2013 Best of Tallahassee
Photos by Shannon Griffin, Scott Holstein, Tristin Kroening and Jenna Reichert
(page 1 of 4)
From small mom-and-pop restaurants serving up unique, sizzling dishes to fabulous, fashionable boutiques dressing us in all the latest trends, Tallahassee residents have a wonderful assortment of local businesses to choose from — for any good or service. With so many enticing options, choosing can be the hardest part.
After tallying up votes from hundreds of local connoisseurs, we’ve put together a list of this city’s best eateries and bars, service providers, shopping spots and entertainment options. Whether you’re looking for the perfect steak dinner or a capable surgical practice, you’ll find the best options — in our readers’ humble opinion — right here.
(For our Best of Tallahassee database showing all of the winners since 2007, click here.)
Food & Beverage
Appetizer: Sage Restaurant
With its fresh ingredients and reputation for masterful, sophisticated preparation, Sage Restaurant has nabbed the No. 1 appetizer title. Enjoy the perfect bite in the comfortably elegant atmosphere inside, or in the romantic setting provided by the outdoor patio. Either way, the food will be fabulous!
Honorable mention: Bonefish Grill
Asian Restaurant: Masa
Masa’s Asian-fusion menu creates dishes blending Eastern and Western cuisine everyone can enjoy. The fun, modern environment is sure to put you in the mood for some menu favorites like Grilled Miso Chilean Sea Bass, Yellow Curry Lamb Chop, Stir-fried Tilapia and Masa Chili Chicken.
Honorable mention: Azu
Bakery: The Cake Shop
From your plain vanilla and chocolate to specialties like Snicker’s Candy Bar and Chunky Monkey, The Cake Shop provides delicious cakes and cupcakes for special occasions or just to satisfy your sweet tooth. Their fresh cookies include chocolate chip, snickerdoodle, peanut butter and chocolate-dipped pecan with chocolate chips.
Honorable mention: Tasty Pastry
Bar: Level 8 Lounge
What better way to enjoy cocktails, wine and beautiful people than atop the eighth floor of downtown’s Hotel Duval? The view from Level8 is breathtaking, the couches are plush and the waitresses are at your service. Throw on your best attire, and come see the exquisite nightlife Tallahassee has to offer.
Honorable mention: Midtown Filling Station
Barbecue: Sonny’s Real Pit Bar-B-Q
Nothing satisfies a rumblin’ stomach quite like a plateful of hot, savory barbecue; and if you’re looking for the tastiest grilled dishes, Sonny’s has them in spades. With classic favorites like baby back ribs, smoked turkey and char-grilled chicken (served alongside baked potatoes, freshly made coleslaw or barbecue beans), you’ll always get the greatest food and hospitality a Southern kitchen can offer.
Honorable mention: Piggy’s BBQ
Breakfast: The Egg cafe & Eatery
For a casual, delicious breakfast, head over to The Egg for a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and some sweet beignets with apple butter. The Egg offers some surprisingly yummy combinations, such as the peanut butter and jelly French toast. Of course, breakfast favorites like eggs benedict are also served.
Honorable mention: Canopy Road Cafe
Brunch: The Egg cafe & Eatery
With a full brunch menu, The Egg has all the classics and more to satisfy your mid-morning cravings. Unwind with a Mimosa or Poinsettia cocktail, and enjoy the shrimp and grits skillet. You can never go wrong with options like the French toast, huevos rancheros and specialty omelettes. Honorable mention: Mockingbird Cafe
Cajun Restaurant: Coosh’s Bayou Rouge
This Cajun-themed restaurant brings the best of the Bayou State right to your table. With a menu jam-packed with Louisiana-style dishes, guests can enjoy favorites like jambalaya, red beans ‘n’ rice, crawfish etouffee, po’boys and seafood gumbo. Not in a Cajun mood? Coosh’s also offers classic hamburgers, salads and chicken wings. Honorable mention: Harry’s Seafood, Bar and Grille
Casual Dining: Chicken Salad Chick
It’s hard to go wrong with chicken and mayo. But Chicken Salad Chick exceeds expectations, with 15 different chicken salads to choose from — each with its own unique flavor — served in a bright, fast-casual setting. There are also deli sandwiches, side items and soups, and a cookie of the day for those who aren’t chicken salad fans. Honorable mention: Red Elephant Pizza and Grill Restaurant
Catering: Black Fig
This year, Black Fig snagged the No. 1 catering company title. Catering everything from weddings to corporate events, their delicious, fresh cuisine is always presented with flair.
Honorable mention: Klassic Katering
Celebration/Special Occasion Restaurant: Cypress Restaurant
To make a special evening a cut above the rest, bring the celebration to Cypress. Known for its sophisticated take on Southern cuisine, this restaurant won our readers’ votes for setting the scene and providing perfectly sumptuous food to match the grandeur of any occasion.
Honorable mention: Shula’s 347 Grill
Coffee Shop: Starbucks
Whether you’re craving a Caramel Ribbon Crunch Frappuccino or a simple cup o’ joe, Starbucks provides a wide variety of beverages that will satisfy even the most adventurous caffeine addict. Along with their coffee and classic café atmosphere, local stores offer free Wi-Fi and a delicious selection of sandwiches, salads, pastries and ice cream.
Honorable mention: Eternal Grounds
Deli: Hopkins’ Eatery
This deli provides more than just your average sandwich. Favorites like the Ultimate Turkey and the Linda Special and a variety of salad meals keep customers coming back for more. And it’s healthful, too!
Honorable mention: Publix
Dessert: Sage Restaurant
This Tallahassee favorite received resounding recognition for its classic, perfectly executed desserts. Enjoy rich, deep chocolate flavors in such desserts as the decadent flourless chocolate cake, or opt for a fresher sweet treat like sorbet or blueberry rhubarb bread pudding.
Honorable mention: The Cake Shop
Fine Dining: Sage Restaurant
Fine dining is about both flavors and atmosphere. Sage’s menu spans a wide variety of flavors and masterfully melds regional influences, including Southern and French, to produce some of the finest cuisine in town — as evidenced by their multiple Best of Tallahassee 2013 wins! The setting is gorgeous but cozy, and the outdoor patio sets a charming, romantic tone for a relaxed evening. For any occasion, Sage Restaurant will be a sure hit.
Honorable mention: Cypress Restaurant
Food Truck: Street Chefs
Tallahassee residents flock to the Street Chefs truck for modern twists on classic comfort food items like “Not Your Mama’s Grilled Cheese Sandwich.” Established in 2011, the truck and its chef, Rebecca Kelly, have quickly made a name for themselves as Tallahassee’s “best” food on wheels!
Honorable mention: Mobi
Hamburger: Vertigo Burgers and Fries
The No. 1 spot for hamburgers this year went to Vertigo, home to some of the juiciest, funkiest burgers in town. The modern building provides a no-frills setting to enjoy such favorites as the Vertigo Burger, a beef patty with fried egg, applewood bacon, grilled jalapenos, sharp cheddar and Vertigo sauce, and the Greak Out, with a lamb patty, tzatziki sauce, fresh tomato, kalamata olives, red onion, feta and pepperoncini peppers.
Honorable mention: Five Guys Burgers and Fries
Happy Hour: 101 Restaurant
Whether you work nine to five or just want to enjoy a night out with friends, 101 has a happy hour for you! Guests can choose from a selection of delectable martinis, two-for-ones and a bevy of other drinks. And they have not just one, but two happy hours to choose from — from 4 to 7 p.m. or 10:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.
Honorable mention: Level 8
This hibachi steakhouse provides dinner and a show with chefs seasoning and preparing your meal right in front of you. Dinner favorites like Osaka Umi No Sachi (scallops, lobster and shrimp) and the Osaka Chef Special (steak, shrimp and chicken) are served with soup, salad, fried rice, Japanese noodles, vegetables and dessert — a meal that’s sure to leave you satisfied as well as entertained.
Honorable mention: Japanica
Italian Restaurant: Bella Bella
Take your taste buds to Italy with a trip to Bella Bella. This locally owned and operated restaurant has a cozy atmosphere with all the classics to satisfy your cravings: Capellini Marinara, Fettuccine Alfredo, Manicotti, Lasagna, Chicken Parmesan and Eggplant Parmesan.
Honorable mention: Carrabba’s Italian Grill
Locally Owned Restaurant: Sage Restaurant
As a winner in so many categories, it comes as no surprise that Sage Restaurant also received voters’ recognition as Tallahassee’s best locally owned restaurant. Bouncing back from a fire in late 2011, the restaurant was said to have been reincarnated — and better than ever. If you haven’t already, give Sage a try.
Honorable mention: The Front Porch
Lunch: Sage Restaurant
Sage offers delicious creations for lunch-goers looking for a fine meal. The Bistro, a sandwich with brined and roasted turkey breast, French Brie, spinach, sour apples and Dijon mustard dipping sauce is a tasty delight, while the watermelon, tomato and cucumber salad refreshes your taste buds on even the hottest Tallahassee day.
Honorable mention: Hopkins’ Eatery
Martini/Cocktail: Level 8
This modern downtown rooftop bar at the Hotel Duval is the perfect setting for any get together. The signature martinis are to die for, and the upscale environment sets the bar high, keeping this rooftop bar at the top of our reader’s list.
Honorable mention: Bonefish Grill
Mexican/Latin American Restaurant: El Jalisco Restaurant
In the mood for sizzling enchiladas and frozen margaritas? Make your way to El Jalisco, where they do Mexican cuisine to perfection. Enjoy delicious two-for-one margaritas and entrees from a menu that’s sure to satisfy your taste for something from south of the border.
Honorable mention: Morelia’s Mexican Restaurant
Outdoor Dining: The Front Porch
Located in the heart of Midtown, The Front Porch mixes Southern comfort with fresh seafood to make for one of the finest casual dining experiences in Tallahassee. Stop by for dinner or a special Saturday/Sunday brunch. With their innovative dishes and outdoor setting, the menu and the atmosphere will always delight you.
Honorable mention: Food Glorious Food
After devouring a slice at Momo’s, chain pizza simply is not gonna cut it. From the Johnny Cash posters to the ear-shattering punk music, the restaurant has an unmistakable “hole-in-the-wall” vibe, while the newly expanded dining area at their flagship Tennessee Street location allows a lot more seating, with plenty of room for large parties.
Honorable mention: Barnaby’s Family Inn
Seafood Market: Southern Seafood
Whether you’re looking for fish, shrimp, oysters, scallops, crab or lobster, these guys have you covered. Unloading the bounty from local fishing boats every day, Southern Seafood brings the ocean’s freshest choices right to Tallahassee’s front door.
Honorable mention: Capital Seafood Market
Seafood Restaurant: Bonefish Grill
With countless perfectly cooked, succulent seafood items to choose from, in addition to delicious “turf” options for those who do not enjoy their food from the “surf,” it’s no wonder Tallahassee selected Bonefish Grill as its favorite place to chow down on fish. Don’t miss out on their signature appetizer, the Bang Bang Shrimp.
Honorable mention: The Front Porch
Sports Bar: Primetime Lounge and Restaurant
With 40 high-definition televisions, two 15-foot projector screens and gourmet menu choices, Primetime has revolutionized the way you watch sports. Guys, grab your favorite brew, and ladies, order a delicious cocktail from the one-of-a-kind frost-top bar. Relax and enjoy the lounge ambience and upgrade your sports bar experience.
Honorable mention: AJ Sports Bar and Grill
Steakhouse: Marie Livingston’s Steak House
Dining at Marie Livingston’s is upscale yet comfortable and always a special treat. It’s not just a steak house that serves up savory cuts of prime rib or marbled beef, it’s a Tallahassee tradition, and newcomers owe it to themselves to make it a priority to visit.
Honorable mention: Shula’s 347 Grill
For another year, Masa has held its recurring title as the No. 1 sushi restaurant in town — and with good reason. This Japanese fusion restaurant packs bold, delicious flavors into each finely crafted, authentic roll. Come for the sushi; return to try everything else on the menu.
Honorable mention: Osaka Japanese Hibachi Steakhouse
Wine: The Wine Loft
Located in Midtown, The Wine Loft features a variety of worldly wines and bartenders who love to experiment. Perfect for parties large and small, or simple solitary reflection, The Wine Loft is conveniently located in Midtown and ready to help you relax and enjoy the evening.
Honorable mention: Clusters & Hops
After being voted best in town for the seventh year in a row, it’s safe to say that this joint is the ultimate source for chicken wings. With three locations in the Tallahassee area, Wingstop offers a variety of homemade sides and 10 mouthwatering flavors for their wings, including Cajun, Lemon Pepper, Garlic Parmesan, BBQ and Louisiana Rub.
Honorable mention: Hurricane Grill and Wings