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Lackluster Tallahassee

Had some decent meals in this town, but nothing transcendent.

Kool Beanz has gone downhill since Nick, the old chef, left for Miami.
Cypress remains consistent but pricey and without much variance.
Sage was underwhelming, although they tried.
Cluster and Hops was a bit too precious and over-prepared (finishing sauces, etc.).
Chez Pierre is a frat house fiasco.
Kitcho is above average but nothing special.

So far, out-of-the-way Spring Creek Restaurant remains my top choice...but how often must I eat fried fish?

Full disclosure: I'm a native New Yorker, so my bar is rather high.

That said ... is there any hidden gem I've missed? And, will Liam's make up for this lack of sophistication?


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  1. Well, those are the usual suspects...with the possible exception of Albert's Provence...and I would have held it up to anything I have ever eaten in New York, but alas, Albert retired and it is well past its prime. My favorite of your list is Sage....tried several times, and not had a lackluster meal there yet. Imagination, reasonable prices, and good food.

    6 Replies
    1. re: steakman55

      I should give Sage another try. I did enjoy their exotic mushroom fricasee but wasn't crazy about their salad or desert. Will try the steak next visit. I did forget to mention Mozaik as an option. But what about Liam's? How does it rank?

      1. re: mizrachi

        Been to Liam's only once, but know friends who rave over it. I enjoyed it; the food was good and reasonably priced. I particularly like that is BYOB so you don't have to pay a 300% markup...and can enjoy a $40 bottle of wine that costs only $40.
        At Sage, try the spring roll appetizers if still available. I never get the steak in a restaurant like that; only at home or "steakhoues." but went once with another couple and was told it was good. Mozaik's in my opinion isn't in same league.

        1. re: steakman55

          Will try Sage again. I want to like the place. Perhaps it was an off night. Little pricey for an off night kind of place, but we'll give it another shot.

          That said, it seems that Tallahassee doesn't know how to do "simple" food. Generally, the restaurants here do way too much, reaching without any real nuance or subtlety, just dump the flavor all over the damn dish and no one will be able to tell. It doesn't make sense to me. Where is the simple French bistro? Why are there no bakeries? Why are brunch places such a rarity? Even regionally inspired cuisine in this town is below average: the BBQ is nothing to write home about and the fish in a city located so close to the coast is way below average and almost always fried. Maybe enough people are satisfied with Beef O'Brady's, but frankly I expected more from the state capital. It's not that I am looking to be negative. But it just seems that Tallahassee restauranteurs and diners don't mind that it's like amateur hour here. Even the notion of a gourmet deli is backwards. Like the Cicada Market: overpriced and unremarkable, charging $36 for extra virgin olive oil that can be found in even overpriced NY stores for less than half that.

          1. re: mizrachi

            I would try Clusters and Hops. Very small, uncompromising on food for the most part, and I think the main owner, Kent Steele, is as good a chef as you are going to find anywhere...the man can really cook. He also has excellent wine connections and you'll find bottles in there that you can't find anywhere else in Tallahassee.

            You also can buy a bottle of wine off the shelf and drink it with your meal, and I think their wine is far more reasonably priced than that of Cicada.

            I think they do a nice cheese plate, and their duck breast with fois gras over risotto is a f'ing foodgasm on a plate.

            1. re: pillars_of_color

              I will definitely give Clusters and Hops another try. We've only been once and it was a bit claustrophobic. I remember the dishes were all very serious with loads of finishing sauces and aged balsamic reductions etc. Needless to say, I will give them another go and report back. Certainly their take away counter blows Cicada Market out of the water.

            2. re: mizrachi

              I lived in Tallahassee for over a decade, and hit most of the better restaurants, including many that died on the vine. I do think that the best restaurants can hold their own--in terms of the quality of the food only-- against the mid-level restaurants in bigger cities, but it will cost you.

              I agree that many places just dump the flavor all over the food. Most blatant example of this is Anthony's. When the office had to take guests to dinner there, I usually dreaded it. The meats would be generally flavorless. To cover up the lack of flavor, the chefs just dumped a bunch of cheese over it, and melted it.

              Really good Mexican was impossible to find in town, and Tallahasseeans wouldn't know it if it was right in front of them. We had to go to tiny, neighboring Quincy, which has a sizable Central American immigrant population.

              The BBQ joint that someone wrote of here, by the way, is JB's, which is about five minutes north of the GA-FL border. It's pretty good, and worth the drive, but I've had better. The best BBQ used to be at Dave's CC club (now Bradfordville Blues Club), but since Dave sold the place, it's not the same.

              The best seafood place in town used to be The Wharf. They had a troubled history, due to a couple of scandals. When I left, they were planning to reopen. If they have, and have kept the same menu or cooks, it's worth a visit. You get a lot of Florida-style seafood for your buck, and not just fried, either.

              I would recommend the following places: Cluster and Hops; Cafe Cabernet (pretentious crowd, but great appetizers); Lucy Ho's (great Asian buffet, OK sushi); Nino's; Mozaik; Reang Thai (small, but decent prices, and one of the better Thai places I've tried anywhere). The only good, affordable breakfast place when I left was Another Broken Egg, which is up in Bradfordville, north of Tallahassee proper. They used to have a great place called The Mill, with the best damn muffins and a fantastic traditional brunch buffet, but it closed many years ago.

      2. I will be interested on your impression of Liam's. Personally I think that it is the very best in the area. Before Sage was Sage it was a sweet little French place that served outstanding french country cuisine.

        I agree with you - Tallahassee is a huge disappointment but certainly motivates me to travel a little more...

        5 Replies
        1. re: sunsuze

          Then Liam's it will be. I think we'll try their dinner before their European breakfast, although that sounds lovely as well. We don't mind traveling. Where else would you recommend in the region?

          1. re: mizrachi

            You pretty much hit the Tallahassee culinary nail on its ugly little head....If you are a newcomer, part of the reason may be attributed to the lobbyist spending restrictions of a few years ago.
            That is the alleged reason we don't have a decent steakhouse in town. As for fish, you are again correct: FRY it to a crisp or don't serve it. The baker and the bistro, well, I don't know where they are. Tallhassee is struggling with its provincial restrictions, and the the capital of the fourth largest state, is sadly lacking. My view is, if someone builds it, they will come. You have never, ever seen a crowd like the folks in Tallahassee crowding into the lobby of a new restaurant, like the mediocre chain Macaroni Grill and waiting for an hour and a half to be seated. As for the lack of a good BBQ joint, that is inexcusable as well. That's why people drive 4-5 hours to Atlanta and Tampa for a good meal

            1. re: steakman55

              The former Albert's Provence and the French cafe where Sage is now located were my two favorites. I have not tried Liam's and will put it at the top of my list when I get back to town.

              I heard good things about a small BBQ joint about 30-45 minutes north in a small Georgia town. A neighbor told me about it...I will check out the name and report back.

              We sign up for the music series at FSU and often try to grab a bite to eat at 6:00 on a Thursday or weekend night...it is a joke. Even at that early hour the lines at most decent to mediocre restaurants are huge. I can't tell you how many times we have just given up and grabbed a salad/soup combo at Panara's before a show. (Yawn)

              Two of my standard quick lunch fixes are Po Boys and Tally Grill.

              Ashby Stiff 's Friday review is broken down by cuisine and location. There are a few three and four hat casual spots in places like Thomasville and Appalachacola. Steakman or others, do you have any comments?

              Mirzachi, you may want to look at Steakman's thread several weeks back. He is forming a local chowhound dining group. I won't be back in town until Fall, but maybe we can all hunt for the hidden gems together.

              With family over in Ponte Vedra Beach, I get over to the Jacksonville area on a regular basis. My favorite bakery in North Florida is the French Pantry in Jax. If you get over to that coast check out the Cummer Museum and load up on breads and pastries.

              1. re: Windsor

                There are a few casual restaurants in town that we go to quite often. Bela bela, Jasmine, Rangthai, essence of india. For a nice meal we always head to Apalachicola, Avenue Sea and Owl Cafe are two of our favorites.

              2. re: steakman55

                The best barbecue I have ever eaten was at Shorty's in Miami. All of the stuff in Tallahassee I wouldn't feed my dog. Sonny's tastes like it was dipped in fuel oil. Once there was a decent place around FAMU, but it is closed, I think. The fact is that Tallahassee was settled by ruffians and people who had no taste, and traditions have continued.

          2. The wife swears by Liam's for lunch. You may also want to try Food Glorious Food, outside trumps the new digs, in my book, but we haven't had a bad meal there yet. As for Ashby Stiff's reviews. Every run of the mill Chinese buffet in town sports 3-3.5 toques. IMHO, doesn't carry the weight. Not sure if the lobbyist law is really the true reason for lack of fine dining experiences. If you talk to locals around here, it's the fried chicken, fried grouper, bbq and country buffet spots that they will recommend. And the chains for special occasions. So I doubt if Leon County has a large enough dining demand to support the small populace with more "sophisticated" palettes.

            9 Replies
            1. re: crewsweeper

              Liam's is very, very good. (And there is no corkage charge for BYOB.)

              If you want good, fresh seafood that is not fried, try the broiled seafood platter at George & Louie's in Thomasville. It comes with grilled asparagus and excellent cheese grits. Add a side of fried green tomatoes and a cold bottle of something white. You'll have a feast! It's not fine dining, but it sure is good.

              1. re: onrushpam

                That's funny. I've always been charged around seven bucks for corkage. You must be either incredibly good looking or a real smooth talker onrushpam!

                1. re: sunsuze

                  Nope. The first time I called for reservations, the woman I spoke with said they encourage BYOB and there is no corkage. And, we weren't charged for it. That was in April. We haven't been there for dinner again, so that was the only time we did BYOB.

                  1. re: onrushpam

                    gee, I've dined there twice in the last three weeks and was charged both times! Guess you lucked out!

                    1. re: sunsuze

                      We'll probably go there again for dinner soon... will see what happens re: the BYOB...

                      The corkage fee wouldn't bother me a bit... to be able to bring our own choice of wines and have such a fabulous meal is a true "find"!!!

                      I just wish we had time and money to do it more often!

                      1. re: onrushpam

                        Liam's food is decent....not what I would call a true find. There aren't many restaurants around that I would call a "true find". Great food is determined by the usage of great products coupled with great technique. Liam's food is alright.

              2. re: crewsweeper

                Avenue Sea is the BEST FOOD you are going to get within a couple of hours drive of Tally, IMO. Definitely worth the drive to Appalachicola.

                Windsor: I think you're referring to JB's, but I've heard they've closed and personally, I thought they were not good.

                1. re: pillars_of_color

                  A bunch of us were recently saying that it is a shame there are no nice seafood restaurants locally except for good ole Bonefish, which is always great, but it is a chain and usually overcrowded. Although some of the better restaurants serve some good seafood dishes we would like to see more (a) elegant establishments devoted to seafood.

                  1. re: benedpo

                    There is a restaurant in Sumatra, Florida that is unpretentious and has some of the best seafood I have ever eaten. It is out in the middle of nowhere, about an hour from Tallahassee. I wrote about it at http://www.flwildflowers.com/restaurant If you can get out to Liberty County down highway 65 toward St. George Island, you will see it on the left. It's closed Monday and Tuesday. Word of mouth is making this place more popular than ever with people who can get out there.

              3. Bakery ideer.

                The Cake Shop (whom with great affection I refer to as the Cake Nazi)on John Knox makes the best cakes, cookies, and muffins in town. Not crazy about her bar cookies though. If you have dealt with this bakery in the past then you know the "rules."
                *No special requests.
                *You can only select from the cakes that she is currently making. No exceptions.
                *No cell phones allowed.
                * No attitudes.
                *No forgetting to pick up an order.
                *Quietly wait in line and do not make eye contact with the person behind the counter.
                * Stay in the line!
                *Have your money ready.
                *When it's your turn be ready with your order. Do not smile or make small talk! *Complete your order and hand over your cash. Do not expect change.
                * If you receive change do not count it in line.
                *And for Gods sakes don't ask for bread!!!

                Please don't tell her I said this. I'll be blacked balled!

                10 Replies
                1. re: sunsuze

                  She does make the best cakes in town, which illustrates the problem because her cakes are decent but they're far from great. Aside from her snotty demeanor, her biggest problem is that she doesn't use enough salt, particularly in her icing. Good bakers and confectioners know the importance of adding enough salt to sweets. It accentuates and balances flavors, and if you don't have enough it ends up tasting flat. There's a guy in town who has a small bake-to-order business from his home and his cakes are vastly superior and cheaper. I had some of his cheesecake the other day and it was probably the best I've ever had.

                  1. re: zothhh0

                    More info please! Does this guy have a name? How does one get in touch with him.

                    1. re: vinoepasta

                      His name's Dexter, the business is NiNi's. 321-5285. You'll be really happy with anything he makes, and he's really easy going about special requests.

                      1. re: zothhh0

                        Thanks! Can't wait to check it out. Any favorites?

                        1. re: vinoepasta

                          I've had the cheesecake, a yellow cake with chocolate frosting, and a red velvet cake. All spectacular. I don't know what he does with his cakes but they're very buttery and way more moist than others I've had, including The Cake Shoppe and Au Peche Mignon (which seem to be moist only because they're basted with a sugar/water solution). Most cakes are just a conveyance to get frosting into your mouth, but I could honestly eat these plain and be happy as a clam.

                          1. re: zothhh0

                            Thank you! I haven't yet been to the cake shoppe but have been to Au Peche Mignon, very disappointing. Most bakeries use compounds and alternate fats to prolong shelflife of baked goods. These alternate fats are cheaper than butter. It sounds as though he skips that alternative and uses butter, Thank God!

                            1. re: vinoepasta

                              Yeah, he definitely uses butter and plenty of it. I haven't been knocked out by Au Peche Mignon either. I think they favor a European style of cake (no surprise, given the name) which is deliberately baked rather dry so that it will absorb whatever syrup or liquor they brush it with. I don't really like it. I don't get much of a buttery note, just sweetness. Pretty good coffee though, and the people are really nice. The only cake I've ever eaten that was even in the same ballpark as Nini's is from a place that was down in Clearwater called Blue Mountain Bakery, now sadly out of business. It was owned by a baker from Japan and his stuff was tremendous. He also had those cool inversion-style coffee pots shaped like hour glasses where you heat the water until it's sucked up into the grounds and then filters back down. It was a mighty fine way to spend an afternoon, stuffing my face and chugging coffee.

                              1. re: zothhh0

                                Sounds like Blue Mountain Bakery or something like it would be a welcome addition to downtown Tally. I would love to revisit the familiar feeling of having my favorite coffee and pastry on a Saturday morning instead of mourning it.

                                1. re: vinoepasta

                                  He has a website now: www.ninisbakery.com
                                  I had a key lime pie the other day. Phenomenal. Rich and very limey, not excessively sweet.

                        2. re: zothhh0

                          Hi I definitely agree with everyone about the lack of quality dining and bakeries that exist in this town. Although I haven't tried NiNi's yet there is a lady in town that works out of her house as well.I heard about her through a friend of mine thats orders desserts from her several times a month, so I decided to give her a try. Her company is called The Honey Pot and she can be reached at 850-339-3681. She is in the process of a website so instead you can reach her via email which is TheHoneyPot@live.com.

                          Also she will take special request and can make anything that you could possibly think of not to mention she has a wonderful attitude while doing it. You should check this place out and when you do you have to try the chocolate peanut butter cheesecake its wonderful.

                  2. I think its a little harsh to call the entire City lackluster because it doesn't have the fancy/trendy restaurants of NYC ( I too lived in NYC). I admit that mizrachi is correct in the assessment of the restaurant scene, but I'm sure mizrachi didn't move here for the food. I for one applaud Cicada , La Lanterna, and other little food shops for trying to bring in foods and wines that this City needs. There are hidden gems, as Tallahasseans posting on Chowhounds have revealed. I would recommend Bella Bella, La Hacienda II, Samrat (off the menu not the buffet), Sushilicious, and Far East. You won't get Alice Waters, but you will get family run solid food. BTW sunsuze is spot on as to the cake shop, but my favorite is Au Peche Mignon French Pastry in Market Square. Although they don't do the traditional birthday cake, usually great pastries and the owner is much more flexible than the Cake Shop.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: masala maci

                      I only mean to characterize Tallahassee's sub-standard restaurant scene as lackluster, not the city itself, or its inhabitants, or anything else unrelated to food. I was hoping for a certain quality level that simply does not exist here. Differences in opinion on this matter come down to a question of taste. Bella Bella is a servicable restaurant, a lazy sunday night pasta kind of place, but in no way could it ever be considered a gem, hidden or otherwise. As far as I'm concerned, Samrat gave up a long time ago and should be avoided at all costs. Even the newish Indian restaurant which replaced the previously wretched Curry and Wine is only just adequate. In my opinion, these places just represent the kind of culinary malaise I've found in this town: not reaching, worthwhile only for lunch or when just can't bear your own kitchen. I think that what Tallahasse lacks is simple, high quality restaurants -- not fancy/trendy, just straightforward and delicious food. For the record, Cicada Market is overpriced and of questionable freshness. However, I agree with you about La Lanterna, and that may be our best Italian restaurant.

                      1. re: mizrachi

                        I need to try La Lanterna. Where is it? It's not in the phone book....how strange. I think Z. Bardhi's is an excellent Italian place that for some reason is overlooked.

                        And I admit that I agree fully with mizrachi. I lived in the armpit of Florida for a long time. Merritt Island/Cocoa/Cocoa Beach. Yet that area runs circles around the offerings here. Granted the armpit of Florida attracts more people and is much larger...but we even lack a decent homestyle southern place that is so abundant in the small towns of the Carolinas and Georgia. I can't firgure it out...

                        1. re: sunsuze

                          La Laterna Italian Market is off Capital Circle near Rangthai and Calico Jack's.
                          (850) 878-9738. I'm not sure how to get someone who has the talent and business acumen to have a place like M has described to either come or branch out in Tallahassee. It seems like Mon Per et Moi (where Sage used to be) and the likes always end up leaving.

                          1. re: masala maci

                            La Lanterna is great. If only it were a full restaurant instead of lunch time deli. Still, even their frozen items, like their lasagna, are high quality. And I love that it's a cozy mother/daughter operation. I once mentioned to the daughter that many of the Italian pork stores in New York carry a carbonated espresso drink called Manhattan Special and within a week she'd ordered a few cases without ever having tried one. Now this place I'd certainly call a gem.

                            The lack of very good, simple restaurants in this town may have less to do with talent or business skills and more with the apathy of the average diner. If folks here are lining up around the block to eat at Macaroni Grill then why even consider opening up a smaller, better place? Present company excluded, I just dont think the citizens of Tallahassee care enough.

                    2. At the risk of being thought a barbarian - I'm not quite the food snob everyone else on this list is - I'm going to join in the complaint. I have to admit my problem isn't that I can't find decent-enough restaurant food here (I have simple taste I think). My problem is I can't find enough INTERESTING food choices. I have traveled a fair amount and lived in other countries and I get bored with the choices here. I'd like a good fish and chips (Shenanigan's is awful, and Rose and Thorn, while better, still questionable). I'd like a good German restaurant. How is it no one in a town 16 miles from the coast can make a good crab cake? And don't get me started on the lack of a brewpub.
                      Tallahasseeans don't seem to want interesting - there used to be a (very mediocre) brew pub here called Buckhead and while I'm not sure whether the quality of the food was all that great (I was always more interested in whether the beers were good), at least it was different - they had bison and venison and squab and a few other unusual entrees that were at least something interesting. So what happened? Place closed. I would like good food - but barring that, I'd like to at least have some culinary adventures. I'd like to go somewhere and see something on a menu that would make me go 'hmm, wonder what that tastes like? I've never heard of that."
                      Here are a few places I do like (again, I'm risking ridicule, but what the heck):
                      The Black Bean, the little Cuban place on the Parkway, is one of my favorite places. Very simple, cheap, but reliably good. (You can't mess up a Cuban sandwich or an empanada, I guess).
                      I actually like Po Boys (but hardly ever go because the service is so absolutely horrible and I never have three hours to kill at lunch).
                      There's a place downtown on College called Paradigm that has pretty good sandwiches and salads for lunch. Not something I jones for - but quite good when I do go. I like Decent Pizza. Not a fan of the atmosphere - (don't like having to go up to the counter to get another beer), but the pizza's good. I think the Italian food at Mom and Dad's is just fine. Not like the best restaurants in Little Italy, but tasty. And I disagree about Samrat - I think it's pretty good. When I'm in the mood for vindaloo and a Kingfisher, that's my answer.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: dro

                        Altho' a I'm a "newb" to the site, I wish I would have looked for this site when we moved here in '01. I found "dro's" post via Google when searching for info on The Rose & Thorn.

                        Anyway, I felt the need to add my two cents.

                        Buckhead Brewery...had the *best* bison burger...I miss it.

                        I must say that I was surprised that no one mentioned Wilson's BBQ. The pulled pork and beef are zesty, yet not overpowering. The collard greens will cure what ails you and the cornbread is a gift from the gods! Good, hearty food and a real "Welcome to the family" sort of feel. They even have live jazz, but I think that's mainly a weekend feature. They have fair prices especially considering their abundant serving sizes.

                        Being that I am a "burger girl"...I've found the best, almost religious experience, at Coosh's Bayou Rouge, on Kerry Forest Parkway. They have the "Bayou Bleu burger"...oh my! Combine that with a good, dark beer from Louisiana, and your appetite will be well met. Coosh has his own special blend of spices to add to fries (and anything else you choose) which is so delicious, I bought a canister for at home :-)

                        My mum, who does not usually like Cajun food (because of over-spicing,) loves their catfish and after sampling it, I concur, that it is prepared in such a manner that it is a very light batter, and is lightly spiced, so as to enhance - not cover, the flavor of the fish.

                        Wilson's and Coosh's are two of the upsides to Tallahassee, but one downside is that there is only one German restaurant that I know of: Nino's.

                        While Nino's does represent a portion of Germany, it's not the kind of German we had when we were stationed in Bitburg. I'm not bashing on Nino's, we just weren't prepared for all the heavy sauces...it was too rich for our palates (not quite so bad on the wallet though.) I realize that Germany is a big country, but I still miss their bakeries (pastries that were delightful without sending a person into diabetic shock.)

                        If anyone knows of any other German restaurants in the area (heck, we'll travel 50 miles for good food) please let me know. ;-)

                        1. re: Lyssa

                          Is Wilson's still open? I went by there twice a month or so ago during regular business hours and it appeared to be closed.

                        2. re: dro

                          Oh, I totally think you can mess up an empanada! Then again, I'm Cuban.

                        3. Tallahassee is a void for the culinary arts. We have tried every restaurant listed and have left unhappy. The hidden gem that you are seeking is one and a half hours outside of Tallahassee in Apalachicola. I agree with pillars....Avenue Sea is hands down the best brunch and dinner in the area. However, this recommendation comes a rule book just as the bakery sunsuze had posted.
                          1. The chefs make everything from scratch, so don't go if you have to be anywhere. Plan to spend a couple hours dining.
                          2. It is set up like a tasting menu (the chef is former French Laundry) so expect small portions.
                          3. The dining room is...anything but trendy. But it is clean and tasteful.

                          Two other recommendation is China Delight on Tennessee, order A1-A10 only, and Ham-a-knockers in Wakulla for BBQ.

                          Happy selective dining!

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: vinoepasta

                            We visited Tally recently. If I had read these reviews, we would have stopped at Micky D's beforehand and never slowed the car until we were well past Capital Circle. But seriously.....We had a wonderful meal 17 miles south of town at the Ed Ball Lodge. Very nice setting. Excellent service. Delicious bean soup, and perfect fried oyster apetizers. Not chic, but fairly elegant in a lovely dining room on the park grounds.

                            1. re: wishbugger

                              Yes, that is Wakulla Springs. A classic old Southern lodge type. Bean soup is a specialty.

                            2. re: vinoepasta

                              How do you know what items A1-A10 are? They're only printed in Chinese... Do you just ask the waiter? I'd love to try them. I love the pork dumplings at China Delight!

                              1. re: onrushpam

                                I haven't tried the pork dumplings, but will next time. As for what the items are, I just ask the waiter. Try the braised beef and noodle soup, ribs, cuttlefish, and also the pork and bean curd.

                            3. Just came across this post and I can see that the problem here is folks think Tallahassee is a city. Please keep in mind that while it is geographically in FL, Tallahassee is actually a small south Georgia town. Expecting anything more than local color from a restaurant is a waste of time. The residents are government employees (read that, little disposable income), college professors and staff (likewise), students (need I say more) and lobbyists and legislators who are now legally prohibited from supporting the creation or maintenance of good restaurants.
                              So, stick with the local color and stop looking for anything even close to fine dining - few in Tallahassee would know how to provide classic service or would expect it.
                              Go to Barnacle Bills for beer and seafood, take out some barbecue from several local joints or jump in the car and drive to Appalachicola like the locals . And if you can't or don't want to say "Go 'Noles" or consistently dress in garnet and gold clothing, you might as well leave town.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: cwmcm54

                                Come on now, Tallahassee is a city in Florida that borders close to Georgia. So close that it makes a jaunt to Thomasville or Valdosta an easy trip. Tallahassee is the state's capitol, but like many states, the capitol is a smaller city. But that doesn't excuse the lack of good food. I've been to several "small towns" (such as Madison, Wisconsin, Burlington Vermont, and Chapel Hill N.C.) and found wonderful restaurants. There are plenty of working professionals (doctors & lawyers), plus there are two major universities here, that alone should promote good food.

                              2. hey Miz-
                                that's not setting the bar high, it's wondering what sort of crack the restaurant reviewer at the Democrat smokes.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: theantijed

                                  I completely agree with you. A problem with the Tallahassee food scene is that the bar has been set real low. Have you seen the latest review? Angelo's....I got a kick out of that, 5 stars for a, excuse my language, shit restaurant. A place where you can get your fish fried, blackened, or broiled?? Just about every restaurant in town has five hats.

                                2. The food in the forgotten coast including Tallahasse and the surrounding area is less than lackluster. I haved lived in NYC, Boston, Atlanta and SF and the food around here is nothing short of a means to survive. Everything is fried and is over sauced. I do not expect much when I go out except for the food to taste good. Mr. Stiffs recommendaions our completely wrong. I base all of my comments about a particular restaurant about the type of place it is and the cuisine they serve; all of Ashby Stiff's recommendations have never been acurate to say the least. If the people in this area believe that what he says is accurate than for lack of better words, their palettes are s@$t. My girlfriend has been to Avenue Sea and while she said the service is a little it slow at times, their food is comparable to Le Bec Fin and Chanterelle (she's from upstate New Jersey).

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: vinoepasta

                                    I've also heard that Avenue Sea is top notch. Will make it out there one of these days. So, as it stands, Liams and Avenue Sea seem to be Tallahassee's best restaurants - neither of which are actually located in Tallahassee.

                                    As far as Ashby Stiff is concerened, I'm unsure how anyone can take him seriously, his name withstanding. Considering he reviews the Olive Garden, all bets are off with that guy.

                                    1. re: mizrachi

                                      No action on here since September? Guess everyone got bored with the braggadocio of the immigrant gourmets. Later.

                                      1. re: Bettonbabe

                                        From Bettonbabe's last post:

                                        "We've followed Ashby Stiff's reviews for more than 20 years and found them to be consistently in agreement with our experiences."

                                        'Nuff said.

                                        1. re: mizrachi

                                          Ah, Ashby Stiff. His latest review is about a restaurant with an "All-American" menu (Stiff apparently having forgotten that hollandaise sauce comes courtesy of those perfidious French). His writing is florid and fatty, but where's the beef?

                                          He spends half the review telling us that the restaurant is open for three meals a day and has several dining rooms and a "big, busy bar." Oh, and they serve brunch "every Saturday and Sunday." The servers will "suggest a congenial dish or wine" -- I bet they will -- and will "get your meal out in good time."

                                          His writing makes my eyes bleed. Eggs "trot" out, customers are "beefeaters" or "late snoozers." French onion soup? It's the "real, onion-broth McCoy." (Though every onion soup I've ever had used beef broth.)

                                          Then he lists starters and prices without comment, and notes that a pasta dish "sounds interesting." Seafood Newberg -- any bets on whether this is fresh seafood? -- "proved just fine." Steaks are served with "pots of au jus."

                                          But you can also get a burger or a sandwich. There's a revelation.

                                          Rating? 4 hats -- which is the same rating he gives Sage (considered one of the top four or five restaurants in this area, and truly lovely, though I feel a little exposed in its room -- my only quibble) and many other good places to eat.

                                          I'm sure it's easy enough for the Democrat to use Stiff. He's been a Tallahassee fixture for over 50 years, and ran the hospitality program at FSU for a long time. They can just wind him up and send him out, which leaves them free to provide their All-American Football coverage 24x7.

                                          There are any number of hints of the antsiness of Tallahassee residents to the state of food reviewing in this region (whether or not they are new to this area). Tallahassee deserves better. Chowhound is Radio Free Tallahassee in the area of food reviewing. Thank goodness for that.

                                          1. re: kgs

                                            Here, Here!!

                                            Thank you for your eloquent response to Bettonbabe. I couldn't and didn't dare say anything. It would have been rude.

                                            1. re: kgs

                                              I may have to look up the Democrat online just to read these hysterical reviews! Thanks for the laugh.

                                              1. re: kgs

                                                I think the Democrat needs a restaurant critic rather than a food reviewer. They need a writer who doesn't pull his punches and isn't afraid to get into a fight. I would station Ashby Stiff in Hungry Howies and leave him there to contemplate the yellow walls. My late brother used to write restaurant reviews for a Sacramento alternative newspaper and always brought along a "guest human" to dine with him. These were hilarious. His writing could draw great crowds into a small but decent restaurants. I used to send my journalism students to restaurants in Tallahassee and ask for health inspection reports, which some of them refused to divulge, even though the law states they must. I have yet to see Ashby inspect the bathrooms or look at the cleanliness, or tell us about the loud music that interrupts meals, or describe the other patrons. I'd rather have smoking than music, if I had a choice. The Democrat is in business to get advertising. Otherwise, they would run the health inspection reports like many other newspapers do.

                                      2. In October, 2006, I started making monthly trips from Altanta to Tallahassee to visit an FSU professor friend. First a question: Does anyone know of a decent place to eat between Tallahassee and Atlanta on the route that takes me from Albany to Ft. Benning, I-185, I-85? I'm sure there is at least a little regional cuisine place I should know about. Doesn't have to be fancy, but better than the Books a Million I've been patronizing.
                                        Now, to join in the wailing...the first few months coming here, I was enjoying the comaraderie, good conversation, and hospitality too much to give much thought to the food. (People everywhere are open and friendly--as opposed to Atlanta--and minimal rush hour!) We made the usual circuit: Mozaik, Food Glorious Food, Kool Beans until the fusion thing melded into a non-descript mish mash of which I no longer could take more than a few bites. Made a couple of trips to Sage where the dog was welcomed on the patio with her own water dish, the owner was attentive, and the food was good, but pricey. And last summer, there was the thrice-weekly after-St. Mark's Trail-ride Cabo's margarita and grouper sandwich (I just do enjoy this place for an impromptu relaxed time with friends: it's welcoming quirky atmosphere and proximity to home). Samrat was satisfying for takeout (What is the penchant for bright lighting in many Tallahassee restaurants?). Decent Pizza, well, barely. Then came the inevitable Chez Pierre and Angelo's. Much ado about....ugh. I like the fraternity comment someone made. Had a really enjoyable dining experience at a restaurant in Apalachicola (Latin influence). I think Tallahassee is BEAUTIFUL. Love that New Leaf Co op is just up the road. So easy to get around town. You have Goodwill stores on every other corner but no really well-prepared dining. Why, oh why? University professors, to my surprise, are not well-paid but, through their travels, they've developed a palate. And both politicians and universities court sophisticated visitors and job candidates. No patrons? I don't believe it. I can't believe a college town can't attract someone who makes good pizza! Forget Chinese, Mexican, Italian or regional. And, yes, where is the seafood? It's unfathomable! I'm starving! (incidentally, I long for a good "scene" people watching place to stroll and hang out). I'm not blaming anyone. I'm hoping to encourage someone to make it happen. I'm pulling for you, really. There is so much about this town that I love.
                                        By the way, I've written Trader Joe's begging them to come and assuring them that there is a thriving market in T. for cheap wine.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: hoping4more

                                          I too have written Trader Joe's. I was told last week that I was "aspiring" too much to hope for TJ's. But that is to give in to the darkness.

                                          For seafood, I'm serious, go to the Shell Oyster Bar and have raw or fried oysters and their numinous onion rings. (The hush puppies and french fries are ghastly, victim to the perfect fry temps for the other stuff.) First stop by a good wine shop and get your bottle, or get a nice Belgian brew or something (or anything other than "Swayte Tay" -- you can tell I'm a damn Yankee, eh). They get their fish straight from A-Bay (as does Southern Seafood, though that's a store, not a restaurant).

                                          Not too long ago I was taken to Mellow Mushroom, and because it was nice weather we sat outside. We sat on a gas-choked main drag shouting over the zoom of SUVs. I don't know how the pizza was because I wasn't doing refined flour for Lent. But it smelled like the worst of Tallahassee... car exhaust and dirty asphalt. Yum.

                                          I repeat that if you drive to TLH from ATL by way of Omega, stop at Taqueria Jesus y Maria. Delish. I am almost willing to drive 100 miles some weekend just to get their menudo, I crave menudo so much. The tongue tacos... oh my.

                                          1. re: kgs

                                            Locals here were talking about how good the steaks and prime rib are at the "Whip" out on Lake Talquin. Supposedly they also have a shrimp boil every Friday. Anyone tried it?

                                            And kgs, you can pick up Ommegang Abbey Ale at ABC to go along with the fresh stuff you pick up at Southern Seafood. We usually hit I-75 just below Cordelle, going through Sylvester, rather than taking 319 over to Tifton. But might just make a detour to try TJM, next time up/back.

                                        2. Mizrachi, you seem to have gone to every single overpriced, yuppiefied restaurant in Tallahassee, and not any of the better local places. You can find places like Cypress and Sage ANYWHERE- they're totally generic. You can't expect haute cuisine in a town like Tallahassee, you've got to look for more offbeat types of food.

                                          Reang Thai is amazing, although they have recently upped their prices. Samrat has Indian food just as good if not better than what I've had in much bigger cities. The Catfish Pad has excellent fried fish and shellfish, although their sides are unpredictable. Po' Boy's is good, but their sides are not nearly as good as their sandwiches. Masa has the best sushi. Cabo's has great burritos and burgers, but don't listen to them when they tell you their seafood is good. Au Peche is great, although not the best I've had. I really love Sahara Greek and Lebanese; their kibbi is incredible. I CANNOT BELIEVE someone likes Lucy Ho's, it is some of the most disgusting Chinese food I have ever eaten. Also, don't listen to Ashby Stiff.

                                          All of that said, I live in Sarasota now, and the food scene here is about a million times better than in Tallahassee.

                                          15 Replies
                                          1. re: incrediblekates


                                            You must be my exact opposite!

                                            You've listed every restaurant in town that I'd say qualifies as supremely mediocre if not outright bad, avoidable, lazy cooking!

                                            Samrat, Reang Thai, Po' Boys, and Cabo's are some of the better local places? Come again?

                                            'You can't expect haute cuisine in a town like Tallahassee.' Huh?

                                            You think the Catfish Pad is a better choice than Cypress? Whoa, Nelly.

                                            Sounds like you're saying we should we all dumb-down our taste buds. But in my opinion, crappy, uneventful food does not actually define offbeat. It defines crappy and uneventful.

                                            For offbeat, Las Brasas and Spring Creek Restaurant come to mind. La Lanterna or the International House of Food work well in this department. Even Utz's Oyster Bar qualifes.

                                            As we've said, this town needs just a few more simple, decent options...without a blue cheese stuffing or an over-flavored heaping of sauce or, as seems de riguer in this region, frying everything in sight.

                                            I'm talking about simple and fresh food, offbeat, yuppified, or otherwise.

                                            1. re: mizrachi

                                              Well said mizrachi. The catfish pad?? The catfish pad?! I am amazed that Barnaby's wasn't mentioned! Well, I would just rather go to bed hungrey!

                                              1. re: mizrachi

                                                I moved away from Tallahassee a little while ago and I really miss the salad dressing from Kitcho Japanese Restaurant. I have very little skill for discerning ingredients in dishes, but the crowd in this conversation seems to have a keen sense for these sorts of things. It is a creamy salad dressing served on their house salads. Does anyone have any idea what is in it? Thanks for the help.

                                              2. re: incrediblekates

                                                Essence of India has been very good the last three times I've been there--I had some nutty, fenugreek-scented paneer dish this weekend that was delightful. Cabo's burritos are typical fake Southern "Mexican." As for Sage and Cypress, I disagree about them being generic. They might not be the French Laundry but for the price, the food is excellent.

                                                1. re: kgs

                                                  Sage and Cypress are two of the better restaurants in this region. However, their prices are very expensive and their food portions are outrageous. At Cypress I can feed a family of four off of one entree. My girlfriend and I spent $200 (this was before tip) for one bottle of mid range wine, 2 appetizers, two entrees, and two desserts (one of which was inedible due to the blue cheese ice cream). When we left we noticed that we weren't saying "Wow, this dish or that dish was amazing", We spent as though we were dining at a high end restaurant, but without the afterglow. And Sage is again...just okay. Conceptually I want to like it more than the execution allows.
                                                  Mizrachi: La Lanterna? There has to be a better Italian restaurant in or near town. And for those who say La Luna...My father's family is from Napoli. I grew up eating very fresh Italian food. Neither place is near good. Although you can pick up some good imported goods from La Lanterna. New York has some amazing Italian restaurants.
                                                  What do we need to have in Tallahassee to make it more palatable?
                                                  IMO we need a great little Italian joint with authentic Neapolitan style pizza, a great little french bistro, a bakery that bakes on premise with real ingredients with illy coffee products, and a middle eastern joint that serves homemade falafel, warm and smooth hummus with freshly baked pita, and schawarma. And thai, a really amazing thai restaurant (neither reng thai or bahn thai will do) utilizing really fresh seafood and herbs. And last, mexican. What I wouldn't give for some posole, really authentic and flavorful salsa, handmade guacamole, and al pastor. Don't forget the freshly made, warm corn tortillas.

                                                  1. re: vinoepasta

                                                    Of the 3rd sentence about feeding a family of four off of one entree at Cypress, did you mean the size of the portion or the price??
                                                    And for your last paragraph, I agree 100%.
                                                    What about some good fresh seafood? This near the coast but hard to find in town. And let's not forget a good BBQ joint.

                                                    1. re: vinoepasta

                                                      Also agree with your last paragraph. Throw in a Jewish Deli and we'd be all set.

                                                        1. re: vinoepasta

                                                          While we are at it, a nice steakhouse and life would be complete for me.

                                                          1. re: steakman55

                                                            You can take one of our Tampa steakhouses. I'll donate one to Leon County ; )
                                                            You can have Charley's, Ruth's Chris, Shula's,The Palm, Flemings, the new one at the casino, or the new one at Channelside. How many of the same place do we need??
                                                            I am from Panama City and what a treat it was when I was a kid to go to the Brown Derby in Tallahassee. I am sure it is long gone now and if it was still around might be scary lol.

                                                            1. re: rhnault

                                                              Fond memories of the Brown Derby and its pepper steak...to bad they have been gone for decades. If you are offering a Tampa steakhouse, I think, oh, let's see....why not take Bern's???

                                                              1. re: steakman55

                                                                We have to keep Bern's because it's the original in town. Hah I remember Tally also had a divine Steak n Ale!

                                                                1. re: rhnault

                                                                  Well it deservedly closed and replaced with a poor to mediocre place named gill's. We will settle for the Capital Grille and be thankful for it

                                                                  1. re: steakman55

                                                                    I forgot that one on my Tampa steakhouse list! I haven't been there yet.

                                                                2. re: steakman55

                                                                  We were underwhelmed by Bern's in Tampa, in fact, the steak was not good at all, the servers are pretenious and the decor is cheesy at best.

                                                                  However, I will credit them for their freash seafood which is brought in daily and their wine cellar ofwhich we actually were given a tour.

                                                  2. Yes, Tallahassee is culinarily bleak and in no way caters to an epicurean lifestyle. However, there are a few spots that nobody has mentioned before.

                                                    The Main Ingredient - recently closed, however the food and atmosphere didn't disappoint. I believe the chef/owner moved on to bigger and better things. A new place is opening up at the same location (on Tharpe Street) tomorrow actually.

                                                    Andrew's Capital Grill & Bar/Andrew's 2nd Act - both Andrew's restaurants have the best outdoor dining experience in Tallahassee. The people watching is never dull, the drinks are worth the money, and the food is above average. Andrew's Grill & Bar is a great place for lunch; try the Haight Ashbury. The Grill & Bar also has a very respectably brunch buffet on Sundays, even though it's a bit pricey. Andrew's 2nd Act is the fine dining restaurant of the two. I haven't been since they hired the new chef they have, but hopefully they are seasoning the food properly now (used to be my only complaint - no salt).

                                                    El Jalisco is my current goto place for Mexican dining. The margaritas are the best in town with their homemade sour mix (even though the last time I was there the drink had a strange plastic aftertaste that hadn't been there before). Every time I go I order one beef chile relleno a la carte with my meal...mmm so good.

                                                    People have mentioned it, but I'm going to again. Food Glorious Food is definitely worth trying out. They also have a very nice brunch they do on Sundays. It's definitely better than Another Broken Egg Cafe, which I used to eat at every week before I moved further into town.

                                                    My mind is drawing a blank atm for any more review. I will update later when I go to new place opening up tomorrow...sorry I forgot the name of it.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: FuturePilotX

                                                      What's the report on The Main Ingredient replacement?

                                                      1. re: hoping4more

                                                        The replacement is called Monk's Pub and Grill, which is sooo original. (/sarcasm)

                                                        The food wasn't that great to be honest. There were three of us, and the food took like an hour. A four-top that got there after us got their food before us. Our server was the co-owner, and he was o.k. even tho I think he forgot to put our meal in. He did keep the drinks coming tho, so we really didn't notice our missing meals until close to 40 mins. in =P. My burger was over-cooked when I finally did get it tho =(.

                                                        I will go back again, cause I like the atmosphere. My fiance and I also just like trying new things. They did have a lot of vegetarian selections, which she loved. Will post again if I have a better experience there next time.

                                                    2. Man oh man, somebody mentioned The Mill on here... that place and the muffins they made are legendary among the locals here. I was friends with a girl who worked there; apparently one day they closed suddenly and didn't tell anyone. The wait staff just showed up for work one day to find the doors locked.

                                                      Here's a question for you: have you been to Gill's Tavern? They have an excellent prime rib and a full bar and the atmosphere is pretty classy for this town. Besides that I'd say the best restaurant meal I've had round these parts is at Mozaik. That being said, you could eat at a comparable restaurant in New York, Philadelphia, or L.A. for about half the price. This town has such a wanna-be complex, it drives me crazy. They want so badly to be just like a "real" city. I had to roll my eyes when the city changed all the downtown street signs to say just the street name (sans the "Street" or "Road" or "Drive") a la Los Angeles.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: TD_Rick

                                                        Many a morning was spent by me at the Mill eating an orange juice muffin. Gone but not forgotten.

                                                      2. Something else that drives me crazy. No decent Italian food. Some of my friends here rave about Bella Bella. I think what they really like is the idea of Bella Bella. It's a quaint little place on a dark side street with cafe-style seating and quirky decor. Unfortunately, the food is all drenched in red sauce and covered and/or stuffed with cheese. There are many, many more delicious foods in the realm of Italian besides lasagne and chicken parm!

                                                        10 Replies
                                                        1. re: TD_Rick

                                                          I'm surprised no one has mentioned Riccardo's (located on Cap Circle NE, across from Home Depot). That's where we go for Italian. Homemade bread with a good herb butter and excellent bruschetta (chunks of marinated tomatoes with a soft feta cheese atop). I enjoy their calzones and they have very yummy meatballs too.

                                                          I believe Wednesday nights are German night. I've never been, but that could be an option for German.

                                                          Not posh, but I'd rather go there than Carrabba's (& definitely much better than Olive Garden).

                                                          1. re: medeadolce

                                                            Riccardo's is rotten. I happen to know that the owner gets most of the stuff from Sam's and pretty much warms it up.

                                                            Feta cheese is not an ingredient in bruschetta. If they are making it with feta they are making it wrong.

                                                            1. re: captainER

                                                              We eat lunch there on occassion. Decent pizzas and you only need the 1/2 sandwich to fill up. Calzones are huge, like MoMos. Little overboard (and wrong ethnic Riccardo) with the I Love Lucy bit. Pastas are typical Americanized versions. But you can do worse for lunch.

                                                            2. re: medeadolce

                                                              We tried it, and felt it was over-hyped by the Tally political class. Nothing special there.

                                                            3. re: TD_Rick

                                                              Everything is frozen there pretty much. The appetizers are solid and the desserts are terrific. I don't think anything is homemade, but it's all high-end sysco stuff. Atmosphere---particularly for dining outside in nice weather, is great.

                                                              1. re: captainER

                                                                Pretty much everywhere you go nationwide, you're going to get Sysco stuff.
                                                                They're a major supplier, if not the 800 lb gorilla in the business. Not that this makes them good or bad in terms of quality. They do focus on regional products when and where available. But unless you have a "French Launderette" with it's own garden, every restaurant will get its food from one supplier or another. it a restaurant buys locally only or specialty suppliers, you'll see it in the prices and (for Tallytown) lack of business.

                                                                1. re: crewsweeper

                                                                  There are restaurants that rely heavily on farmers rather than sysco.
                                                                  Kool Beanz, Cypress, and Avenue Sea are three that do.

                                                                  1. re: vinoepasta

                                                                    Sage uses all fresh/local ingredients as well.

                                                                    1. re: ses04e

                                                                      Really? I would have to say that I am surprised. When I dined there I had the Nicoise Salad. The mesclun mix looked remarkably like the kind one can get through sysco or at the grocery store. Small weak leaf structure, universal blend, blah...

                                                                    2. re: vinoepasta

                                                                      Speaking of Avenue Sea: absolutely amazing!
                                                                      We had the 8 course tasting menu. I had never tried one before and...Wow. I was ridiculously giddy for the next 3 or so hours.

                                                                      Some may not agree with my opinions (since I like Riccardo's), but here's what I enjoyed most:

                                                                      The Sweet Grass Dairy Chevre Agnolitti with Red Beets and Chervil was unusual (for my naive palette), but quite delicious. The beets balanced out the rich creaminess of the chevre.

                                                                      The Roasted Rib eye with Melted Leeks, Pomme de Terre Puree and Sauce Bordelaise was divine. I have a tendency to taste each ingredient individually, then all together (as it was intended). Each would stand on its own, but this was an excellent example of the sum being much more than its parts.

                                                                      Another example of the sum more than its parts was the Sashimi of Cobia with Bock Choy and Thai Peppercorns. Each was good separately, but was great paired together.

                                                                      The Olive Oil Poached Oysters with Garlic, Fennel, Nicoise Olives & Sourdough Crisp were incredible. The oysters melted when I bit into them. I will get this again.

                                                                      And the desserts...oh my. My partner had Banana Cream Tart with Milk Chocolate Sauce & Macadamian Nut Toffee. I usually gag at the taste of ripe bananas, but something about the filling, the tart and the toffee made the banana ok.

                                                                      I was treated to a future menu item in the making. I'm not sure if it was a mousse or a ganache. It seemed heavier & more gelatinous than a mousse, but not as heavy as a ganache. Whatever it was, it was mocha, with a layer of dark chocolate. It was served with a small scoop of coffee ice cream (the consistency had more ice crystals than cream, but rich nonetheless), a nest of spun sugar, and a reduction of condensed milk.

                                                                      We were also treated to two other dishes that weren't on the menu, which was fun. One was a breakfast theme and had a sunny side up egg from Sweet Grass Dairy. The yolk acted more like a 4 minute soft boiled egg, rather than the sunny side up you get at Denny's. More gelled than runny and the egg had a depth to it that we don't get from our Publix eggs. That egg may convert me to local & organic eggs. It required no seasoning of any kind (it also balanced out the saltiness of the rest of the dish). I had a discussion with the Chef afterwards to find out exactly how he cooked the egg. I am going to try to reproduce it, but I suspect I won't succeed.

                                                                      We really enjoyed talking to the Chef afterwards. He was very nice and didn't mind discussing the ingredients used and his techniques. I suspect he was amused by my juvenile excitement of his food.

                                                              2. Speaking of Lackluster I went to Harry's for the first, and last time. Yucko! From the long wait, to surly service, no lights in the bathroom stalls, to a cold, limp appetizer - ENOUGH! Waiter wasn't even slightly curious as to why we suddenly chose not to order after having an appetizer and asked for the check. This place is just bad enough to stay with us for a long, long, time.

                                                                1. I lost the message I just wrote so, at the risk of repeating myself, and quickly....I am jumping ship on the griping. Maybe I have spring fever and maybe I was in the winter doldrums before. Regardless, I had brunch at Food Glorious Food a couple of weeks ago and it just was a good experience. The selection was good, the food was good, the service was welcoming and easy, and the setting was lovely.

                                                                  Everywhere I go in Tallahassee, I have the sense that my patronage is seriously appreciated. These restaurants are trying to provide a service to a customer base that varies widely in both volume and character with the seasons.

                                                                  Sure, the number of choices in Atlanta is enormous but so is the city in comparison to Tallahassee. Tallahassee is a small city. Getting to a restaurant and getting seated in Atlanta is a hassle. Not so Tallahassee. It's easy to get a group together and meet for a meal there. It's relaxed and easy to enjoy the experience.

                                                                  The only real challenge I find is finding good, uncomplicated, casual dining. But, I ran into the same problem last night when I was looking to meet a friend for dinner here in Atlanta.

                                                                  I even had decent fried shrimp at Angelo's and Sons earlier this week. Of course, school's out and summer hasn't begun so we had the place to ourselves. And, we'd spent the day on the beach in perfect weather. The sunset on the bay was spectacular. Well, we were besieged by no see ums.

                                                                  The newsletter came tonight in my email and I had to retract my whining. Sorry. I'm bailing out of the gripefest.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: hoping4more

                                                                    Dining should encompass atmosphere, service, and quality of food. Hopefully it hits all three. With great service I will return eat mediocre food. With extraordinary food I will accept mediocre service. With atmosphere it matters not the view, I just want it to be good and clean. It doesn't need to be hip or highly stylized, just comfortable.
                                                                    I've dined all over Atlanta and have failed to find anything remarkable. Watershed was a huge disappointment. Rathbuns was good, not great. IMO Bacchanalia is the best that Atl has to offer. I think Birmingham has a better dining scene than Atlanta. It is a much smaller city. My experience is that the food and service in Birmingham is of a better quality. While I do not expect Tallahassee to have restaurants of NYC quality, I would hope to find something extraordinary within the city limits. For me, great dining (again it needn't be Per Se, great food is great food whether it is high end french or posole in a mexican dive.) is part of quality of life. Satisfying one's mouth is one of the greatest sensations.
                                                                    I don't want to gripe. I want to be satisfied.

                                                                    1. re: hoping4more

                                                                      If you had good service at FGF, then it was a lucky break for you - they but they do swoon over blue-haired mercedes types (hope thats not you)!

                                                                    2. ok I will add more to lucklustre Tally. Just took my daughter who starts FSU next week. We went to an awful pizza place on the corner of Tennessee and Copeland because nothing much was open and it was raining so hard we could hardly see.

                                                                      This morning Jenny's Lunchbox for breakfast - my husband and I were shocked at the awfulness of the staff, the food, the presentation, the coffee. They had no homefries, no fruit (the chef isn't back yet with so there is nobody to cut fruit and we didn't get a delivery of homefries yet!). Fried eggs were like 2 dried out pancakes, the coffee was like brown dishwater and the milk was curdled. We ended up at Micky D's drive thru which was an unmittigating disaster they couldn't even manage to get our order right 4 times.
                                                                      I am sure my daughter will survive her 4 years there and I am glad it's a 7 hour drive so we won't be visiting often!

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: smartie

                                                                        You really have to get to know this place to find the decent places. I'm shocked that you had a bad experience at The Loop, which is where I'm assuming you were. Although I feel their burgers and milkshakes are much better. Jenny's Lunchbox can be good, but you get what you pay for. It's cheap and sometimes it can be hit or miss.

                                                                        What you need to remember is that the staff of restaurants here (in my 4 years of experience) consists mostly of students and the turnover rate is very high. When you're making absolute crap for money (my server friends tell me they often get terrible tips) and you don't have a great work ethic, I wouldn't expect much more. I wish I wasn't so cynical, but it's what I've found at several of these places time and time again, especially the inexpensive ones. Your daughter will be just fine!

                                                                        1. re: smartie

                                                                          just make sure your daughter has a Dining Card and Noles bucks and she won't starve. Won't be eating gourmet, but the campus has food acceptible to most teenagers's tastes.

                                                                        2. egads, I hate to see this ancient thread rear it's ugly head.

                                                                          Vino, do some basic homework before you return rather than hitting the spot at the nearest corner and you will probably fare better. This is sound advise for any traveler.

                                                                          Crew's advise is great! Get the cards. Make a donation to WFSU radio and get another book with decent two/for one deals all over town.

                                                                          For student fare I highly suggest Daru's lunch program held at the International Student Center on campus. Healthy delicious vegetarian fare, large servings and cheap! (PS...you do not need to be a student to eat here) A great place across the street from The Loop is Cafe Annapurna, a small Tibetan casual restaurant with good food. The Pitaria is in the same general local serving casual and inexpensive Mediterranean food.

                                                                          Should you ever return, do some research about dining options. The local scene is not as bleak as this ancient thread makes it seem.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: Windsor

                                                                            Windsor, I think you meant to refer to smartie, not I.

                                                                          2. Sometimes you want to go out of town. I found a neat little seafood restaurant that the cognoscenti are raving about in Sumatra, Florida, about an hour away from Tallahassee, south on 65 from I-10 going west from Tallahassee. This place is not open Monday and Tuesday. I wrote a piece about it after eating there three times. it's at http://www.flwildflowers.com/restaurant

                                                                            7 Replies
                                                                            1. re: crewsweeper

                                                                              I tried Circa Sushi tonight. I honestly have to say: it was the WORST sushi I have ever had in a restaurant. It was on par with what you get in Publix. The tuna was fishy and the yellow tail was so watery, obviously had been frozen. The miso soup was good and I like the choices of wines by the glass. But, sushi is ultimately about the fish. And it was awful!

                                                                              1. re: jangita

                                                                                Coincidentally, I went to Masa's last night and ordered the exact same dish (Chirashi) as I had a Circa. The price was the same--$20. At Masa's there was about twice the fish in the bowl and 5 times the quality.
                                                                                I would actually call it--very good!

                                                                                1. re: jangita

                                                                                  I wouldn't put it quite as bad as Publix, but the conveyor dishes were anything to crow about. Sashimi appeared fresh to me. But there wasn't enough turnover on the conveyor dishes to keep them up to the freshness you'd get from having the chefs make it for you. This concept works in NYC where there's constant turnover. But not here where the dining room was sparsely populated. Speciality rolls from the kitchen were on par with the parent--Sushilious, and gyoza dumlings were tasty but small. Ms. Crew loved the tempura cheesecake. Music was overwhelming.

                                                                                  1. re: crewsweeper

                                                                                    I was not impressed with Circa Sushi at all. I like the concept, but man was it gross. My favorite sushi place is Osaka. The service may be a little lacking, but the rolls and sashimi a creative and fresh.

                                                                                    What do you all think?

                                                                                    1. re: heatcrave

                                                                                      I tried Circa Sushi the other night. I think that the concept would work in a busier area...maybe closer to campus. Someplace where they have more foot traffic and better exposure. I looked at the sushi on the belt, but opted to order from the waiter instead. The rolls and sushi were nice, not exceptional. The rolls weren't rolled tight enough and fell apart before I could put them in my mouth. (That is a huge sushi peeve.)The room itself seems disjointed, cut in half by the conveyor belt. Generic, I guess, not put together well...the space could be used better.
                                                                                      Also, I thought it to be a wee bit too expensive for what the ambience had to offer, as well as the quality of food and service.

                                                                                      1. re: foodismylife1981

                                                                                        Also try Booma Cafe, behind Carraba's on Cap Circ NE in the Espisito's Center. Just good old diner roadfood. Good daily specials. Breakfast all day on weekend. Friendly staff. Closes @ 3 PM.

                                                                                2. re: mikems

                                                                                  Yes, yes, The Marinated Mushroom is really great. Small menu but fresh, great taste. It is more like a ladies tea room but men eat there. It is delightful. No one has mentioned Anthony's in the Betton Shops. Very consistent. I find that I have to pick a favorite dish at different restaurants and usually end up getting that dish when I am at that restaurant. It works. They have a very good sandw. at Cluster's & Hops that has goat cheese and a jam in it. Yumm. Ted's has a fish breaded with pecans. Food Glorious Food has a delicious angel hair pasta dish and huge desserts, George and Louis' in Thomasville has great green tomatoes and Greek salad and on and on. Tallahassee is coming of age even though it is a small town. Molly Kellog has started a fine Cotillion for the young people here and they are learning manners, dancing, a little bit about dressing for the occasion and how to be comfortable out of their "comfort zone". Can more decerning taste be far behind?????

                                                                                3. If you are interested in trying a new lunch- early dinner (closes at 6) spot...
                                                                                  The Soup Swift on Miccosukee Road- just opened recently.They post their menu every day on their website so you can pick and choose(www.soupswift.com).Nice outdoor seating but a little small inside. Not full service either- but pleasant staff
                                                                                  Eclectic menu that changes daily carnevore and vegan friendly- very fresh approach for Tallahassee.
                                                                                  Good Luck- I usually just cook dinner at home!

                                                                                  1. Chowhounds...should we retire this thread? I thought a newer one is around the boards somewhere?

                                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: crewsweeper

                                                                                      Well, folks were getting fairly up-to-date on the one I had started http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/549980 but that seems to have fallen off. I do often try to check and see if there is any new information on it, but nothing for a while.

                                                                                      1. re: crewsweeper

                                                                                        crewsweeper, I vote a resounding yes to retirement. We have beaten this horse to death.

                                                                                        1. re: yayajac

                                                                                          Things don't change much in good ole Tally. I think that is why this one hangs on for so long. Plus, it has held the interest for the longest period of time. It doesn't make much sense to start a new thread about the food scene, same information regardless.
                                                                                          Anyway, good news to anyone who enjoys authentic mexican....and i mean authentic. Across from the Greyhound station on Tennessee in the parking lot of a gas station there exists a taco truck that makes authentic mexican food. The girl who serviced us spoke very little english. Only enough to let us know she was out of tortillas and needed to make more. So we waited and she made the most unbelievable tortillas right in front of us. We had braised prok tripe, al pastor, and horchata. The salsas were homemade and very good. They even had crema fresca! I want to live next to the taco truck. Can't wait to go back. Everyone should check it out and support it so that they stay in Tallahassee. It helps to make this area less lackluster.

                                                                                          1. re: vinoepasta

                                                                                            vineop, what are their hours? Will have to check them out.

                                                                                            I've found the best foods from the trucks and trailers and tents that pop up around. Unfortunately, many don't have regular hours or are only open around lunch time.

                                                                                            1. re: crewsweeper

                                                                                              I have just finish my lunch from the taco truck......
                                                                                              Thank you vetp.
                                                                                              For a roadside stand to please a multitude of sences is amazing. That is what food is. Who needs a dining room? The picnic table and the buzzing traffic added to the charm.
                                                                                              What a great find. Thanx again vino

                                                                                              1. re: wanttobeachef

                                                                                                Thanks! I am glad that you enjoyed it.
                                                                                                Crew- I am not sure of the hours. I haven't bothered to look. But I will make note of them next time and post a.s.a.p.

                                                                                      2. I've been here in Tallahassee for six years and I've been wondering if the state capital will ever get somewhere good to eat! I'm from the North too and I am hankering for some good food! I tried Food Glorious Food for Sunday brunch and it was very refreshing!

                                                                                        1. Ashby Stiff has retired. One of us chowhounds should clamor to take his place so that we can get some hat ratings that make sense.

                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: mikeh

                                                                                            Darn!! And just as Tallahassee is getting a 5 Guys! That'd been an easy 4 toques for him!

                                                                                            I nominate Steakman55 (as long as I get to be one of his dining partners on occassion!!

                                                                                            1. re: crewsweeper

                                                                                              crewsweeper: Back in Oct/08 you suggested and I agreed this thread be retired - can it ever happen?

                                                                                              1. re: yayajac

                                                                                                Yayajac - This is the one I started last year that is much more current.


                                                                                          2. I think it's time we update this thread. There have been so many changes in Tallahassee, and the area in the last year!

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: pingo

                                                                                              There IS a new thread... Quit digging back and bringing this on up! Had you looked you would have found it 3 threads down from your posting on this one.