2007 Best of Tallahassee
The votes have been counted, and now it’s time to discover the city’s finestBest of Tallahassee 2007
The savvy shoppers, daring diners and otherwise knowledgeable readers of Tallahassee Magazine have voted, choosing their favorites in categories ranging from best plumber to best weekend getaway
Story By Crawford Atkins III, Erica Bailey, Jason Dehart, Rosanne Dunkelberger, Anitra Ellison, Travis Timmons
Here are the businesses, people and places our readers have chosen as this year’s “Best of Tallahassee.” Some are perennial favorites, chosen for top honors year after year. Others are newcomers to the list. Read on and see if you agree with your neighbors’ choices. But the celebration has only just begun! Winners will be feted at the annual “Best of Tallahassee” bash, set for Friday, Nov. 2, at the University Center Club at Florida State University.
With wine tasting, food, entertainment, auctions and fun, it’s one of the exciting events during the 12th Annual Tallahassee Wine & Food Festival. Mark your calendar, because you’re invited to join in the celebration! The two-day event, held Nov. 1-2, is the major annual fundraising event for the March of Dimes. Money raised will be used locally to help improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects and infant mortality.
Food & Beverage
Best Appetizer | Harry’s Seafood Bar and Grill
It takes two words to describe the appetizers at Harry’s: Southern and scrumptious. The fried green tomatoes topped with feta cheese and drizzled with chipotle aioli sauce are a unique twist on a Southern favorite, while Harry’s signature seafood is the star in the Voodoo Shrimp, Mussels St. Charles and Seared Ahi Tuna.
Best Asian | Masa
Offering lunch, dinner and sushi, Masa serves gourmet Asian cuisine in a relaxed, intimate setting. The restaurant’s take on traditional food from the Orient – such as Masa’s shiitake mushroom chicken and mixed vegetable tempura – is sure to delight the palate.
Best Barbecue | Sonny’s Real Pit Barbecue
It’s a great time to belly up to this legendary barbecue pit. In 2007, Sonny’s changed the look of its restaurants, added a full bar, got rid of trans fats and added new menu items, such as chicken wings, big salads, macaroni and cheese, and fruit cobbler.
Best Brunch | Another Broken Egg
Head here for what many locals consider the best breakfast – with the best view – in town. You’ll probably have to wait, but you can sip fresh coffee on the veranda in the meantime. Try the restaurant’s signature Eggs Benedict or sample the tasty Bacado (a blessed union of bacon and avocado) Omelet, among the many other creative brunch dishes.
Best Carry-Out/To Go | Chili’s
When it comes to to-go service, nobody does it better than Chili’s. Just wheel into the special parking spot and a bagful of sizzling ribs, salads, burgers, sandwiches – anything on the eatery’s 10-page menu – will be brought right to your car. Here’s some advice: End your meal with the amazing Molten Chocolate Cake for dessert.
Best Casual Dining | Harry’s Seafood Bar and Grill
Just like the laid-back, laissez-faire attitude of New Orleans, Harry’s welcomes the casual diner with some good, old-fashioned Southern comfort. The choice seating is located outside and overlooks the ever-evolving downtown and campus areas of Tallahassee.
Best Caterer | Klassic Catering
Thanks to its creativity and elegance, you won’t forget a Klassic-catered event. Clients throughout the Big Bend receive individualized attention as Klassic Catering cooks up everything from Low Country Boils to stuffed submarines.
Best Dessert | Food Glorious Food
Save room. Or better yet, skip lunch or dinner and go straight to Food Glorious Food’s dessert menu, which fills a page all by itself. Delicious surprises and classic sweets such as carrot cake, hummingbird cake, key lime pound cake and – a personal favorite – pecan pie are staples on the bill of fare.
Best Family-Friendly Restaurant | Beef ‘O’ Brady’s
You don’t need the luck o’ the Irish to find great food (wings, wraps, and burgers) and a family-friendly sports environment. Beef’s three Tallahassee locations are fine places to have Junior’s post-game dinner party, or for Dad to have a beer while watching the game.
Best Fast Food | Zaxby’s
Good food. Fast service. Low prices. Pleasant surroundings. It’s what we want from a fast food restaurant, and Zaxby’s does them all well – so just head on out to one of its three Tallahassee locations and pick your chicken. Go with the classic Chicken Finger Plate, a delicious Cajun Club sandwich, or choose Buffalo wings as an appetizer or a meal.
Best Fine Dining | Rubie Sky
It didn’t take long for this new restaurant to become the place to go for a special meal, known for giving traditional meals a special twist. For example, the enchilada: Rubie’s version is made with smoked chicken confit and served with roasted jalapeno cornbread, golden tomato ragout, ancho cinnamon gastrique and avocado margarita.
Best French | Chez Pierre
With fine French cuisine, outdoor dining, live music and cultural events, Chez Pierre is more than a restaurant – it’s an experience! Gastronomes can enjoy lunch, dinner, bistro or brunch in a relaxed atmosphere.
Best Hamburger | Ruby Tuesday’s
Hearkening back to its roots, Ruby’s created a more burger-centric menu a couple of years ago. The listings now include a 100-percent choice standard burger that can be dressed up with cheese and applewood bacon, as well as plenty of others, ranging from delicious, tiny two-ounce mini-burgers to the premium, 10-buck, cooked-to-order Triple Prime Burger.
Best Bar | A.J.’s
Definitely the place to be for a fun time. A.J.’s has a fully stocked bar and a menu featuring “warms-ups” – burgers, sandwiches and wings. An upstairs and outside deck ensures room for everybody during the packed Tuesday and Friday nights. Live music is played four times a week, and a disc jockey keeps the place moving three nights a week.
Best Italian | Bella Bella
This tucked-away restaurant is quaint and cozy, serving up some of Tallahassee’s best Italian food. From the cheesy goodness of the bubble bread appetizer to the mouth-watering vegetarian lasagna and eggplant Parmesan, it’s delicioso!
Best Locally Owned | Cypress
David and Elizabeth Gwynn give a sophisticated spin to Southern cuisine. It’s a great fine-dining experience – or stop by for Power Hour from 5 to 6 p.m. and enjoy the new bar menu, offering up delectable goodies such as the Best Damn Cheese Fries and Duck Taquitos.
Best Mexican/Latin American | Morelia Mexican Dining
Some restaurants go overboard in their quest for a cantina “look,” but if you’re in the mood for authentic Mexican food, Morelia is a top choice. The chips and salsa are bottomless, the margaritas can be huge, and the reasonably priced food is hot, fast, generously portioned – and delicious.
Best Outdoor Dining | 2 Chez
You can’t miss the bright yellow awning that marks 2 Chez, the new outdoor bar and grill at Chez Pierre. It’s the ideal spot to enjoy great Florida weather. Even those not-so-perfect days can be enjoyed with misters and fans to keep cool and heaters for chilly days.
Best Pizza | Pizza Hut
Opinions runs strong about America’s favorite pie, so there’s been a bit of squawking about this winner. But there is a reason Pizza Hut is on the top of the heap. It’s everywhere. It’s delivered. It offers so many crust and topping possibilities, along with the occasional specialty product (remember the Priazzo?), you’re sure to find something to please. And, if not, there’s always chicken wings.
Best Romantic Restaurant | Andrew’s 228
Andrew’s Capital Grill and Bar is a great spot for lunch, but below ground at 228, the evening ambiance of this intimate and chic spot is perfect for private parties or a special date. The restaurant offers gourmet American and Italian cuisine. Don’t forget the classy bar – featuring the $6 martini – and leave room for one of the fine desserts.
Best Celebration/Special Occasion | Cypress Restaurant
For celebrations and special occasions, the excellent service and superb cuisine make dining at Cypress a treat. Chef David Gwynne gives his special twist to Southern favorites served so beautifully they look too good to eat. But you will. And you’ll be very glad you did.
Best Salad Bar/Salad | Sonny’s
Sonny’s recently added a number of new salads to the menu, complete with sliced or charbroiled meats. Or opt for the salad bar, a staple for 28 years, that features fresh salad fixings and prepared-from-scratch, mayo-based salads. You also will find bread, coconut and banana puddings for dessert.
Best Sandwich | Po’ Boys Creole Café
The restaurant’s eponymous sandwich is filled with just about anything delicious you can think of – grouper, oysters, buffalo chicken, crawfish, even chicken salad. But for our money, New Orleans’ other signature sandwich – the muffaletta on a sesame-seeded bread round – is what makes it worth the trip. It’s a monstrous good stack of ham, salami, Swiss and provolone topped with olive dressing and then baked.
Best Seafood Market | Southern Seafood
Tallahassee’s near-the-coast location gives us easy access to an abundance of fresh, locally caught fish. Locals know they can count on Southern Seafood to have their favorites on ice when they get a hankering for something that was on the swim or in the shell just a day or two earlier.
Best Seafood Restaurant | Harry’s Seafood Bar and Grill
When “seafood” is part of your name, delivering up the best of the ocean’s bounty is an absolute must. And Harry’s doesn’t disappoint: If you get the urge for seafood (and don’t want to cook it yourself), you can find an abundant variety, from shrimp to tuna to lobster.
Best Steakhouse | Marie Livingston’s Steak House
Renowned for consistency in providing the best flavors and service in town, Marie Livingston’s cuts its high-grade beef daily and makes everything from scratch, ensuring freshness. Shrimp and fish – blackened, fried or grilled – also are on the menu for lunch or dinner.
Best Sushi | Jasmine Café & Lounge
A neighborhood sushi bar, Jasmine is known for its consistently good product, energetic and trendy urban vibe, and distinct sauces made in house. A super sushi menu (and other eclectic offerings) keeps the restaurant humming. Depending on the time of day, you can find business types, date-nighters and the college crowd having lunch and dinner in the popular downtown storefront.
Best Wine List | Café Cabernet
Red, white, bottle, glass, champagne or sparkling wine – the choices at Café Cabernet seem endless. The possibilities for enjoying the fruit of the vine are everywhere; on the menu or on the wall, connoisseurs can refine their palates with this dazzling variety.
Best Wings | Wingstop
This franchise is celebrating the sale of a cool billion drummies and flappers. There are nine wing flavors, including the atomic and Cajun favorites, to satisfy your cravings, while tasty dips and side dishes round out your wing experience. Tallahassee has two locations, in case you’re inclined to add to the restaurant’s wing count.
Best Air Conditioning/Heating | Benson’s Heating and Air Conditioning
Benson Green still is the man Tallahassee residents call on when they’re too cold or too hot. For more than 25 years, Green has helped 30,000 homes and businesses stay comfortably between the extremes. And with more than 70 service techs available, keeping cool has never been easier.
Best Assisted Living | Westminster Oaks
Offering a distinctive “person-centered model,” this community adjusts to the lifestyle needs of its residents, rather than vice versa. Westminster’s beautiful and wide campus contains plenty of amenities, activities and levels of care designed to fit the needs of each resident in his or her retirement years.
Best Builder/Contractor | BrackenChase Home Builders
Fifteen years ago, David Hanselman founded the company to fulfill buyers’ new-home dreams by building in new communities throughout Leon County. Thanks to his keen insight into the housing market and a top-notch team of builders, BrackenChase has had great success delivering quality and affordability to its clients, many of them first-time home buyers.
Best Carpet Cleaner | Stanley Steemer
Offering more than 29 years of experience, Stanley Steemer is the one to call for quality floor cleaning. Each locally owned and operated business in this IICRC-certified franchise has professionally trained staff and the most up-to-date equipment to clean the full range in floor surfaces – wood, tile and grout, and carpet.
Best Cell Phone Provider | Alltel
With awesome service everywhere, flexibility with changing your plan and better prices, Alltel is the master of all cell phone providers. The advertising campaign featuring goofy, geeky competitors is just a bonus.
Best Chiropractor | Jim Terrell, D.C.
Let Terrell’s friendliness, warmth and personal care ease your back pains. In practice for more than 21 years, his motto is to treat people the way he would want to be treated. Terrell’s loyal clients spread his excellent reputation by word of mouth.
Best Dentist | Russ Rainey, D.M.D.
Rainey says he wouldn’t keep getting this award without “Tallahassee’s best patients.” His “smile makeovers” offer top-of-the-line service and comfort.
Best Dry Cleaner | Vogue Cleaners
Suits and blouses, furs and leather … wedding gowns, too. If it can be cleaned, Vogue can do it. The dry cleaner has been offering quality clothing care at its Thomasville Road location for more than 40 years. They also offer delivery and alteration services.
Best Eyeglass Store | Hour Glass
It’s a fast and easy one-stop shop for everything “eyes.” Schedule an eye exam, purchase glasses, or browse for any accessory you might need while receiving individualized, custom help. And with an on-site lab, you can be sporting your new eyeglass look in about an hour.
Best Flooring/Carpet | Brian Barnard’s Flooring America
Continuously offering the best selection and service in the Big Bend, the company offers a mind-boggling selection of everything from laminate and hardwood flooring to exclusive Karastan rugs. And there also is Brian Barnard’s full-service installation and lifetime product guarantee.
Best Florist | Blossoms
Thank goodness Jesica Parker and Lisa Metcalf decided to quit the banking business and partner up as florists. For the sixth year in a row, readers have chosen Blossoms on North Monroe Street as Tallahassee’s best florist. Its hard-to-miss pink building has three showrooms filled not only with fabulous fresh flowers, but also silk arrangements, gifts and gourmet food items.
Best Gym/Health Club | Gold’s Gym
If you want to get in shape or stay in shape, you need to go to Gold’s Gym. With three locations in Tallahassee, it now is easier than ever to find a great, welcoming gym near you with a friendly staff and lots of different fitness programs. No excuses about time – the West Pensacola Street location is open 24 hours during weekdays.
Best Hair Salon | Envy Salon & Spa
Formerly Vixen’s, the salon underwent an expansion and dramatic redesign to emerge as Envy. The look is posh and luxurious, and the salon offers complete hair services – cut, color and chemical – along with styling services for special occasions. Spa treatments include the full line of face and skin esthetics (European Body Wrap, anyone?), waxing and lash extensions.
Best Insurance Agency | Allstate
The “good hands people” help keep Tallahassee insured, offering coverage for auto, home, life and business. With more than 10 agents in Tallahassee, Allstate is sure to help you prepare for all of life’s unexpected emergencies.
Best Interior Design | Julian Mathis
When you walk into a Mathis-designed room, you won’t find his signature style. Instead, Mathis works with clients to create a customized look that reflects their personality. He also is adept at adapting to whatever décor and furnishings you already have.
Best Landscaping/Lawn | Esposito’s Garden Center
More than a garden center, Esposito’s offers everything from ornamental plants to Christmas ornaments. With so much stuff, you’ll be sure to find everything on your shopping list – and a few things you probably haven’t thought of yet. A seasonal highlight of the store is its Christmas village train display, filled with colorful lights and yuletide sights.
Best Limo | Mike’s Limo
You will be the envy of your friends when Mike’s Limos helps you arrive with élan. Mike has a variety of stylish limos to choose from, such as stretch Hummers and the newest, a Chrysler 300, to make a wedding, prom, party or any other occasion one to remember.
Best Nail Salon | Chelsea
You’re sure to get a superb manicure or pedicure from the attentive technicians at this premier salon, but for an extra-special experience, try the Caribbean Therapy manicure and pedicure. They include a milk bath, nail and cuticle maintenance, sugar scrub, massage, masque and warm towel wrap – all while you’re relaxed by the alluring fragrances of the tropics.
Best Pest Control | Capelouto
Serving the area for more than 40 years, Capelouto fights off pests with the best and latest technology and a commitment to customer satisfaction. As the commercial says: “Goodbye bugs.”
Photographer | Lynn Ivory
For 35 years, Ivory has been the one name Tallahassee trusts for exceptional photo portraits. Her studio now is in its second year of being 100 percent digital, enabling her to leap beyond the limitations of film to stay on the cutting edge of technology and style.
Best Plumbing | Keith McNeil Plumbing
Water, water everywhere? McNeil’s leak location equipment will put a smile on your face. The company has more than 30 years of plumbing experience and goal of 100 percent customer satisfaction. “Standout employees,” fair pricing and flexibility have earned the trust and respect of many satisfied customers.
Best Real Estate Agency | Summers Realty of Tallahassee
Summers caters to the Old Town and Midtown areas of Tallahassee. Owner Phil Summers says his team “lives, works and plays” in these areas, offering an expert perspective, indeed.
Best Real Estate Agent (tie) | Jason Naumann
At the age of 22, Jason Naumann already was selling and managing the townhome community of Maclay Hammock. Just five years later, he formed the Naumann Group, which has since grown to be one of the hottest real estate ventures in town. Naumann’s business philosophy remains focused on providing the kind of communities where people want to live.
Best Real Estate Agent (tie) | Barry Trotman
In just over three years Barry Trotman has emerged as a popular home-grown realtor, with his own style of doing things: “I kind of go to my own beat and I think people like that,” he said. At 29, his high-energy personality serves him well. “I go the extra mile. You’ll never see me not going all out.”
Best Spa Services | Chelsea
An Aveda Concept Salon, Chelsea offers a variety of spa services, including massage therapy, facials, manicures and pedicures, hair removal and body treatments. There are plenty of packages of services, whether you need a quick de-stress or an all-day pampering session. How about the pure bliss of a chocolate body treatment and facial?
Best Veterinarian | George Simmons, D.V.M.
When your pet needs professional care, Simmons will make sure your beloved friend is healthy and happy. Offering services from grooming to orthopedic surgery, he will ensure the very best treatment for pets and their families.
Best Weight Loss | Jenny Craig Weight Loss Centre
Losing those extra pounds is not easy – and it’s not just about food. Judi Taylor and the consultants the local Jenny Craig center are willing to help clients with prepackaged meals, encouragement and a comprehensive approach to lifestyle change and weight loss.
Best Antique Shop | Sally Rude Antiques and Fine Art Gallery
Rude boasts of having “the most wonderful customers in town.” Her store features a non-stuffy, salon-like atmosphere where shoppers frequently socialize. Check out the online catalog trocadero.com/mctc for her current selection of unique items, ranging from furnishing and artwork to jewelry and home décor.
Best Consignment Shop | Plato’s Closet
When the closet is bursting at the seams, it’s time to sort through those so-last-year fashions. Instead of tossing your old designer duds, Plato’s Closet will take your Polo, Hollister and Tommy Hilfiger clothing and turn it into cash.
Best Furniture Store | Turner’s Fine Furniture
It’s so big, you could get lost in Turner’s Village Square showroom. But fear not, there’s sure to be a friendly sales consultant to guide you through the labyrinth of showrooms. The 90-year-old company prides itself on good service and a low-price guarantee.
Best Gift Store | My Favorite Things
When the person and the occasion are special, it’s time for a trip to My Favorite Things. With registries for brides and babies, the shop offers a fabulous selection of china, crystal and other bibelots. You’re sure to find the perfect gift for all occasions.
Best Jewelry Store | Robert’s Jewelry & Design
“How do I love you?” You’re sure to find a way at this Betton Place favorite, whether it’s a “forever” diamond or another bejeweled gift. A Toby Rhinehart distributor, co-owners Robert Peavy and Henry Mattason offer an exquisite collection of handmade jewelry.
Best Men’s Clothing Store | Nic’s Toggery
Not only Tallahassee’s top haberdashery, its combination of quality men’s clothing and accessories, as well as impeccable customer service, has put Nic’s on the national radar. It’s on the ‘A’ list of men’s stores, as compiled by Esquire magazine.
Best Nursery/Garden Center | Tallahassee Nurseries
Seeking beautiful ornamentals especially suited to the North Florida and South Georgia region? Look no further than Tallahassee Nurseries, which has been providing local gardeners with flowers and horticultural advice for 60 years. There you’ll find all the iconic flowering shrubs and trees that go along with Southern living: azaleas, camellias, fruit trees, roses and daylilies.
Best Women’s Accessories | Rag Junkie
Hats and sunglasses, belts and jewelry; eclectic, eccentric or just plain exceptional – Rag Junkie has the accessory for any outfit. Make a bold statement by mixing and matching for a style all your own.
Best Women’s Clothing | Rag Junkie
Bringing together the latest in fashion trends, Rag Junkie makes a statement all its own – it’s about defining a look that says independent, chic and trendy. With great bargains and new styles, you can have a look your friends will envy.
Best Women’s Shoes | Parisian/Belk
With designer brands at competitive prices, you’re in shoe-shopping heaven! The Parisian store will be changing to Belk, but we’re that assured the shoe department will remain as fashionable as ever.
Best Art Gallery | Thomas Eads
Refine your evening with a stop at this newly opened gallery. Featuring paintings, photography, sculpture and “fine crafts,” this gallery on Thomasville Road brings fine art to the bustling Midtown area. The gallery focuses on artists from the local Gulf region.
Best Community Event | Seven Days of Opening Nights
In less than a decade of existence, this artistic extravaganza has Tallahasseeans clearing off their social calendars for two weeks – or more – each February in anticipation of seeing national-caliber art, dance and music. Organizers are keeping the marquee acts for the next festival under wraps for now, but the dates will be Feb. 10-28, 2008.
Best Golf Course | SouthWood
Tallahassee’s newest course is well maintained and a pleasure to play on, say local golf aficionados. It’s a long course featuring changing elevations and undulating greens to challenge golfers, while eye-pleasing oak trees and other scenery make for an enjoyable round – even when the bogeys seem to be adding up.
Best Local Attraction | IMAX
A popular crowd pleaser, with tons of “wow” factor, the IMAX at Challenger Learning Center takes educational theater to a high art. Featuring a movie screen five stories tall, a powerful sound system and advanced projection technology, IMAX can take viewers to the Martian plains or plunge them into the depths of the oceans.
Best Place to Be Seen | Governors Club
Florida’s Tower of Power is just a block away from this members-only downtown club, and it shows. Its dining room and casual grill are full of politicos, execs, lobbyists and others meeting, greeting and otherwise getting down to business. If the Adams Street entrance door swings open for you, you can expect beautiful surroundings, great food and impeccable concierge service in addition to the high-flying membership.
Best Place to Take Kids | Fun Station
The Fun Station has everything – miniature golf, Grand Prix go-karts, laser tag, cool blaster boats, pizza, batting cages, and a video game arcade now featuring the hottest motorcycle-racing game.
Best Sports Bar | A.J.’s
It’s the only place in town where you can watch eight football games simultaneously in one room. A.J.’s strives to bring the most complete sports coverage to town, boasting more TVs and more seating than anywhere else in town.
Best Splurge for Her | Chelsea
Unwind and take a personal day to enjoy the services of Chelsea. The salon offers various spa packages for her ultimate splurge. Most packages include a massage, facial, manicure and/or pedicure, a light lunch and a take-home gift.
Best Splurge for Him | Edwin Watts Golf
If your guy is a golf guy, it doesn’t get any better than this emporium. The 60-store chain (which got its start nearby in Fort Walton Beach) is packed with golf clubs, golf accessories and golf clothes from all of the leading manufacturers – all designed to help a fellow make his way from duffer to scratch player.
Best Weekend Getaway | St. George Island
With its miles of sandy beaches, forests, bays, hiking trails and biking trails, St. George Island is a perennial favorite of local families looking for a weekend retreat. And with a door-to-door drive time from Tallahassee of less than two hours, it’s a quick and convenient respite from everyday living.
Best Neighborhood | SummerBrooke
Pleasant and inviting, with winding boulevards and beautiful homes, SummerBrooke has everything a person could ask for in a neighborhood. The newly revamped golf course is the centerpiece of the development, which also includes parks, playgrounds, five lakes and walking trails. The July 4 fireworks display, sponsored by the homeowner’s association, is an annual neighborhood highlight.
Best Radio Personality | Steve Christian
The host of the afternoon show on Star 98 (98.9 WBZE FM) has been a disc jockey for 15 years. He also has his own mobile service and has been a DJ for many different events, including weddings, birthdays, reunions, dances and parties.
Best TV Personality | Rob Nucatola
When it’s one of those prop-the-eyelids-open kind of mornings, the WCTV Channel 6 weatherman seems to be able to infuse us with his energy and verve. Nucatola manages to deliver even the gloomiest forecasts with great enthusiasm. The New York native has been a friendly fixture on the “Good Morning Show” and “Eyewitness News at Noon” since 2000.
Best Corporate Citizen | Blossoms
Whether it’s a silent auction gift, cash donation, presentation on flower arranging, or 50 centerpieces for a banquet, Blossoms on North Monroe Street is giving something back to the community just about every day. The floral and gift shop makes major donations to the March of Dimes, Big Bend Cares and about 30 other organizations throughout the year.
Best New Business | The Red Elephant Pizza and Grill
The cramma-jamma parking lot during lunch and dinner hours tells you that the Red Elephant is the hot new restaurant in town. The family-style eatery is kid-friendly, with an easy-to-digest menu of pizza, burgers, sandwiches and salads in a modern-meets-folk art atmosphere.