Like so many others, Chris Clark came to Tallahassee for school in the early ‘80s at Florida State University and never left. He would work at local landmark restaurants and go on to open successful dining and entertainment establishments of his own, leaving town and the business in 2005.
But after a life-threatening illness, he returned here in 2010 to open Avenue Eat & Drink, a downtown restaurant that combines fine Southern fusion cuisine with a relaxed appearance and atmosphere.
“It’s all about the food,” says Clark, and he’s dedicated to finding farm-to-table fresh ingredients, with about 70 percent of ingredients locally sourced, including daily deliveries of Gulf seafood.
One of Avenue’s signature dishes is a burratta — a mozzarella cheese that encapsulates a cream-filled center — served over sliced heirloom tomatoes. Patrons also crave braised short ribs served with a “to die for” reduction and pack the restaurant for Saturday and Sunday brunches that feature fabulous benedicts and those short ribs turned into a high-class hash.
“When you open a restaurant for the right reasons, you have success,” Clark says. “I can’t wait to unlock the door every day when I go to work.”
Avenue Eat and Drink
115 East Park Avenue
For nearly 40 years, there’s been a restaurant owned by Andrew Reiss on the corner of Adams and Pensacola streets, in the shadow of the Florida Capitol building.
Today, it’s called Andrew’s Capital Grill and Bar, and the casual restaurant with a spacious outdoor patio is the Tallahassee see-and-be-seen spot. Florida politicos angle to have menu items named in their honor, although the most popular sandwich — turkey, bacon, provolone, red onion and pesto mayonnaise on grilled sourdough — will always be called the Haight Ashbury.
But Reiss has a more elegant dining experience next door in the subterranean Andrew’s 228, with a colorful, eclectic décor that makes diners forget they’re in Florida.
The core of the menu is Italian — with a 228 spin. For example, instead of a flattened out breast, their chicken marsala is stuffed with herbs and fontina cheese and made with a sweet, rather than dry wine. Rather than a traditional chicken picatta, their version is made with Gulf-fresh grouper in a light lemon butter sauce with capers.
228 South Adams Street
When he started his funky, eclectic Midtown restaurant 16 years ago, Baxter’s plan was simple: “I wanted to create a business that would reflect where I would be comfortable and happy eating,” he says.
Menus change daily, but five or six customer favorites — most takes on Mom’s comfort food — are always served. “I never thought that my culinary career would be making meatloaf and macaroni and cheese and fried oysters over cheese grits, but that’s what people have told us they like,” he says. “And we’re happy to do each of those dishes the best we possibly can.”
Baxter says a popular linguine entrée with tasso ham, crawfish and mushrooms in a roasted garlic cream sauce highlights his cuisine philosophy. “I think food should have bold flavors,” he says. “That doesn’t mean hot and spicy, it just means it’s a marriage of several distinct flavors.”
921 Thomasville Road
If you’re an out-of-towner looking for a true Tallahassee restaurant experience, look no further than Cypress. It’s 1940s-vintage brick and block building is located on one of Tallahassee’s main drags and operated by a multi-generational husband-and-wife team who place a premium on offering hand-crafted food and drink.
“Cypress is a great place to … give you a feel for the culture and the city,” says Chef Gwynn. Because food is sourced as locally as possible, there’s a definite Southern bent to most of the menu items.
One popular “little dish” found on the Cypress menu is Gulf Coast Oysters & Biscuits, Chef Gwynn’s take on that Southern staple, biscuits and gravy. Oysters, leeks and bacon in a sherry cream sauce are “strategically placed” over toasted and buttered biscuits (made by his wife, Elizabeth, who prepares all of the restaurant’s breads) and topped with fresh chives and tomatoes.
320 East Tennessee Street
Dining & Nightlife
Much like Tallahassee’s varied and ever-changing landscape, you’ll discover a menu that’s just as diverse with authentic regional cuisine, fine dining and international fare. Located only 25 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, Tallahassee is privy to the freshest seafood straight from the salty waters. From low-key to five-star, classic to eclectic and traditional to avant-garde, Tallahassee dining offers just the right atmosphere for a perfect night out. Come and taste some of the finest in locally grown and farm-to-table that this region has to offer.
Check out our list of Tallahassee restaurants and nightlife spots you simply can’t afford to miss while in town.
Avenue Eat and Drink
115 East Park Ave.
Phone: (850) 224-0115