oregano – Do not use fresh, it’s too overpowering.
  • White Wine Vinegar – A neutral vinegar that doesn’t interfere with the other flavors going on in this salad.

Substitutions

None. By making substitutions, you no longer have the authentic 1905 Salad recipe from the Columbia Restaurant.

I’ve tried adding other ingredients through the years, cucumbers, onions, and croutons, but always, and I mean always, go back to the original. While I make it with tomatoes, I leave them off of mine. I love olives but I’m the only one, so they get left off of other’s plates and mixed into my serving.

Columbia 1905 Salad Twitter image.

The ONLY substitution I’ll make is to purchase the 1905 Salad Dressing from Publix because they carry it here in the Tampa area. 

If you don’t live by a Publix, or they don’t carry it, you can purchase the salad dressing online from Columbia’s website. Don’t even try Amazon, they don’t sell it.

You may be wondering why I’d purchase a bottle of the 1905 salad dressing rather than make it from scratch each time. It’s because sometimes I’ll just make this as a side salad, not truly measuring ingredients and the dressing is just too much.

I will say in the restaurant, it’s a wet salad. I like a lot of dressing on my salads but not everyone does so I do like the option of serving it on the side.

I’ve tried to cut the salad dressing recipe in half and it just doesn’t taste the same. 

How Can I Serve the Columbia 1905 Salad Recipe?

I serve this salad with just about anything. I’ll make it up for lunch to go with my Easy French Bread Pizzas or as a dinner side with my Chicken Cordon Bleu.

If I’m serving more than just my family of 4 then I’ll put the Columbia 1905 Salad in a large salad bowl and let guests serve themselves. It’s perfect on a buffet but you really should have backup so you don’t run out!

If it’s just the 4 of us I’ll make it in individual salad bowls.

Salad on a blue plate.

My Family’s Ties to the Columbia Restaurant and This Iconic Salad

The Columbia 1905 Salad has a history in our family. Living in the Tampa Bay area all my life I’ve always liked this salad. It’s a must-have whenever I visit the restaurant, along with their pressed Cuban sandwich. The Cuban is the real deal!

When my boys were in elementary school, taking Spanish, they each had a field trip to Ybor City during their immigration unit and had lunch at the Columbia. 

There’s a location in St. Augustine, where I went to college, and my friends and I would go often. I’ve introduced my husband and his family members who are all from the northeast, and now my boys, to the Columbia 1905 Salad.

Ever since I told my youngest son that I served this salad at his first birthday party, he has wanted to try it. News Flash: The Columbia 1905 Salad is a great salad for special occasions!

Overhead photo of Columbia 1905 Salad on a white plate.

What can I serve with Columbia’s 1905 Salad?

At the restaurant, they offer Cuban bread to go with the salad. If Cuban bread isn’t available to you a cornbread muffin would be nice.

More Salads That Could Be Meals

I have been known to enjoy this Columbia 1905 salad recipe as a main course. At the restaurant, it’s often served as a side but I like salad for lunch and dinner.

Some other favorite main dish salads include:

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Columbia’s 1905 Salad Recipe

The Columbia Restaurant's 1905 salad is a classic and iconic dish that has been delighting diners for over a century. Made with crisp iceberg lettuce, juicy tomatoes, ham, Swiss cheese, and olives, all tossed in a tangy garlic dressing, it offers a flavorful experience.
4.85 from 53 votes
Prep Time15 minutes
Total Time15 minutes
Course: Salads and Soups
Cuisine: American
Servings: 2 main salads or 4 side salads

Ingredients

  • 4 cups iceberg lettuce torn into 1 ½ inch pieces.
  • 1 ripe tomato cut into eighths
  • ½ cup baked ham julienne cut into 2″ strips
  • ½ cup Swiss cheese julienne cut into 2″ strips
  • ¼ cup Spanish olives green olives
  • ¼ cup Romano cheese grated
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 lemon

1905 Salad Dressing

  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • cup white wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • 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.
  • Make the 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. 

Recipe Notes

Recipe adapted from The Columbia Restaurant.

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20 Comments

  1. A friend is making this for our luncheon tomorrow, can’t wait to try it, looks yummy.
    And I don’t mean to have my red pen out but there is a typo in the instructions it says to combine “olives” I believe they mean “olive oil” in the dressing, am I correct?
    Thanks, Mary

    1. Hi Mary! I hope you enjoy this salad as much as we do! Thank you for bringing the error to my attention. I actually left out olives as an ingredient probably because I add them to my salad only since my husband and son don’t like them. I’ve made the correction in the recipe.

  2. Why add the Worcestershire and lemon separately and not mix with the vinaigrette? How does it affect the flavor and or texture? Thanks!

    1. Hmm…that’s a very good question. It’s really how they make it at the restaurant.

    1. Actually, Columbia has a few locations in Florida: at St. Armand’s Circle in Sarasota; Clearwater Beach; St. Augustine; and Celebration, close to Disney World, where we were first introduced to this scrumptious salad. For the past 11 years, my husband and I, Canadian Snowbirds, have spent the winter in Florida. At least 3- 4 times over the winter, we would make the one hour trip to Sarasota to dine at Columbia. Sadly, we will not be wintering in Florida this year. Looking forward to next winter.

  3. I love salads like this…the lunch meat in there makes it more filling especially if I am making it a dinner meal for my husband. He has to have meat or he feels ripped off haha.

  4. I bet you were the envy of the other mothers when your son was at school. This sounds like a lovely classic salad.

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