Tallahassee is a city with a big appetite for contact sports – football and politics. It’s home to the Florida State University Seminoles and the state legislature.
And all those pols, sports figures and those who watch them have to eat. And fortunately, Tallahassee is also a place where Florida meets the South, where the harvest of the Gulf of Mexico and the rich farmlands of the Big Bend delight local palates and tempt visitors to return.
Here are a few of the places you might want to check out – breakfast, lunch and dinner — when dining in the Capitol City:
The Lunch Box
295 N. Magnolia Drive, Tallahassee, FL 32301
Breakfast-seekers get a good start to their day at Tallahassee's Lunchbox restaurant. - Colin Hackley for VISIT FLORIDA
As the aroma of bacon and eggs wafts from the kitchen, the images of the lunch boxes hanging from the rafters inside The Lunch Box provide a nostalgic trip back to childhood. The traditional Southern breakfast fare — bacon and eggs, waffles, home fries, omelets, country fried steak and sausages makes sure you keep coming back.
Andrew's Capital Grill & Bar
228 S. Adams St., Tallahassee, FL 32301
Patrons dine outside at Andrew's Capital Grill and Bar in Tallahassee. - Colin Hackley for VISIT FLORIA
Andrew’s is the quintessential political eatery and watering hole. Operated by Andy Reiss under various names at the same spot for more than 40 years, the restaurant is an informal gallery of the city’s sports, political and cultural history. Take a gander at the framed pictures of Jesse Jackson, Bob Graham and Bullet Bob Hayes, and then the menu, with dishes named for state politicians. But there’s nothing like Andrew’s grilled chicken sandwich topped with all the fixings.
Neferati’s Fine Cuisine & Spirits
812 S. Macomb St., Tallahassee, FL 32301
Maliki, a lion originally from Zimbabwe, greets diners as they enter Nefetari’s Fine Cuisine & Spirits in Tallahassee. - Colin Hackley for VISIT FLORIDA
Located in Tallahassee’s jazzed up Gaines Street corridor, Nefetari’s offers the world on a plate – Ethiopian stew platter with finely chopped vegetables and a selection of organic beans, seasoned with berbere spice, served with your choice of two sides and choice of tofu, chicken or shrimp. There is Greek red snapper and forbidden fried rice — a meal of Chinese black rice stir fried with broccoli, spinach, scallions, mushrooms, peas, carrots, corn and pineapple habanero sauce that sear the taste buds. You can wash it all down with ginger brew, pineapple juice or sorrel, a strawberry-colored beverage popular in the Caribbean.
The Egg Café & Eatery
3740 Austin Davis Ave., Tallahassee, FL 32308
French toast with fresh strawberries is a one way to start the day at the Uptown Cafe in Tallahassee. - Colin Hackley for VISIT FLORIDA
At first glance the Egg Café & Eatery, with its tidily designed exterior, high ceilings, homey-colored walls and matching window treatments could easily be mistaken for just another breakfast franchise restaurant. But owner Mike Schmidt and his staff treat diners to breakfast cuisine. The big draws are the specialty omelets, including the Ponce de Leon -- a creamy, cheese-and-tomato filled omelet with crab meat sautéed in homemade garlic butter and topped with corned beef hash homemade with onions and sweet peppers. Everything is made to order; nothing is pre-cooked.
Vertigo Burgers and Fries
1395 East Lafayette Street, Tallahassee, FL 32301
Tallahassee's Vertigo Burgers and Fries hamburgers drip with flavor. - Colin Hackley for VISIT FLORIDA
Vertigo is a burger joint “where a burger isn’t just a beef patty,” says owner David Gwynn. The menu and the taste buds back his boast. Among Vertigo’s most popular offerings are the Greek-out, a lamb burger served with tzatziki sauce, fresh tomatoes, kalamata olives, red onion, feta, and pepperoncini peppers; the Vertigo — a beef plate topped with fried eggs, Applewood bacon, griddled jalapeno peppers, sharp cheddar and Vertigo sauce; and the Creole Spin, a burger made from locally caught shrimp, creole remoulade, pickled okra stew and sliced tomato.
215 W. College Ave., Tallahassee, FL 32301
A deep blue sunset sky, cocktail and fresh seafood make for a pleasant dinner at 101 Restaurant in downtown Tallahassee. - Colin Hackley for VISIT FLORIDA
There’s something to be said for a restaurant where regulars introduce themselves to first timers as they enter. In between greetings, it’s easy to be seduced by the mahi mahi wild rice medley and jasmine coconut, the Atlantic salmon and pecan nuts with smashed potatoes, bleu bacon burger, and buffalo chicken wrap. Downtown also boasts strong seafood options -- crab cakes, walnut-encrusted grouper, and sesame-seared ahi tuna.
The Uptown Café
1325 Miccosukee Road, Tallahassee, FL 32308
Uptown Cafe owner Fred Tedio, standing, greets customers in the restaurant's outside seating area. - Colin Hackley for VISIT FLORIDA
The second you step inside the Uptown Café, you’re struck by the emotional warmth of the place – fundraising posters and photos on the walls, retirees from the neighborhood seated at the tables. No wonder one local magazine calls Fred Tedio’s eatery the “place where everyone knows your name.” Diners faithfully come for the smoked salmon omelet, smoked salmon on cathead biscuits, and for the grits bowl topped with egg, cheese and just about everything else.
123 E. 5th Ave., Tallahassee, FL 32303
After lunch at Bella Bella, take time to talk on the patio. - Colin Hackley for VISIT FLORIDA
Cozy and quaint, Bella Bella offers much more than delicious pizza and pasta. For starters, there’s the appetizer of coconut shrimp with sweet and sour dip. Even finicky kids fall in love with the Caesar and Bella Bella salads with house dressings. The French onion soup also makes you want to come back again and again, while the gourmet sandwiches chicken pesto melt sandwich is a favorite with younger diners. Who knew that a special of black-eyed peas and rice, collard greens and baked chicken patty could taste so good? Oh, and that sweet potato salad!
705 S. Woodward Ave., Tallahassee, FL 32304
Daily specials on the chalkboard and house favorites on the menu make Bella Bella a popular lunch destination in Tallahassee. - Colin Hackley for VISIT FLORIDA
With its open layout, garage-style doors, refurbished beams and exposed air ducts, Madison Social has an industrial style décor and caters not just to college students but also to young professionals and boomers. The dinner menu includes burgers and sandwiches, plus entrée offerings such as a grilled beer bratwurst with grilled housemade spaetzle, and bacon-braised cabbage. There’s also slow-cooked pulled pork, and steak frites – porcini-rubbed flank steak with housemade special steak sauce served with fries. The roasted rosemary half chicken is served with sautéed green beans.