I present to you a top-ten list of my favorite restaurants in the Tallahassee area as part of my continuing nostalgic and retrospective binge. Now, Tallahassee isn't known as a culinary hot spot, so I had to cheat a bit and extend the list to some restaurants that I consider to be in the Tallahassee "Area" (St. Marks & Thomasville make it in). As a bonus, I've also included two other listings; guilty pleasure restaurants and a list of restaurants I've never enjoyed, but are popular here in town. Alright, I'll keep this introduction to a minimum and just get to the list and commentary.
10. Hobbit American Grill: WINGS & Fries
After Wing Zone went out of business I had to begin looking for a new place to grab chicken wings, as Sonny's just wasn't cutting it. It wasn't long until I discovered Hobbit Grill's 49 cent Thursday and Sunday chicken wings. There are several good flavors, my favorite being the Garlic Lemon, Carolina Gold and their Honey BBQ. The wings themselves are good size. Two things set Hobbit apart from other wing places in this area: 1) The wings are consistently good. This is hard to say about most of the other hit or miss places. 2) I've never received a bad basket of fries alongside the wings. This is also hard to say about most of the other hit or miss places in town. They aren't the best chicken wings I've ever had, but they are consistently great and offered at good prices. What more can one ask?
9. Canopy Road Cafe: Anything for BREAKFAST
Although I frequent other places more often (those will make my guilty pleasure list below), Canopy Road Cafe offers the best breakfast in town. It's not as upscale as a place like 'The Egg Cafe', but it offers what you expect; well cooked food, good portions, and good quality ingredients. They are the only breakfast joint that also gives you a small orange slice side and a dab of real butter with the meal. I don't know why I didn't go here more often, but it can't be beaten for breakfast.
8. Mike's Stonebaked Pizza: PIZZA!
Unfortunately Mike's has closed down! However, I couldn't make this list without including it. For a while, Mike's became my default pizza joint and default lunch with a friend joint. They made fairly authentic New York style pizza with a very tasty crust. With Mike's gone, then I'd have to say my favorite non-chain pizza joint is Momo's Pizza. Otherwise, I'd head to Papa John's or Mellow Mushroom.
7. Little Athens - GYRO!
Little Athens makes Pitaria seem like the McDonalds of Greek food. Well, maybe not that bad. I'm really just trying to say I like a Little Athens gyro a lot more than the ones at Pitaria. Admittedly, I've only ever had a gyro at like three places, so take that with a grain of salt. It's a small little place that is family run and owned. Besides the gyro, I've had several other things on the menu and it is all excellent. Only frustration is that the owner/cook insists that he take all payments, meaning the cashier can only take your order. This means that you have to wait for the owner/cook to finish cooking everyone's meal before he will take your money. It's pretty insane, but the food is ultimately worth it.
6. Super Perro's: Carne a la Plancha
This quirky little Columbian restaurant sells Columbian style hot dogs alongside the more traditional Columbian dishes. I quickly discovered a dish called 'Carne a la Plancha' which is rice, beans, salad, steak and maduros. It is at this restaurant that I discovered the great pleasure of getting a fried egg on top of your rice and letting the yoke mix in with it. Portions sizes are good and everything is cooked very well. Went here very often with our Church staff and with friends for lunches or dinner.
5. Masa's: Anything
I first discovered Masa's after we had a Mosaic staff dinner here one Christmas. It is one of several Lucy Ho run restaurants here in Tallahassee, and I find it to be the best .Great atmosphere and lots of great menu items to choose from (my first love was their simple Stir Fry Trio) including a great selection of quality sushi. I've only been here a couple of times due to the expense, but this is one of my special occasion restaurants.
4. Jasmine Cafe: SUSHI
I never thought I would get around to liking sushi. It all changed when my friend Armando Ramos offered me when of his eel sushi rolls. I don't know why I said "Yes", but I did. I quickly learned two things: 1) Eel sushi was incredibe 2) Eel sushi was also incredibly expensive. Whilst I love sushi, I have found I need to temper my intake of it because it breaks the pocket book before it ever fills the stomach. That being said, when I want to get great sushi in Tallahassee, then I head to Jasmine Cafe. Great taste and great portions.
3. Spring Creek Restaurant: Anything
I ventured out to St. Marks with my parents for this restaurant on the recommendation of my friend Bill Madden. It's pretty much a fried seafood joint, but it's all fresh caught and that makes all the difference. Even the salad they give you is as fresh as can be, meaning that it basically comes to you in pieces. The lettuce is one big piece, the tomatoes, cucumbers etc. You basically put it together at your table. Different, but certainly fresh. Their homemade dressing is very good as well. Afterwards, my family ordered the Key Lime pie. Best pie I've ever had, and I'm not much of a dessert kind of guy. Worth the drive out of Tallahassee to enjoy this great little restaurant.
2. Jonah's: SHRIMP & GRITS
This is probably a terrible cheat, but this Thomasville restaurant is too good not to include on this list. The place is always busy and everything on the menu looks great. I especially recommend their shrimp and grits, even for those who don't like grits. The grits from here aren't normal grits, they are some kind of delicious fusion of white cheddar, butter, grit and awesome glue. These aren't the grits you find at your local breakfast place. Throw in large helpings of shrimp and small bits of bacon and it's just a beauty...I think there are some vegetables thrown in there too, but I can't remember them.
1. Kool Beanz: EVERYTHING
My favorite restaurant in Tallahassee also offers the widest variety of delicious food that I've seen in the city. Their extensive menu is able to include items that sound like they come from a fancy four-star restaurant, but are presented modestly and without pretense. I had my first taste of frog legs, lamb (stuffed with Gouda!), gator tail, duck breast, and quail here. The kitchen is open to the restaurant so you can watch the food being made if you so desire, which I normally do. Kool Beanz is one of the few restaurants in Tallahassee that I will genuinely miss, and plan on coming back to when I visit again.
Top Five Guilty Pleasure Restaurants in the Tallahasee Area:
These are the restaurants that I might frequent, but I wouldn't consider them 'good'. For various reasons I would not recommend them to people, except that I have a special place for them in my heart...and stomach.
5. Stevie B's
Whoever thought up the idea of a pizza buffet probably worked for Satan. I love pizza and I love large amounts of it. It just so happens that when large quantities of pizza are offered to me, my threshold for quality diminishes. This Stevie B's kind of demon is only overcome by prayer and fasting. SIDE-NOTE: Once I thought it would be genius to end a week long bread and water fast with a trip to a pizza buffet, thinking that I would be able to eat to my hearts content. Terrible idea. Don't do it. You will regret it.
4. Super China Buffet
Offering nothing of nutritional value, this place is great for it's sheer quantity on display. I love me some bourbon chicken, so the only thing better than getting a plate of bourbon chicken is getting a bottomless plate of bourbon chicken. Please don't judge me.
3. IHOP & Denny's
The two breakfast restaurants serve a great ham & egg melt. Denny's 'Moon's Over My Hammy' will always hold a special place for me. This is truly a guilty pleasure.
2. Jim & Milt's
There is nothing terribly wrong with Jim & Milt's, but it should be noted that their breakfast is really not that good. I've been there more times than any other place in town simply because they are quick and they are REALLY CHEAP! Otherwise, I can't really recommend them.
1. GUTHRIES: THE GUT-BOX
Was it possible for anything to really beat Guthries for the #1 spot? For those who don't know, Guthries is like the poor man's Zaxby's. The service is terrible and the cleanliness is demonstrably out of code. However, when everything comes together perfectly, there is no better meal in Tallahassee than a well-made box of Guthries chicken fingers, fries, texas toast, and gut-sauce (with or without honey added). True, the boxes are wildly inconsistent (go to Zaxby's for consistency), but when you strike it big, you are in food heaven. Also, there are no customers like Guthries customers. Don't go in the drive-thru, in order to experience the real Guthries, you must eat in. You won't need to interact with the customers to get the experience, they will interact with you whether you want it or not. Trust me. Now, just don't ask me about what happens after you eat Guthries.
Restaurants in the Tallahasee Area I've Never Enjoyed:
The following restaurants are ones that enjoy some level of popularity, but I've never understood why. They might be decent, but they all have a large and loyal following that boggles my mind.
- Monk's: Decent burgers, but I'll take Five Guys anyday
- Gordo's: I'll take Black Bean Cafe thank you
- Mr. Roboto's: #1 on Urbanspoon, really? The hibachi is alright I guess
- Pitaria: Much prefer Little Athens
- One Fresh: Expensive and not as many options as Genghis Grill
- California Chicken Grill: Is there a more expensive place in Tallahassee for that little of food?
- Dog et All: Why would I pay that much for store bought hot dogs and Sam's bought apple pie's?
Anyways, those are my restaurant picks for the Tallahassee area. Feel free to share your thoughts!