You know Florida. Key lime pie in Florida Keys. Endless beaches in Miami. Theme parks in Orlando.
But what about Tallahassee, the political and legislative capital of Florida?
I find you guilty! Guilty of passing over this big little city for it’s better known peers. Your sentence? Spend 3 minutes in a (free) “re-education” session – and by that I mean just read the rest of this article.
I have a secret to admit. I was a little guilty too.
I’ve been known to travel to a far-flung destination for the promise of fantastical food. From New Orleans’ creole flavours to Nashville’s southern BBQ ribs, and as far as the Greek islands for dainty dishes such as Loukoumades. I often hear the whispering aromas of the world calling to me in my sleep.
But I never heard Tallahassee calling me. However I did get an invitation from Visit Tallahassee promising fabulous food, and I was curious enough to check out this college town.
Find out what culinary surprises I discovered, along with dining recommendations you can’t miss.
Best Places For Breakfast
When you are looking for a hearty feed before a big day out nothing beats these restaurants.
2202 Capital Circle
You’ll find a classic diner atmosphere with some of the most creative pancakes I have ever seen. And don’t be afraid to mix and match - they were more than happy to combine breakfasts menu items for me. And portion sizes are huge – Mia’s “small” pancakes was big enough to feed both kids.
1325 Miccosukee Road
For over 30 years this establishment has been serving healthy, eclectic food to business people, local politicians, families and students. We even saw the mayor having breakfast near our table.
Brunch is served all day everyday along with really unique and interesting breakfasts.
A favourite all round was the Banana Bread French Toast. However Josh was defeated by his extreme Mancake (a deliciously devilish creation combining a fluffy pancake with bacon and sausage).
316 W. Tennessee Street
Of course if you are not an early riser (or just like staying in), you can always grab a $10 hotel buffet breakfast. The juicy fresh berries were our favourite part.
Best Places For Lunch
When you’re out all day having fun in Tallahassee you are going to work up an appetite, which means you need to stop at these tasty hot spots.
114 Oakland Avenue
You know it’s a local fixture when they don’t have (or need) a website. Their streetside sign is barely held together with tape. But there’s typically a line out the door on weekdays. So these guys must be doing something right.
Family owned for almost 40 years, Shell Oyster Bar is quaintly rustic, without unnecessary flash and charisma. It’s part of Tallahassee’s soul. Best known for their oysters, you’ll find all manner of fried seafood quickly served with hushpuppies, and washed down with Pepsi. It reminded me of the local low-key fish and chip shops we’d regularly visit back in Australia. If you want to hang out with the locals on their turf, this is the place to do it.
705 S. Woodward Avenue
A favourite with university students, this trendy gastropub has thought of everything. From long buckets built into the outdoor tables to store ice and ice cold beers, to retractable transparent roller doors instead of external walls. The food is modern, upbeat and tasty.
Madison Social is located in a newly gentrified area of Tallahassee which was formerly run-down warehouses. We couldn’t believe the transformation from the before and after photos. On weekends in Fall and Spring, as well as big sports game days, the place gets packed out.
465 Wakulla Springs Drive
Wakulla Springs are a fabulous destination to watch manatee or catch a jungle cruise to get up close with wild gators. But after all that nature spotting I recommend stepping into The Lodge for classic, yet classy dining. 1930’s inspired décor and complimenting background music transport guests back to a bygone era. We were all huge fans of the relaxing, comfortable spring-based rocking chairs. In fact, we didn’t want to ever get out of them!
Best Places For Dinner
If you are looking for a place to wind down (or even start off the night) then these 3 restaurants are going to rock your world.
470 Suwannee Street
Our absolute favourite place to dine in Tallahassee was The Edison. This cutting-edge restaurant pushes the boundaries of cuisine and décor.
Located in a former 1920’s power plant, perched on the edge of the newly created Cascades Park, everything exudes style, from red exposed brick walls, to the repurposed antique iron staircase, to panoramic views of the nearby cascades. Intimate booth seating and chic lighting combine in the ultimate casual fine dining atmosphere. Add to that private dining areas, like the special VIP in-kitchen experience and you have a winner that I am sure will be gracing the covers of food and lifestyle magazines very soon.
If you celebrating a special occasion, planning a romantic dinner or even a group event (they have a function room with space for up to 88 guests), then this is your place. Don’t visit Tallahassee without coming here.
Tip: Complimentary valet parking is available near the front of the restaurant. Yep, it’s free.
This was the best hummus I've had in a long time, with genuine authentic Middle Eastern flavours.
1307 N. Monroe Street
A warm and cosy Italian restaurant serving large, easy-to-share wood-fired pizzas. We ate here on a Friday night and were lucky we’d made reservations - it was packed.
1950 Thomasville Road
Situated in a lower basement level, we felt a tinge of mystery entering this restaurant. Its eclectic ambience really adds to a divine dining experience and the food is generous and delicious. Save room for dessert!
Still Feeling Peckish?
1415 Timberlane Road
If, like Josh, you find ice cream therapeutic, then consider this your answer to prayers. Inspired by the classic soda shops of Brooklyn, owner Greg Cohen has created a legendary institution which has elevated dessert to nearly a religious experience… but in an entirely fun and irreverent way. His team applies incomparable attention to detail in order to create the best sweet treats in town, and I’d dare say the state. And no effort is too great in order to source the best ingredients. For example, peanut butter sauce is derived from a specific peanut processing plant in Georgia before emulsifiers are added to get the most impeccable, pure product. When this much care and attention goes into each element of a dish, you can literally taste the love.
But don’t be fooled by the unassuming shop frontage. Lofty Pursuits mingles handmade candy, ice cream, toys, games, witty greeting cards and quirky décor into an experience that you won’t find anywhere else in America.
Mia’s favourite ice cream flavour was cool mint chocolate chip, whereas Caius couldn’t get enough of the deep dark chocolate. Once you’ve tried a few flavours, share your favourite in the comments below.
465 Wakulla Springs Drive
After Manatee watching or lunch at The Lodge, walk next door to the soda fountain, now managed by Lofty Pursuits. We were lucky enough to be playing chess with the kids in the lobby area when a young staff trainee came out with a giant banana split. He had been practising making sweet delights and wondered if we would like to have it. Bonus! And it was delicious!
644 McConnell Drive
Funnily enough we visited this local brewery and found half the staff from Uptown Café where we’d eaten breakfast that same day. A lot of locals hang here and I can see why. It features a hip yet relaxing outdoor area with astro turf, lawn bowls, bean bag toss, table tennis and more.
Inside is a funky bar lined with windows overlooking the beer production facilities. Founded in 2007, Proof expanded into brewing in 2012 and has quickly built a loyal following. It is well known for it’s experimental craft beer tastes inspired by classic styles. Now 60-80 barrels are produced each week and they’re working hard to keep up with demand.
We took a private tour of the production facilities, however they don’t run these for the public on a regular basis. If you’d like to take a look behind the scenes, just contact Proof Brewery in advance via email (and ask nicely).
The Juicy Bottom Line
For a city of only 187,000 residents, Tallahassee’s food scene punches well above its weight. We were surprised and impressed in the wide range of tasty cuisine available – from cheap and cheerful, to fine dining. Although well-known regional food cities like Nashville and New Orleans capture more limelight, I can heartily recommend getting a hearty feed in Florida’s capital. Whether you’re visiting for a little while or one of the locals, free your tastebuds and try one (or all) of my favourite eateries in Tallahassee. You can thank me later.
During our time in Tallahassee we stayed at the Four Points by Sheraton Tallahassee Downtown. Click the name to get latest prices!