Category Archives: Features

Jessica McMullen: Cooking With Love

As a farmer’s daughter, Jessica Bright McMullen learned early on that “food is love.” It’s a lesson that has sustained her both during times of struggles and success. And it’s one of the many reasons you’ll want to break bread with this dynamic owner of KitchenAble, a cooking school located in a quaint Lake Ella cottage.

At KitchenAble (short for “kitchen enabler,”) McMullen teaches weekly classes and features monthly chef’s table dinners, private gatherings, corporate events and kids’ cooking camps. She offers catering and consulting, conducts culinary trips, and over the years, she’s been a radio and television personality and contributor to several cookbooks.

On a personal level, McMullen is a mom, artist, volunteer. The list goes on and on but a passion for cooking pervades all that she does.

“For me, food is an expression of love,” said McMullen. “I really do love being able to use food as a way to nurture others. When someone stops by after a meal and tells me it’s an experience they’ve really enjoyed, it humbles me. I feel like I have done what I set out to do.”

During classes and chef’s dinner nights, everyone sits around a communal table to watch McMullen work her magic. Her husband Chris and friend Glenn Berman help with prepping and washing dishes. Her 10-year-old daughter Madeline is a skillful sous chef. At one class on pasta making, Madeline breezily sliced dough into long strands and worked a rolling pin like a pro.

– KitchenAble

Classes and dinners are a BYOB affair, so it’s not long before strangers relax and get to know each other. At one dinner, a guest stood up and recited poetry. The room quickly filled with laughter — and heavenly aromas. No wonder McMullen forms connections with all those she meets.

“Most of my students become my friends,” she said, offering a guest a cup of her fresh-brewed tea blend and shortbread cookies. McMullen is always cooking, always doing something. “I don’t watch TV,” she said, flashing her broad smile. “That helps.”

McMullen came across the cottage setting for KitchenAble nearly four years ago. She peeked in the window and saw herbs in the window boxes and a butcher block table inside. Her heart quickened. Four months later, she moved in.

“So I was able to buy that butcher block table and weed those herbs,” said McMullen, who spruced up the space. Like the charming setting, much of the decor has personal value, such as the antique chocolate molds, the punch bowl from her grandmother’s best friend, Miss Pearl, and the lovely bread bowls.

“The things that you see here were given to me by my students or friends and they have stories behind them,” she said. “Many are family heirloom kitchen pieces and I feel like those things have been infused with love by the people who used them. I’m very honored and privileged to have these things in my possession now.”

Whether in her classes or chef’s table events, McMullen’s repertoire spans the globe, offering dishes from chicken Marsala to Moroccan beef stew.

“Jessica has so much enthusiasm it’s catching,” said Sandy DeLopez, a regular at KitchenAble’s cooking classes with her husband Tom. They went to one class and were hooked.

“Her classes are fabulous,” said DeLopez. “By the time you leave, you’ll know everyone in the class. There’s nothing like it in Tallahassee.”

That’s partly because of McMullen’s steadfast belief in the transformative power of a home-cooked meal.

“I learned very quickly that food makes people happy, and I like to make people happy.”

Her loyalty to locally grown food is rooted in her childhood, growing up on a small farm in Ayden, North Carolina. Her father grew tobacco, wheat, corn, soy beans and cucumbers and raised pigs and cattle.

She was just five years old when she started cooking on her grandfather’s wood-burning stove.

“I’d toast the pecans from the trees in his yard and scramble eggs in the cast-iron skillet,” said McMullen.

When she was seven, “the tobacco market fell out” and her father lost the farm. It was a difficult time for her family. McMullen’s parents divorced and she split her time between her dad in North Carolina and her mom in Jacksonville.

Her father, an avid fisherman, opened a seafood market when she was 13. “I learned how to filet and clean all kinds of seafood.”

McMullen knew she wanted a career related to food. “I wanted to take home economics and my high school guidance counselors laughed me off.”

After high school, McMullen studied hospitality administration at Florida State University and was offered a job at Walt Disney World’s All-Star Music Resort. “They put me in the food court, flipping burgers. I was devastated,” said McMullen. “It was nothing like my fantasies.”

Still, she learned the ins and outs of working in a kitchen and on her breaks she would watch the cooks at Disney’s opulent Victoria & Albert’s “where I could see the preparation of beautiful food.”

McMullen ended up working full-time at Disney, where she met her husband Chris. She began cooking at the well-regarded California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Later moves took the couple to colonial Williamsburg and Lake Tahoe.

The McMullens eventually moved to Jacksonville, where Chris went to law school. The couple have a son Max, 15. They became foster parents and adopted Madeline.

McMullen has worked closely with nonprofit groups including Family Support Services of North Florida and Second Harvest. In 2009, Gov. Charlie Crist presented her with the “Point of Light” Award for her efforts to promote adoption awareness. She received the President’s Call to Service Award from President Barack Obama.

“My mother’s life’s dream was to be a stay-at-home mom and it didn’t work out,” McMullen said. “Maybe she planted that seed in me of wanting to nurture and provide hospitality. I’m fortunate I’ve been able to make that my vocation.”

McMullen’s penchant for hospitality has led to surprising ventures. Her husband’s boss loved her cooking, which led to lessons for his wife and her friends. The lessons led to a job as a spokeswoman for General Electric Appliances, which evolved into a regular TV spot.

Cooking for a church benefit landed her an interview on a Christian radio station called The Promise. McMullen became a regular on the station for eight years, sharing recipes and tips. Through that show, she met Julie Hadden, a Season Four finalist on NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” and wrote a section of healthy recipes for Hadden’s book, “Fat Chance.”

McMullen also co-wrote “The Shannon Miller Healthy and Balanced Pregnancy Cookbook” with the Olympic gymnast.

In recent years, McMullen has been combining travel and cooking. In 2012, she took cooking lessons at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Then in June, she shared her love of France with nine students. “It was a moveable feast,” said DeLopez.

McMullen also took a group to Panama and plans another teaching trip to Brittany in 2018.

“French cuisine seems very, very complicated and fancy from a distance, but really at the heart of it, the backbone of it, is getting fresh, local ingredients,” she said. “When you cook that way, wherever you are in the world, the challenge isn’t what you do but what you don’t do.

“As long as you don’t screw up a delicious tomato, you’ll have a delicious end result,” said McMullen. “It’s recognizing that, and valuing that ingredient. These are things I learned as a farmer’s daughter and that’s something that has run through my family for many generations.

“It’s not that the French are more advanced or complicated than we are,” she added. “It’s that they haven’t forgotten that.”

McMullen never forgets that cooking for a living “has not only enabled me to do what I love, it’s enabled me to have a much broader and richer collection of friends and people who I consider family. I feel very blessed because of that.”

When you go…
KitchenAble: Lake Ella, 1635 N. Monroe Dr.
Phone: 850-264-2308
Web: kitchenable.net
Upcoming: Oktoberfest chef’s dinner, 6:30 p.m. Oct. 27; $55 per person.

Recipe

Caramel Apple Shortbread

– KitchenAble


½ cup brown sugar packed
¼ cup butter cubed
¼ cup half and half
½ tsp vanilla paste*
½ tsp salt
1 cup softened butter (2 sticks)
¾ cup powdered sugar
pinch of salt
2 cups flour
4 large, tart apples (Granny Smith and Pink Lady)

Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Make the caramel by combining the brown sugar and butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk gently and cook for about 3-5 minutes, until it thickens and sugar dissolves.

Slowly add in half-and-half and vanilla paste, while whisking.  Increase temperature to medium-high and bring mixture to a boil and boil for 60 seconds.  Remove from the heat and stir in the salt.

Using your mixer, cream butter, salt, and powdered sugar together.  Gradually add the flour to form dough.  Place the dough in a 9 x 13 baking pan lined with parchment paper.  Press the dough into an even layer on the bottom of the pan.  Bake at 350°F for 15-20 minutes, until it looks dry on the surface, then remove from oven.  Cut apples into thin slices and arrange – overlapping– in a layer on the shortbread.  Pour caramel over the sliced apples.  If desired garnish with toasted pecans.

* Vanilla paste is a thick syrupy paste made from vanilla beans with the small flecks of the beans visible.  If you don’t have that available you could substitute the same amount of vanilla extract.

— Jessica Bright McMullen

Greek Dining in Tallahassee

Fall has arrived, and we all know what that means: Hellenic heaven.

The annual Tallahassee Greek Festival takes place this weekend, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Oct. 6 and 7. Here’s your chance to enjoy traditional dances, crafts and a lavish array of authentic cuisine.

Feast on delectable dishes including gyros, souvlaki, spanakopita and moussaka plus dozens of Greece’s famed pastries. You’ll find sweet baklava, but also rice pudding, koulourakia (traditional Easter cookies), loukoumi (Greek candy) and lots more.

Once the festival’s over, there’s no need to pout. There are plenty of spots where you can get a taste of the Mediterranean year-round.

Georgio’s is the place for Greek and Mediterranean fine dining , but there are also several casual and modest counter-serve choices where you can load up on stuffed grape leaves, kebabs, hummus, spinach pies, baklava and gyros — meats cooked on a vertical spit and stuffed into pita, topped with creamy yogurt tzatziki sauce and chopped tomatoes.

Here’s a look at some Tallahassee choices to help you launch your own Greek food odyssey.

– Captain Pete’s House of Gyros

Captain Pete’s House of Gyros: Captain Pete’s, owned by Laura Hussey, is naturally known for its gyros and other Greek specialties offered lunchtime Monday through Saturday. Captain Pete’s, open since 1985, serves falafels, salads, sandwiches — including a Cuban-style sandwich on pita — and heartier meals like meat pastitsio (pasta and ground beef topped with béchamel sauce), stuffed grape leaves and candy-coated almonds for dessert. 1184 Capital Circle NE; 850-877-8012.

Crazy 4 Hummus: The counter-serve eatery, one of several Greek/Mediterranean venues on Tennessee Street, has reopened after a summer hiatus. Despite its name, the restaurant offers only one type of hummus (with many slices of pita), but the place also serves an ambitious menu of stuffed grape leaves, falafels, gyros, chicken and ground lamb kebabs, lentil soup and tabbouleh. 1414 Tennessee St.; 850-329-2312.

Georgio’s Fine Food & Spirit: Georgio Koikos, originally of Athens, Greece, has been in the restaurant business for 50 years, offering diners a taste of his homeland. Georgio’s extensive menu also presents specials from the Mediterranean as well as the Gulf. On the stellar lineup: Greek-style tenderloin tips, crab-stuffed grouper and rack of lamb plus traditional dishes like saganaki (flaming cheese), egg-based avgolemono soup and a combo with eggplant moussaka, spinach pie and grape leaves. End with rich desserts and creative cocktails. 2971 Apalachee Pkwy.; 850-877-3211.

Little Athens Gyro: Zorba the Greek was playing in the background while a friend and I were devouring flavorful lamb-and-beef gyros in this easy-to-miss Greek restaurant on a Tennessee strip (facing McDonald’s). The generous gyro was topped with a well-seasoned mix of tomatoes, feta, lettuce and tzatziki sauce. Owner Janette Ragheb, originally from Cairo, has been cooking Greek and Mediterranean food in Tallahassee for 30 years . The restaurant also serves salads, lentil soup, hummus, stuffed grape leaves and meat pastitsio, with homemade baklava for dessert. 666 W. Tennessee St.; 850-222-2231.

Pappas Diner: This two-month-old Greek-American diner serves dishes ranging from pastrami to pastitsio in the former home of Village Inn. This family business from Spiro Pappas, who previously ran diners in South Florida, offers Greek chicken (flavored with oregano and a garlic-lemon sauce), hummus and a Greek combo with spinach pie, moussaka, pastitsio and Greek salad. The large dessert case features cakes, pies and (naturally) baklava. 2531 Apalachee Pkwy.; 850-391-9585.

Pitaria/Pitaria Express: This laid-back Greek restaurant has been a favorite with college students for decades. The place is known for its gyros, souvlaki, baklava and Greek fries. But Pitaria Express now also offers quick, easy access to its Greek cuisine in its drive-thru location. Pitaria, 631 W. Tennessee St., 850-412-7482; Pitaria Express, 3001 Apalachee Pkwy., 850-765-1124.

Pita Pit: The quick-serve eatery and late-night choice was founded as a healthier alternative to fast food in Canada in 1995. Students are here all hours for a variety of pita wraps: meat (chicken souvlaki, Philly cheese steak, tuna), veggie (falafel, hummus, spicy black bean) and breakfast pitas (eggs and ham, bacon or choice of meats). 1935 W Tennessee St.; 850-222-7482.

Sahara Greek & Lebanese Cafe: Fans have followed popular Sahara Greek & Lebanese Cafe from the Tallahassee Mall to Lafayette Street to new quarters on Apalachee Parkway. Owner Sophia Al-Siroa has been cooking Greek, Lebanese and vegetarian dishes in Tallahassee for 17 years. Specialty plates include chicken shawarma (pressed meat on a spit), stuffed grape leaves, kebabs, pita wraps, Greek Fries and homemade Lebanese dishes. Al-Siroa is also known for serving some of the best baklava around. 1135 Apalachee Pkwy, Tallahassee, FL 32301. (850) 656-1800

Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe: The Birmingham-based chain, which celebrated its year anniversary Oct. 4, offers a good selection of casual Greek fare. Counter-serve Taziki’s boasts “no fryers or freezers or microwaves” are used to prepare its salads, hummus, gyros, vegetable plates and “feasts” including roast pork loin and juicy grilled lamb. It may not be Greek but Taziki’s does a pretty good pimento cheese sandwich. 216 S. Magnolia Dr.; 850-329-6056

Under Wraps: Sonny Pourfardaneh, originally of Iran, and wife Gina Bonyani, who is of Greek heritage, serve a large selection of Mediterranean fare at this cheery counter-serve spot. The menu covers a lot of territory with gyros, hummus and falafels along with a Philly cheesesteak, sweet-and-spicy Thai chicken and Southwestern turkey. Stop by Fridays and Saturdays when Under Wraps offers Persian kebab koobideh with ground beef and basmati rice and a Greek-style chicken kebab. The couple’s daughter, Pegah, makes the delicious baklava. 1703 Apalachee Pkwy.; 850-727-7012.

If you go …
What: Tallahassee Greek Festival
When: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Oct. 6 and 7
Where: Holy Mother of God Greek Orthodox Church, 1645 Phillips Rd., Tallahassee
More info: www.hmog.org/festival

Global Fare With the Vu Brothers

You may not know Viet and Nam Vu, but you’ve probably eaten at their restaurants.

They’re the guys behind the MoBi food truck, known for its international street fare, and Midtown’s popular Taco Republik, which has been serving a variety of tacos, quesadillas, burritos and other Tex-Mex-style food for more than four years.

A Trust Me Special, with spicy tuna, cucumber, asparagus, avocado, with eel and ponzu sauce at Izzy Pub & Sushi. Joe Rondone, Tallahassee Democrat

In February, Viet, 37, began luring sushi fans to the urban Japanese gastropub, Izzy Pub & Sushi, an endeavor with chef Xinzheng “Alex” Fang.

A choclo, top, an arepa filled with cheese and sweet corn with sides of plantains and yuca fries (top) and a steak and rice bowl (bottom.)

Then Nam, 36, launched casual Arepana Latin Grill (formerly Merv’s Melts) on Capital Circle in April, offering arepas and rice bowls with a variety of fillings.

As if all these ventures aren’t enough to keep them busy, the Vus recently revived MoBi, which had been relegated to limited use, as a regular pop-up on weekends at Proof brewery in Railroad Square, offering items like Garnet & Gold tacos, sweet corn arepas stuffed with cheese and pub fries garnished with chopped bratwurst and 850 beer cheese, with more creative items to come. MoBi, which means Mobile Bistro, will also be handling all of Proof’s catering and food operations.

The Vus initially started the food truck in 2011, after more than a decade of working for others in restaurants around town. In just six years, they’ve quietly impacted Tallahassee’s evolving dining scene, and they’ve done it with lots of sweat equity.

The Vu brothers were willing to start small, but they’ve always had big dreams. Talk to them briefly and their enthusiasm is catching. They’re brimming with ideas, tempering their passion with  pragmatism.

“It all springs from our background,” said Viet. “We got into this because we learned a love of food from our parents.”

Children of Vietnamese immigrants who came to America “with next to nothing,” the Vu brothers grew up in Tallahassee at a time when there were few other families who shared their culture.

“Probably less than five percent of the kids in school were Asian,” said Nam. “The majority were Korean and Chinese.”

The brothers learned early on to handle questions about their names, Viet and Nam. “Our parents were jokesters,” Nam quipped, adding their dad explained “it was a way to always remember our heritage.”

Viet and Nam  were raised in a multicultural world, dining at the homes of American friends, and inviting those friends to join their family for traditional Vietnamese dishes.

“Food brings people together,” said Viet.

Their mother made banh xeo or Vietnamese crepes, dumplings and summer rolls. Their father, who worked with the state Department of Transportation, proudly made his homeland’s famed phò beef noodle soup as well as the spaghetti and meatball recipe he learned from his American co-workers.

“Our version of a bolgona sandwich in school was actually French bread, pâté, camembert and chả lụa,” a type of sausage used in Vietnamese bánh mì sandwiches, Nam said. “That was our sack lunch.”

When the guys attended Leon High, they also ate at Whataburger a couple times a week, never expecting they’d be Midtown merchants themselves. Or maybe they did.

Between them, Viet and Nam have worked in just about every job in the restaurant business, starting at the bottom and working their way up.

Viet got his first job at Papa Johns in ’96, flipping pizzas and taking orders for $4.25 an hour and free pizza. “Great job for a swimmer with an appetite for pizza and cooking,” said Viet.

When Nam was in high school, he worked summers as a prep/pantry cook and bussed tables. at PF Chang’s in North Carolina.

“PF Chang’s was the hot new restaurant at the time, and we were inspired by both the menu and design,” said Viet. “We were like, ‘wow, Chinese restaurants don’t have to look like the typical mom and pop take-out joints.’ ”

After graduating from Leon in 1998 and 1999, the brothers went to Florida State University with a medical or science career in mind. “We were originally the stereotypical pre-med that Asian parents want for their children,” said Nam. He ended up gravitating to international affairs. Viet’s majors were biology and chemistry.

A three-taco combo with one of each carnitas, pollo and steak at Taco Republik, one of several local restaurants owned by brothers Viet and Nam Vu. – Joe Rondone, Tallahassee Democrat

Both brothers worked in restaurants while at FSU. Viet worked a a bar manager at Mori and Harry’s during and after college. Nam worked at Bonefish Grill  during college, and after graduation, he managed 101 restaurant (“I was the unofficial creator of buffalo chicken pizzas). He later went on to management at Hotel Duval and Shulas

“He’s a really hard worker,” said Joe Lemons, Nam’s former boss at Bonefish Grill.

As an aside, he mentions that Nam would “do magic tricks when he was a server and the guests loved it.”

When Lemons opened Table 23, across the street from Taco Republik, Nam offered to help with staff training, calling it “a way of giving back for the many lessons I learned while at BFG.”

When he was learning the business, Nam said he liked to work at newly opened places to observe how things were done.

“We had good bosses and bad bosses and we learned from their strengths and weaknesses,” said Nam. “We learned what works and what not to do.”

“We’re like sponges,” said Viet. “We learned from all our families we spent time with – Vietnamese, American and work. Over the years, I believe we’ve been absorbing it all. We try to apply every little experience that we’ve learned and shake it up.”

Nam said he and his brother played a game when they were dreaming up restaurant concepts. “Any time we’d see an empty space, we’d say “What would you put there?’ It kept us thinking.”

Eventually the brothers would go out on their own – after some soul searching. When Viet was nearly 30, he decided to leave his job as a bar manager. He traveled the country, visiting his foodie sister, Phi Do-Lui, in Albany, California. Viet was “in love with” the dining scene in the San Francisco Bay area, visiting his sister’s favorite eateries, which included casual places and imaginative food trucks.

“For me, great food doesn’t have to be fancy,” said Do-Lui.“

Her brothers agree.

“The food truck idea was a very cool concept to me,” said Viet.

After a year of research and a loan from their mom, MoBi was born.

Brat dog and pub fries with 850 cheese sauce from the MoBi food truck.

“I utilized my bar and hospitality networks to find places to set up late night outside bars and lunches downtown,” said Viet. “We created a Carolina-style barbecue pork taco with Chipotle mac-n-cheese and it jump started our business.”

Natasha Nunley, a managing partner at the new Tin Lizzy’s, was running her own food truck, the Nole Patrol, one of Tallahassee’s first food trucks, when Viet was traveling around the city with MoBi.

“Viet takes his craft seriously,” said Nunley. “That’s what sets him apart.”

MoBi allowed the brothers to experiment with global flavors – Korean (with kimchi from Korean BBQ), Indian and Thai, introducing customers to Vietnam’s famed bánh mì sandwiches, with a smear of liver pâté and thin slices of cold cuts on a French baguette.

“We never had a set menu,” said Viet. “People knew we always had the barbecue tacos and some new Asian stuff and they always loved it.”

One of those fans was Florida State University graduate student Cameron Salley, who headed to Proof on a recent steamy Sunday with senior Lily Henkel to devour barbecue pork tacos.

“I used to go to MoBi when I was in high school,” said Salley. “We saw a post from Viet today on Instagram and came on over.”

Viet was operating MoBi, and Nam still working in the corporate world (Hotel Duval, Front Porch), when businessman Anuj Patel approached them about starting a new venture, which became Taco Republik.

“He wanted us to build a taco shop, develop the menu and staff it,” said Viet. “It was the opportunity to open our first restaurant, our way, with minimal investment. Once we accomplished that, it gave us the confidence to do even more concepts.”

Viet and Nam formed the parent company, RendezVu, but it would be more than four years until they found the right opportunities for more businesses.

That changed when Viet entered into a partnership with chef Fang of Midtown’s Saki Sushi to help revitalize the restaurant with a new concept. Fang is a talented chef, said Viet, but Saki Sushi “was missing the ambiance and the vibe necessary to succeed in the rising Midtown scene and we knew we could help bring that.”

The Godzilla roll with soft shell crab, coconut shrimp, spicy tuna, bbq eel, scallion, avocado, cream cheese and spicy mayo at Izzy’s Pub & Sushi. – Joe Rondone, Tallahassee Democrat

They created Izzy, short for Izakaya (a casual venue for drinks and simple pub food), a hipper space which has already made a difference for Tallahassee’s adventurous raw fish fans, even new ones.

“My kids discovered sushi at Izzy,” said Table 23’s Lemons. “Viet even ordered them kid chopsticks.”

The pub, which shares a deck with indie bookstore Midtown Reader, has become a gathering spot for diners chowing down on an array of sushi, sashimi and small plates, sipping high-quality sake — including the first kegged sake in Tallahassee — and local craft brews from Proof, Deep and Grasslands.

Izzy has offered at least one high-end omasake dinner – the term means “I’ll leave it up to you” – sourcing rare, unique fish from the famed Japanese markets. On a smaller scale, you can sample the chef’s creativity with a “Trust Me Roll” devised by Fang.

Across town, Nam’s Arepana Latin Grill on Apalachee Parkway is wooing customers with flavorful and inexpensive meals that bring a taste of Venezuela, Colombia, Cuba and Puerto Rico. Visit the restaurant at any hour and you’ll see Nam behind the counter, cooking or serving customers arepas or rice bowls with roast pork, carne asada (steak), chicken or vegetables.

 

Phi Do-Lui said her brothers Viet and Nam each bring their own talents to the restaurant business “but they both want people to enjoy their experience as much as the food.”

Do-Lui said she knew they would make it as restaurateurs. “The surprise was, ‘Why not Vietnamese?”

The short answer is that the market hasn’t been right yet, said the Vu brothers.

But their goal is to open a Vietnamese deli, bakery and café within two years, specializing in creative and classic takes on bánh mì sandwiches, among other items.

“We want to have the resources to do it the right way,” said Viet, noting he would like to make a mark on Tallahassee.

Whether it’s a Latin, Japanese or Vietnamese restaurant, added Nam, “I would like to see any business we build stand the test of time.”

Here’s where to find the Vu brothers’ businesses:

Arepana Latin Grill: Serving arepas, rice bowls and sides like yucca fries and plantains. 1176 Capital Circle SE; 850- 597-9931.

MoBi: The truck is now parked at Proof, serving tacos, arepas, brats and more elaborate sandwiches on Thursday through Sunday. Railroad Square Art Park, 644 McDonnell Dr.

Izzy Pub & Sushi: Casual, Japanese-style gastro pub serving sushi, sake, local beer and small plates. 1123-3 Thomasville Rd.; 850-222-5000

Taco Republik: Fun taqueria, with shrimp, fish, pork and beef tacos and quesadillas plus yucca fries and tostones. 1122-8 Thomasville Rd.; 850-765-3314

Mural at Taco Republik.

 

 

 

 

 

New TLH Restaurants


Barbecue. Bundt cakes. Super berries. Tallahassee has a new spate of restaurants — including chains, dessert spots, a sub shop, ethnic restaurants and a food truck — that have opened in the past two months and a few more will be opening by summer’s end.

Most of these are smaller, casual places, not of the ilk of a Blue Halo or Table 23, which opened last summer. Still, these are new places to discover and Tallahassee loves to try new restaurants.

Keep in mind that all that love can overwhelm a new spot. Places used to be able to open quietly but that’s unlikely these days. One bad batch of beans can doom a restaurant. So the idea is, give a new location a chance.

Here are the spaces we’ve come across.We’ve likely missed some new gems or promising places to come. If so, please drop us a note at TallahasseeTable@gmail.com.

Chuan Cafe:   This College Town newcomer boasts authentic Chinese cuisine with the slogan “Never Spicy Enough.” But if you’re spice-averse, don’t cross this place off your must-try list. The super hot dishes are marked and there are plenty of other choices, especially the dim sum. The Szechuan category includes roast duck, beef tendon with chili sauce, and bean jelly with Szechuan-style sauce.  Another bonus: Chuan Cafe, with a sleek contemporary decor, is open for lunch and dinner daily. 619 S. Woodward Ave.; 850-727-0228.

– Joan-Manuel Pouparina

The Goodberry: This cozy nook, which opened June 17, specializes in popular açaí bowls. The South American berry, touted for its health benefits and its tart-sweet flavor, is the star attraction in sorbet, garnished with granola and a choice of other toppings, including fresh fruits, chia seeds, dates, bee pollen, Nutella and a Brazilian nut topping called pacoca. Owners Joan-Manuel Pouparina and Ariel Sonnino, both recent Florida State University grads, also serve smoothies and avocado toast with garlic, red peppers, feta, cherry tomatoes and a balsamic glaze. Sweet indeed! 1325 Thomasville Rd.; 850-778-5167.

Lemongrass: The pan-Asian restaurant, from the same folks who owned the former Far East Cuisine in the Carriage Gate, have moved to the Centre of Tallahassee. The new, classier digs offer lovely art work, a sophisticated soundtrack and relaxed lights. Vietnamese and Thai dishes and sushi dominate the large menu. Specialties include Vietnamese beef stew, a bánh mì for lunch, curries and rolls. Finish with a cold — or hot — glass of sake. 2415 N Monroe St.; 850-765-0672.

LOL Nachos:  This place is a nacho bar that also serves other Mexican fare like tacos and burritos, but why the LOL? The restaurant is also a comedy club with shows Tuesday and Saturday nights.    2401 West Pensacola St., Unit D;  850-597-8372.

Nothing Bundt Cakes: If the term “bundt cake” makes you feel warm and fuzzy, you’ll be happy to discover this new shop devoted to the nostalgic dessert. These rich cakes are drizzled with a cream cheese-based icing and come in varied sizes: an eight or 10-inch cake ($21 and $31, additional charge for decorations), $3.99 bundtlets and bite-sized bundtinis (available only by the dozen). Ten flavors are available, including a gluten-free version and flavor of the month. Marty Newman, who opened the Tallahassee branch of the franchise on June 1, said there are 40 design options for special occasions. Despite its name, the shop sells some travel mugs, cake plates and gifts. 346 S Magnolia Dr.; 850-765-5188.

OG Subs: The sub shop originally opened in the fall, closed briefly and reopened June 23, so we’re including it in this roundup. OG is quickly getting a reputation for having the best subs in the city. No argument here. If you’re from South Florida, you’ll be excited to hear that one of their owners and several employees used to work at the venerable LaSpada’s Original Hoagies in SFla. You’ll find the same quality meats here (and meat tossing — trust us, it’s fun). 444 W College Ave.; 850-553-1352.

Thai Kitchen: Amy and Alex Soonthonthom spent many years helping a relative open Thai restaurants around the country. On June 1, they opened their own establishment, a modest 32-seat storefront providing a range of traditional dishes like coconut soup, Pad Thai and assorted curries. Shoppers in the plaza will find lunch is a bargain, including an entree and cup of soup or salad (dine-in only) for $8, $10 if you pick shrimp. The couple, natives of Thailand, will eventually offer sushi as well. 1400 Village Square Blvd.; 850-999-8960.

Wild Cajun Seafood & Oyster Bar: Childhood friends and Louisiana natives Derreck He and Tim Tran opened the seafood restaurant July 5 in the former home of Zin. Wild Cajun specializes in low-country boils — “Dirty Buckets” with shrimp, snow crab, black mussels, sausage, crawfish, red potatoes and corn.  You’ll also find po boys, seafood by the pound, baskets and crawfish étouffée. 1225 N Monroe St.; 850-567-2992

– Rankin Tacos

Rankin Crunchy & Confused Tacos: On May 28, Roger Rankin left his seven-year job working in the state’s radiological emergency program, which is charged with planning the response to a nuclear power plant crisis. A month later, he was planning something entirely different: menus. Fulfilling a longtime dream, Rankin, with his wife, Bridgette, opened this food truck, featuring a beloved fried taco recipe created by his grandmother in West Texas. Rankin Crunchy & Confused Tacos prepares the dish the way his grandmother did, cooking the meat and shell together. The truck offers five or six signature tacos, including Southern fried chicken, chorizo, lamb or beef or you can build your own. Tacos are served with a side of Texas-style beans and flat tater tots. You can catch Rankin’s food truck Saturday at Deep Brewing or check his Facebook page.

Willie Jewell’s Old-School BBQ: Tallahassee’s newest barbecue spot, which opened July 19, is a spinoff of the historic Bono’s barbecue chain, born in Jacksonville in 1949, created by Joe Adeeb and Josh Martino. As for the intriguing name, Willie Jewell Daniels was a homeless girl who came to live with the Adeeb family and proved to be a fine cook. The Tallahassee branch, owned by Chip and Amanda Evans, features pork and brisket smoked for 12 or more hours over live oak. “All the meat arrives raw and we smoke it,” said Amanda Evans. Also featured: St. Louis-style ribs, turkey, sausage and chicken plus classic sides like mac ‘n cheese, Brunswick stews, fried pickles, fried corn, fried okra and baked beans. 5442 Thomasville Rd.; 850-629-4299.

 

Pappas Diner: If you love an old-fashioned Greek-American diner, with dishes like pancakes, pastrami and spinach pies, you’ll be eager to try this new eatery from Sprio Pappas, who previously ran diners in South Florida. Pappas is open in the former home of the Village Inn. We could use a Greek diner in Tallahassee so fingers crossed. 2531Apalachee Pkwy.; 850-391-9585.

Opening Soon

– SoDough

SoDough: Midtown is getting a new bakery specializing in quiche, donuts, cupcakes, muffins and other pastries (but no bread; not yet, at least) in the old Lenny’s Subs sites. The bakery is a project from For the Table Hospitality, the group that owns Madison Social, Township and Centrale in CollegeTown, specifically Matt Thompson, managing partner at Madison Social, and Lauren and Mike Poulos. We’re excited about their plans for specialty donuts. It’s expected to open in early August. 1306 Thomasville Rd.

– Tin Lizzy’s

 

Tin Lizzy’s Cantina: OK, it’s another taco joint but it sounds like a fun fit for College Town. Owners/founders Chris Hadermann, John Piemonte and Mike Evertsen all met while students at FSU and later opened their first taco restaurant in Atlanta’s Buckhead area in 2005. The Tallahassee branch will be the 14th in the chain, with other links in Atlanta and South Carolina. Don’t expect Tex-Mex or Mexican-style tacos. Tin Lizzy’s “FlexMex” style stars items like a low country boil taco with shrimp, chorizo, corn, tater tots; one with Korean barbecue; and skillets including the Cowboy with fried chicken, bacon and baked beans. Other items include quesadillas, entrees and salads. It’s expected to open near Township by the end of August. 619 S. Woodward Ave.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Stuff: Desserts in TLH

How sweet.  Summer has officially begun. What  a perfect time to indulge in fruity sorbets, luscious shortcake and over-the-top ice cream sundaes.

In Tallahassee, you can find all these treats, and lots more, whether you’re craving a gooey banana split with hot butter caramel, a pot of chocolate fondue or a refreshing chai crème brûlée. And you don’t have to miss out if you’re vegan or eat a gluten-free diet.

Our search for desserts led to ice cream and candy shops, bakeries, restaurants and even late-night delivery services. Friends and readers contributed their ideas as well, but if we’ve missed your favorite spot, let us know.

Here’s the scoop…

COOL TREATS

Big Easy Snowballs: It’s always snowball season at these two dessert shops, which create frozen treats using New Orleans-style machines. You have a choice of more than 90 flavors including the popular blue raspberry or tiger’s blood (three berries with a hint of coconut). The specialty is a “stuffed” snowball – any flavor with French vanilla soft serve ice cream in the middle. 1621 N Monroe St. (Lake Ella), 850-329-6010; 2819 Mahan Dr., 850- 999-1502.

Bruster’s Real Ice Cream: Wedding Cake ice cream, made with almond cake batter, and Tuxedo Strawberry, with white chocolate swirls, are the special June flavors at these two counter-serve spots, where you’ll find waffle cones, freezes, milkshakes, sundaes, ice cream and pies. Bring your own banana to Bruster’s on Thursdays and you get a banana split for half price ($3 instead of $6). 2475 Apalachee Pkwy., 850-309-0712; 1709 W. Tharpe St., 850-383-9782.

Cold Stone Creamery: Pick your favorite ice cream flavor, choice of mix-ins and it’s all melded together using two spades on a frozen granite stone, for a made-to-order confection. Centre of Tallahassee, 2415 N Monroe St., 850-553-4560; 1444 W Tennessee St., 850-425-1150.

Dairy Queen: There are three Dairy Queen shops in Tallahassee plus a spot in the Governor’s Square Mall, offering chocolate and vanilla soft-serve in a cup or cone plus varied Blizzard treats.

Fiocco at Urban Food Market: Rudy Sacchet’s family has been making gelato for more than three generations in the Dolomites in northeastern Italy, and now he’s sharing his experience at Fiocco Gelato Cafe in the sprawling Urban Food Market. Fiocco offers more than 20 flavors plus coffee drinks and bakery items, including cheesecake from Chef Alessandro Di Maggio of +39. Centre of Tallahassee, 2415 N Monroe St.; 850-765-9842.

Isabella Pizza: Along with Neapolitan pies and salads, Isabella’s offers six flavors of house-made gelato and Nutella pizza, which is stuffed with the hazelnut spread and topped with fruit. 799 W Gaines St.; 850-558-6379.

Lofty Pursuits: The venerable local ice cream shop, from owner Gregory Cohen, is a place where customers like to hang out. Watch Victorian-style candy made in-house on equipment from the late 1800s and check out retro toys and games. The ice cream menu itself is huge, offering floats, freezes, egg creams, ice cream sodas, nearly three dozen sundaes (not counting banana confections and treats like the kitchen sink, with 26 scoops in a stainless steel sink) and vegan ice cream options. Lofty Pursuits makes more than 30 syrups. Want dessert for breakfast? Order a pancake with candy, sprinkles and ice cream (regular breakfast items available as well). 1355 Market St.; 850-521-0091.

Mr. Cool: The Thai-style ice cream shop serves ice cream in six tight rolls instead of scoops. Servers mash mix-ins and a liquid ice cream base (including a basic version, vanilla, coffee, green tea or chocolate) on a pan chilled to a temperature of minus 14 degrees, then scrape the mixture into rolls, which taste a little lighter than a scoop. Pick one of the restaurant’s combos, like the Monkey Business (with bananas and Nutella) or create your own. Once the ice cream is rolled, pick three toppings. There’s one price: $5.99. 633 W Tennessee St.; 850-999-8476.

Nuberri Frozen Yogurt: The shop, with three locations, is primarily known for self-serve frozen yogurt (with no fat and low fat alternatives) but it also serves custard, gelato, sorbet and Italian ices. Dozens of toppings are available.

Peterbrooke Chocolatier: Satisfy your craving for chocolate or gelato (or both) at Peterbroke, which offers a cup, cone or pint of gelato, with 16 rotating flavors. 1817 Thomasville Rd. 850-577-3111.

Yogurt Mountain:   The yogurt shop serves more than 16 choices with nonfat, lowfat and gluten-free picks available, plus custard, dairy-free choices and tropical ice. 1801 W Tennessee St.; 850-765-0229.

CUPCAKES/PASTRIES

Au Peche Mignon: Feel like you’re in France (we can all pretend) while gobbling macarons, croissants and other pastries at the cafe, open more than 25 years. You can also get imported cheeses, salami and lunch. 1415 Timberlane Rd.; 850-668-5533.

Lucy & Leo’s Cupcakery: The local cupcake shop from owners Jean Bates and Paula Lucas, offers about a dozen cupcake varieties daily, plus macarons, cookies and cake balls (mini cupcakes available by special order). Gluten-free and vegan options are available. During the summer, cupcakes are $2 on Tuesdays. 1000 Thomasville Rd.; 850-765-0374.

Smallcakes Cupcakery and Creamery: The colorful cupcake shop serves more than a dozen flavors daily. You can special order medium or mini cupcakes and get cupcakes for dogs on Saturdays. 1480 Apalachee Pkwy., 850-765-2785; 3479 Thomasville Rd., 850-999-1943.

Tasty Pastry: The family-run bakery, which originated in 1963, is still run by siblings and certified master bakers Debbie and Mark Cross. It’s the source for breads, cakes, pies, cookies, bagels, pastries and take-home casseroles. 1355 Market St.; 850-893-3752.

The Cake Shop: The bakery is brimming with breads, pastries presents pies, cheesecakes, cookies, brownies, baklava, quiche and specialty baked goods.. Open for breakfast. 1908 Capital Circle NE; 850-386-2253.

Treva’s Pastries and Fine Foods: In her small shop and cafe, Treva Pasquarelli offers soups, salads, sandwiches, entrees (to go) and pastries. Her specialties include Key lime mousse pie and blueberry almond croissants. She also makes ice cream for sale by the cup or pint. 2766 Capital Circle NE; 850-765-0811.

RESTAURANTS

Blu Halo: Popular desserts at the upmarket restaurant include flavored nitrogen ice creams. The chilling temperature of nitrogen renders ice cream velvety and rich. Other signature treats are blueberry cheesecake with Kahlúa chocolate sauce and Nutella soufflé or splurge or a dessert cocktail. 3431 Bannerman Rd.; 850-999-1696.

Cypress Restaurant: Pastry chef Maria Mosca and executive chef/owner David Gwynn create a changing menu of gourmet desserts. Highlights include a decadent flourless chocolate cake with chocolate ganache; a bread pudding made of cornbread infused with maple syrup and topped with bourbon ice cream; and chai crème brûlée. The menu also features house-made ice creams and sorbets (including vegan and gluten-free). 320 E. Tennessee St.; 850-513-1100.

Food Glorious Food: Fans rave about the three-layer, sinfully rich “Perfect Chocolate Cake” but other favorite desserts at Food Glorious Food include Key lime pound cake and baklava cheesecake. 1950 Thomasville Rd.; 850-224-9974.

Habana’s Boardwalk: Savor Cuban desserts like flan (caramelized vanilla custard), tres leches (vanilla cake soaked with three milks), churros con helado (fried dough and ice cream topped with cinnamon sugar) and guava and cream cheese empanada at this homey restaurant. 2819 Mahan Dr.; 850-391-9111.

– Kool Beanz

Kool Beanz: Pastry chef Sylvia Gould is known for her imaginative desserts on a constantly changing menu. Her specialties include toasted coconut cream meringue cake, blueberry fig crostata and Thai basil panna cotta. 921 Thomasville Rd.; 850-224-2466.

The Melting Pot: Fondue lovers head to The Melting Pot for this chocolate treat (with several liqueur options for added decadence), served with numerous toppings including fruit and more chocolate. 2727 N Monroe St.; 850-386-7440.

Miccosukee Root Cellar: Owner Ruben Fields presents a menu of locally-sourced foods, much of it organic, and that includes dessert. Summer favorites feature a chocolate terrine with Thai basil ice cream, bay leaf pound cake with a strawberry lavender compote, and a pecan pie made with nuts from KBH Farms. Try house-made ice cream flavors like strawberry balsamic, Turkey Hill Farm sugar cane syrup ice cream and buttermilk crème fraîche. 1311 Miccosukee Rd.; 850-597-7419.

– 319 Wine & Cheese Shoppe

319 Wine & Cheese: This local cafe, owned by Bill and Lynne Edwards, features house-made cannoli, triple layer chocolate merlot cake, blueberry tarts, apple caramel bread pudding with ice cream and lots more. 6265 Old Water Oak Rd.; 850-765-7053.

DELIVERIES

Dipped:  If you’re craving chocolate-covered strawberries (and who doesn’t?), this place delivers. Cheesecake and other gourmet treats, including S’more truffles, Belgian waffles and bacon, delivered until 3 a.m. (call to check their delivery area). 2401 Pensacola St.; 850-296-7489.

Insomnia Cookies: Insomnia delivers cookies, ice cream and milk to fans anywhere within three miles of its Tennessee Street location to 3 a.m. 1525 W. Tennessee St.; 877-632-6654.

Z Baked: Find cookies and muffins as well as some comfort food, which you can pick up or get delivered (if you’re in their coverage area). Order online at zbaked.com. 2401 W. Pensacola St., 850-391-2206.

 

Late-Night Eats

Maybe you worked late, went to a concert or just got a hankering for a fat burger or a cheese omelet and everything’s closed. Or so it seems. Finding a place serving food after 9:30 p.m. is tough in Tallahassee.

Bars,  especially on the college campuses, in the All Saints Arts District and in Midtown,  are good bets to find sustenance while most folks are snoozing away (get takeout if you don’t want to stay), but there are more choices  out there. FYI, unless you’re going to a 24-hour place, call first because some venues close early if they’re empty.

If you want to pig out while staying in your jammies, you just might  be able to get cookies or mac n’ cheese delivered to your door.

Here are some choices that serve food after most places turn out their lights in Tallahassee:

Bird’s Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack:  Grab one of the best grouper sandwiches or burgers in Tallahassee at this funky bar and restaurant, a local favorite which also holds trivia, comedy, open mic and karaoke nights.  Open 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesday to Friday, noon to 2 a.m. Saturday. Food generally served to 1 a.m. (call first, because the kitchen may close earlier, depending on the crowd). 325 N Bronough St.; 850-222-1075.

BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse: An appealing stop post work or play, the popular chain restaurant offers its extensive menu until closing time so if you have a late-night craving for that Peruvian quinoa bowl or Pizooki cookie treat, go for it. 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. 1749 Apalachee Pkwy.; 850-216-2010.

Buffalo Wild Wings: This sports-minded chain offers traditional and boneless wings with 21 types of sauce. Other menu items include burgers, wraps and desserts. 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. 392 S Magnolia Dr.; 850-309-0065.

Checkers: The burger chain has several locations in Tallahassee, most open to midnight or later during the week and until 3 a.m. on weekends. The branch at 802 Lake Bradford Rd. is open to 5 a.m. on weekends. Go late or have a burger for breakfast. Check the website for locations and more details on hours.

Chicago Chicken & Grill:  Chicken wings, strips and nuggets dominate but you’ll also find  tacos, shrimp  and salads on the menu at these three branches.  Open  from 11 a.m. to midnight. Delivery available. 1911 S. Adams St. , 850-765-1625; 2205 Apalachee Pkwy.,  850-727-8217; 1904 W. Pensacola St., 850-692-3744.

Denny’s: “America’s diner” is always open, and as many of us know, a Grand Slam always tastes better at 3 a.m. 2690 N Monroe St.; 850-523-4491.

Dipped: Oh man, chocolate-dipped strawberries are heavenly any time of day, but Dipped delivers them, as well as cheesecake and other gourmet treats, including S’more truffles, Belgian waffles and bacon, until 3 a.m.  It caters to the college crowd but word is spreading. You can also stop by the space, which it shares with ZBaked and Penny Delivers.  Open between 6 p.m. and 3 a.m. Unit A and B, 2401 Pensacola St.; 850-296-7489.

Fourth Quarter Bar & Grille: A friend says Fourth Quarter is THE spot for a late-night omelet, but you can order anything on the menu till 2 a.m. Other breakfast items are only available on Saturday and Sunday morning at this longtime local hangout, which has been open for more than three decades. 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, breakfast 7 a.m. to noon Saturday and Sunday.

Gaines Street Pies: Pizzas, salads, calzones and appetizers like a hummus plate and spinach-artichoke dip are available at this venue in the All Saints Arts District. 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday. 603 W. Gaines St. 850-765-9275.

IHOP: Indulge your desire for pancakes any time at this 24-hour chain.  2225 N. Monroe, 850-385 0010; 2840 Apalachee Pkwy.;850-656 1621.

Insomnia Cookies: College students aren’t the only zany people who crave chocolate chunk cookies and milk in the middle of the night. Insomnia delivers cookies, ice cream and milk to fans anywhere within three miles of its Tennessee Street location, which includes Florida State University, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University and Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. There’s a $6 minimum; the delivery fee is $1.99. 10 a.m. to 3 a.m. Monday to Friday, noon to 3 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. 1525 W. Tennessee St.; 877-632-6654.

Island Wing Company: One of the few late-night restaurant choices in the Northeast, this source for baked chicken wings offers its full menu until closing, but there’s also a $5 late-night menu featuring quesadillas, jerk chicken tacos, a veggie basket, seven boneless wings and a cheeseburger and fries. 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. 1370 Market St.; 850-692-3116.

Liberty Bar and Restaurant: The casual bar is known for its elevated pub food from chef/co-owner Jesse Edmunds (El Cocinero). Four entree choices are only available until 11 p.m. but you can order from the rest of the menu, which includes a Scotch egg, artisan and charcuterie boards, burgers and chocolate cake until closing. 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (brunch) and 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. 1307 N Monroe St.; 850-284-7966.

– Wild Light Films

Madison Social: The kitchen at this pub and eatery is only open late hours Thursday through Sunday, when you can load up chicken tenders, wraps, burgers and other bar bites. Open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Full menu available to 10 p.m. Sunday to Wednesday, to midnight or 1 a.m. Thursday to Saturday. 705 S. Woodward Ave.; 850-894-6276.

Midtown Pies: From the owners of Gaines Street Pies, this Midtown pizzeria attracts big crowds Friday and Saturday night after all the neighboring bars close at 2 a.m. so you might want to stop by earlier for pies, subs and wraps. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Friday-Saturday.

Miller’s Ale House: The menu at the sports bar includes Zingers chicken tenders, salads, burgers and steaks. 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily; the kitchen closes at 1:30 a.m. 722 Apalachee Pkwy; 850-222-0364.

OG Subs: If you’re a South Florida transplant, you’ll be happy to learn that former employees from beloved Laspada’s Original Hoagies have opened a sub shop in Tallahassee called OG Subs. They have  meats from the same purveyor as LaSpada’s but use local bread from Tasty Pastry Bakery and local produce. Delivery service, take-out and walk-in service available. More good news: the sub shop is open late night hours a few nights a week. Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday.  OG stands for Outrageously Good subs, salads and wraps.  444 W. College Ave.; 850-553-1352.

Penny Delivers: The service charges one cent and offers delivery until 3 a.m. Go on their website, pennydelivers.com/, plug in your address and you’ll get a list of available places.

TGIF Friday’s:   Or TG it’s open till 2 a.m. every night. You can find  burgers, chicken, salads, steak and  plenty of appetizers at the casual, national  chain, located near Interstate 10.  11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily. 3390 Capital Circle NE; 850-422-8443.

Township: The beer hall-inspired space serves food until 1:30 a.m. daily but switches to a limited, late-night menu at 10 p.m., with items like cheese-drizzled fries, fried chicken thighs in a cone and Big Daddy and Big Momma pretzels. 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. 619 S Woodward Ave., 850-597-8075.

Village Inn: The family restaurant offers a full, large menu, with lots of breakfast items and pies. 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. 1225 E Park Ave., 850- 877-8471; 3392 Lonnbladh Rd.; 850-297-0053.

Waffle House:  There are at least seven Waffle Houses in Tallahassee so there’s bound to be one in your neighborhood. You can find a pecan waffle, BLT or even a T-bone at this national chain, open 24 hours. Check the website for a location near you.

Waterworks: “Party like it’s 1965” is the slogan at this beloved tiki bar and restaurant, from owner Don Quarello. Waterworks features bar bites, sandwiches, salads and desserts. A friend raves that “the late-night Capri sammy is most restorative.” Open 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesday to Friday, 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday. 1133 Thomasville Rd.; 850-224-1887.

Wendy’s: The national burger chain (with salads, chicken and wraps) has several branches, with varying hours. Most close anytime between 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.  Expect earlier closing hours during weekdays. Check website for locations.

Whataburger: The five locations of this retro national chain are open 24 hours. Get breakfast items including the Breakfast on a Bun from 11 p.m. to 11 a.m. 1101 Thomasville Rd., 2586 N. Monroe St., 1701 W Tennessee St., 2511 Apalachee Pkwy., 815 Lake Bradford Rd.

The Wilbury: From the owners of Gaines Street Pies, this new bar and music venue serves its lineup of quirky fare including pulled jackfruit tacos, barbecue brisket sandwich and “overnight and slow” pulled pork. 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday to Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for brunch and 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. dinner Saturday and Sunday. 513 W. Gaines St.; 850-320-6353.

The Wine Loft: Stop by this sophisticated space for a glass of wine and linger over items like truffle tots, Angus sliders, baked brie and meat and cheese boards. The kitchen is open until 10 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 11 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday and 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Bar hours: 5 p.m. to about midnight Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. 1240 Thomasville Rd; 850-222-9914.

Z Baked: Find cookies and muffins as well as mac ‘n cheese, burgers, paninis and lots more at this bakery and comfort food stop (with one other location in Orlando), which offers pick-up or delivery from 5 to 3 a.m. There’s a $6 minimum and no delivery charge. The delivery area includes FSU, FAMU, Tallahassee Community College and a broader area from Monroe to Capital Circle and Interstate 10 to Orange Avenue. Order online at zbaked.com. 2401 W. Pensacola St., 850-391-2206.

Mom’s the Word for Brunch

Chances are, many of you are trying to decide where to take your mom for brunch on Mother’s Day, which is coming up quickly, on May 14. Moms should be pampered every day, I think, but this is certainly the time to do something special for the woman who takes care of everyone else all year.

There are plenty of choices for brunch in Tallahassee. And I use the term brunch loosely. Technically, brunch is a meal that combines breakfast and lunch, usually late in the morning, and most often offered on weekends. Consider this explanation of brunch from “The Simpsons” character Jacques, a suave bowling instructor: “It’s not quite breakfast, it’s not quite lunch, but it comes with a slice of cantaloupe at the end.”

Here’s a roundup of some of Tallahassee’s best options, some likely with cantaloupe, for brunch on May 14. FYI, most places accept reservations but act quickly.

A La Provence
If mom likes a touch of class, A La Provence is a white tablecloth setting known for its French and New American cuisine. Options include bruschetta eggs Benedict, omelets, leg of lamb and beignets (savory as an appetizer and sweet as a dessert). 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; 1415 Timberlane Rd.; 850-329-6870.

Andrews Capital Grill & Bar
Open for four decades, the downtown staple serves a Sunday buffet with omelet and carving stations, plus a selection of individual brunch items. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. 228 South Adams St.; 850-222-3444.

Avenue Eat & Drink
The upscale venue offers its traditional Sunday brunch, including short ribs and potato hash, wild smoked salmon Benedict, pound cake French toast and shrimp and grits. 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m. 115 East Park Ave.; 850-224-0115.

Blu Halo
Indulge in an opulent buffet at this swanky setting, with filet mignon and pork tenderloin on the carving station along with chicken and waffles, eggs Benedict and other breakfast items. Free mimosas for mom and a Bloody Mary bar for serious fans. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. 3431 Bannerman Road, #102; 850-999-1696.

Cypress Restaurant
Chef/owners David and Elizabeth Gwynn will be presenting a Mother’s Day brunch though the menu is still in the works. Check Facebook for updates. 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. 320 E. Tennessee St.; 850-513-1100.

The Edison
Savor a brunch with lamb or Southern-style Benedict, stuffed French toast and shrimp and grits, salads and sandwiches while savoring a view that overlooks the fountains and greenery of Cascades Park. 10 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. 470 Suwannee St.; 850-765-9771.

The Egg Cafe & Eatery
This popular spot serves all the classics and classics with a twist, like the Ultimate Seafood Omelet; Lox, Stock and Bagel Benny; and shrimp-n-grits skillet. 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. 3740 Austin Davis Ave., 850-765-0703.

Fifth & Thomas
Set the right tone for Mother’s Day as the Tenessee group, Belle and the Band, performs during brunch at Fifth & Thomas. Choices include pulled pork Benedict; pickle brine chicken with Applewood bacon pancakes and a ham and egg buttermilk biscuit sandwich. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 1122 Thomasville Rd.; 850-694-3322.

Food Glorious Food:  FGF “Mackin” Cheese, pan-fried catfish, brioche French toast and a long list of other items are available on the brunch at this contemporary restaurant .10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. 1950 Thomasville Rd.; 850-224-9974.

Georgio’s
The restaurant is opening early May 14 for Mother’s Day, offering seafood, prime steaks, drink specials and desserts. Noon to 7 p.m. 2971 Apalachee Pkwy.; 850-877-3211.

Hotel Duval
Treat your mom to a lavish, picnic-themed buffet in the hotel’s eighth floor Horizon Ballroom. Highlights: truffled hash brown casserole, an omelet station and barbecue chicken with complimentary mimosas. There will be two seatings, at 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. There’s a kid’s buffet and craft area so youngsters can make their own Mother’s Day cards. 415 N. Monroe St.; 850-224-6000.

Kool Beanz
Enjoy brunch surrounded by the colorful work of local artists in this laid-back space, where the menu features a full English breakfast, banana-rum French toast and shrimp and grits. 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. 921 Thomasville Road; 850-224-2466.

Liberty Bar & Restaurant
This is a bar but known for its good food as well as its chill atmosphere and drink menu. Sample dishes like a Scottish egg (a soft-boiled egg wrapped around sausage and fried), chicken and biscuits and pork belly Benedict. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. 1307 N. Monroe St.; 850-284-7966.

Madison Social
Expect a multi-generational crowd soaking up the atmosphere at this casual venue, where you’ll find lemon ricotta pancakes, a pork belly benny and Buffalo chicken salad on the brunch lineup. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 705 S. Woodward Ave.; 850-894-6276.

Nefetari’s Fine Cuisine & Spirits
Make your mom queen for the day at exotic Nefetari, which showcases Egyptian-African artwork. There are two menus on May 14, one with regular brunch items and the other with entrees like pan-seared salmon, wild mushroom ravioli and “Zen” teriyaki with your choice of protein. Moms will receive a complimentary iced tea or mimosa. Brunch 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; entrees served 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. 812 S. Macomb St.; 850-210-0548.

Paisley Cafe
A cozy courtyard provides the backdrop for brunch, with chorizo hash, grits and collards with candied smoked sausage and daily specials. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. 1123 Thomasville Rd., 850-385-7268.

Sage
The restaurant’s executive chef-owner Terry White offers a sophisticated brunch menu, with chicken and mushroom crepes, steak frites, croque Monsieur, quiche, a burger topped with a fried egg and other breakfast and lunch specials. 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. 3534 Maclay Boulevard South; 850-270-9396.

Southwood Golf Club
The Mother’s Day buffet features grilled redfish, an artisan cheese board, salads, an omelet and carving stations and assorted desserts in a classic space. Moms get a complimentary mimosa. Hours: 10 a.m. -12:30 p.m. (regular breakfast menu available from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m.) 3750 Grove Park Dr; 850-402-5131.

Table 23
You’ll find sweet potato pancakes, biscuits and gravy, chicken and waffles and other Southern-style fare in this breezy setting. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. 1215 Thomasville Rd.; 850-329-2261.

319 Wine & Cheese
The cozy nook presents grits and egg frittata, stuffed French toast and other homey fare during brunch, with bottomless mimosas for $12. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 6265 Old Water Oak Dr., Suite 104; 850-765-7053.

+39 Fine Dining: Chef Alessandro Di Maggio presents an elaborate Mother’s Day brunch showcasing Italian dishes like chicken piccata, cannelloni and cioppini (Italian-style Fisherman’s stew) as well as several breakfast items including eggs Benedict, deviled eggs and quiche. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Urban Food Market;  Centre of Tallahassee, 2415 N Monroe St.; 850-536-6843.

Uptown Café
Pancakes, Benedicts, omelets, blackened chicken and smoked salmon are some of the faves on the extensive menu. Add a mimosa (classic or blood orange), a peach bellini or breakfast beer (FYI, no Bloody Marys) to celebrate mom’s special day. 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. 1325 Miccosukee Rd.; 850-219-9800.

 

Breaking bread at Lively Cafe

Stop by the Lively Cafe around 11:15 a.m. any weekday and you’ll likely see Leon High students chowing down on hot dogs and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. An hour later, you might spot a
judge or two, downtown professionals, reporters, government officials and, yes, ladies who do lunch, all savoring items like curried chicken salad, a roast pork panini or wild mushroom soup.

Customers are drawn to the restaurant for its inexpensive, home-cooked fare served by good-hearted people. While the downtown cafe has been quietly serving a growing number of customers for decades, it’s still a surprise to newcomers who don’t expect to find a restaurant tucked inside St. John’s Episcopal Church.

The Lively Cafe is open to the public and while the atmosphere is nurturing, no one is stopping by to preach.

The Rev. Dave Killeen, rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church, said the idea of the cafe is “just a way to serve the wider community. It’s food made with love.”

Customers agree.

“It’s a very special place,” said Becky Liner, a regular customer and executive vice president of the James Madison Institute. “A wonderful oasis.”

Diner Mary Lee Kiracofe praises its “gourmet home cooking.”

At the helm of The Lively Cafe is Fran Doxsee, the church’s culinary
director. She and assistant Vivian Leonard are the only two paid

Tallahassee Democrat

church staffers running the show. More than 30 volunteers do everything else, helping with the food prep, working the cash register, taking orders and cleaning tables. No tipping here but there’s a jar by the pickup window for donations, adding up to $400 to $500 a month, used for church and community outreach.

Doxsee has developed four menus that rotate weekly. Salmon week may sound like it’s a feast of fish, but it refers to the menu printed on salmon-colored paper. There’s also Green Week, Blue Week and Yellow Week. Menus are also available online.

Customers order at a table staffed by a volunteer, then walk over to the kitchen window with a ticket to pick up their food. The process

rarely takes more than five minutes. Some people are here for takeout; others find a spot in the breezy open room, filled with

– Joe Rondone, Tallahassee Democrat

round tables and picnic-style umbrellas that lend a folksy touch. The church calls it an “indoor sidewalk cafe.” Some diners sit outside in the garden.

“It’s nice to walk in a place with communal tables,” said customer Elizabeth Emmanuel, program coordinator of Leadership Tallahassee, who eats at the cafe at least once a week. “You might sit with a friend or make one before you leave.”

The place stays busy but the pace is more relaxed than nearby
restaurants, and less packed and noisy.

“You can meet a friend and actually hear one another talk,” said Kiracofe.

The mix of people is another plus, fans said. “It’s so much more interesting than a typical deli,” said Liner, who raves about the soups. “I’m a soup person. Fran makes a scallop chowder that I dream about.”

Doxsee’s repertoire includes classics such as pimento cheese, crab bisque and coconut cake. Specials always feature a vegetarian dish and a panini of the week. She spices up the menu with items like a muffuletta, paella salad and Thai shrimp bisque.

“It is safe to say that many people have come to rely on the cafe as not only a place to find great food, but also a place to unwind, share a laugh or two and then take all of that goodness with them when they leave,” said David Butler, who has been volunteering at the cafe for three years.

Working at the restaurant is also rewarding  for the volunteers. “It’s a fun place to be,” said Edie Goldie, helping out in the kitchen on Tuesdays. Ginny Smoller, who takes menu orders, said “It’s nice meeting people every week.”

Doxsee said she and the volunteers “get to know the regulars. We learn their likes and dislikes, like who doesn’t like mayonnaise or who wants their bread toasted. We all like to be treated like someone who matters.”

Doxsee has been the church’s culinary director since 1999, a year after the cafe opened. In 2006, she helped oversee the renovation of the restaurant, mostly upgrading the kitchen, thanks to a donation from church member Emily Lively, who left money to St. John’s after she died. Doxsee also pushed for the restaurant, named after Lively, to become licensed and inspected rather than just fall under the umbrella of the church.

“We’re not here to make a bunch of money,” she said, so prices are kept low, with most items priced between $4.50 to $7.50. The most expensive item here is a $9.50 vegetarian sandwich that comes with soup and homemade pita chips. Sandwiches include a choice of grapes, potato salad, coleslaw, carrots, bean salad, potato chips or pita chips. Hot dogs are $3.50 and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches only $2.50, one reason these are hits with students, who get free drinks on Mondays. All customers can buy a $2 cup and get refills for 50 cents.

“I think food, on a very basic level, is a great unifier,” said Father Killeen. “It brings people together. It brings families together. It certainly brings churches together. It really brings the community together. I think that’s what I love most about the cafe.

“If you think about the example of Jesus in the Bible, he was always eating with people,” Killeen said. “I think Jesus knew that when you sit down and break bread with people, it brings them together powerfully in unity.”

When you go …
Lively Cafe at St. John’s Episcopal Church
Where: 211 N. Monroe St.; 850-222-2636, ext. 19
Hours: 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday to Friday.
Bonus: Free Wi-Fi.

Lunchtime Trolley on a Roll

It was a balmy day and the breeze coming in through the open windows was spring-luscious. A friend and I were sitting in a city trolley, getting a free trip to our lunch destination. No need to hunt for a parking spot or feed a parking meter. No hassle of mid-day traffic.

We were among the riders trying out the city’s trolley on Monday, the first official day for the new lunchtime service, and we found quite a few fans.

“I like it,” said Toya Owens, a human resources consultant with the city of Tallahassee. She and coworker Shanita Jones, both of whom work at Tallahassee City Hall, were waiting outside the building to get a bus to Gaines Street Pies in College Town. Both pay for parking in the Kleman parking garage and don’t relish the idea of paying for metered parking elsewhere.

“With the trolley, we don’t have to drive,” said Jones, who added that the stress-free ride gives her a chance to check out the area. “I can look at the shops along the way and find places I want to go back and see.”

It’s no coincidence that the service has kicked into gear at the beginning of the legislative session when the daily hunt for good, quick meals and parking spots can get intense.

City Commissioner Nancy Miller touts the service as a way to connect Midtown, Cascades Park and College Town with the heart of downtown Tallahassee, “making it easy to explore new dining and activity options.”

And there’s no need to worry about moving your car, losing your parking spot or paying for metered parking (in some areas).

All three routes operate from 11:45 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. Monday through Friday and return to stops about every 20 minutes. All include a stop outside City Hall, at 300 S. Adams St., but you can pick up the trolleys at signs posted along the routes. You can also pull on the cord to request a stop along the way. We never had to wait more than a few minutes for the next trolley.

The city received the five trolleys as a donation from Palm Beach County. Two ride to Midtown, two to College Town and one to Cascades Park. The projected cost is $125,000 to $150,000 a year to operate the small fleet, said Edward Kring, citizen engagement ambassador in Tallahassee’s communications department.

We encountered two guys who work at the state Department of Education who were taking the Midtown trolley to get coffee at Lucky Goat on Monroe. Another rider, Sara McLain, said she didn’t own a car and was taking the Midtown trolley to get downtown and get a bite to eat before work. A few people without cars just liked the ride.

The trolleys will continue until the end of May with the possibility of extending them if there’s a demand, Kring said.

We paid $2.50 to park at the Kleman Parking Garage and walked over to City Hall to try the three trolley routes. On our trip to College Town, we had lunch at Township, sibling to Madison Social and Centrale, at Gaines and Woodward. The trolley stopped outside Madison Social, and we simply walked across the street. Easy.

We ate sausages and a grilled chicken sandwich, shared a giant Big Momma pretzel doused with cinnamon and sugar and by the time we finished, the trolley was across the street.

The city has also replaced its nighttime Rhythm Route with an expanded trolley service that covers Midtown, College Town and Cascades Park from 4:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

You can get a real-time schedule of where the trolleys are located, refreshed every 30 seconds, and a look at what restaurants, even food trucks, are available on the route by checking talgov.com/gis/trolley/index.html. The trolleys have WiFi and have air-conditioning for hotter days.

Here are some of the dining options you’ll find on each trip; some may be a few blocks from your stop.

CASCADES PARK

The Edison: upmarket restaurant with a full bar and outside tables overlooking the park, with salads, burgers, sandwiches and specials. Downstairs, there’s the Power Plant Cafe, “energized by Catalina Cafe” offering coffee, pastries and light fare. 470 Suwannee St.; 850-765-9771.

Other options: Bring a picnic lunch or order from a food truck usually parked by the nearby Carlton Building at 501 S. Calhoun and eat in the park.

COLLEGE TOWN

The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co: Get a bagel with a schmear, sandwiches and omelets. 815 W. Madison St.; 850-765-1058.

Catalina Cafe: coffee shop with sandwiches and pastries. 603 W Gaines St.; 850-999-1559.

Centrale Pizza, Parm and Bar: Italian restaurant with a retro feel. 815 W. Madison St.; 850-765-6799.

Gaines Street Pies: laid-back spot for pizza, wraps and salads. 603 W Gaines St.; 850-765-9275.

Food trucks: Kübano!: Cuban sandwiches and other Latin fare; 601 W. Gaines St.; 850-273-1750. Tally Arepas Tequeños, arepas and more Venezuelan specialties; 939 W. Gaines St.; 850-878-5573.

Isabella’s: Neopolitan-style pizza, salads and gelato. 799 W Gaines St.; 850-558-6379.

Madison Social: Lively restaurant and bar with a broad American menu. 705 S Woodward Ave.; 850-894-6276.

Savannah’s Country Buffet: Southern-style dishes like fried chicken, pork chops and all the fixins’. 437 W. Gaines St.; 850-224-7100.

Taco Bout It: New taco joint making house-made, soft-shell tortillas. 507 W. Gaines St.; 850-765-2008.

Township: bar and restaurant specializing in German-style dishes. 619 Woodward Ave., 850-597-8075.

Vale Food Co.: healthy bowls with vegetables, protein and grains. 815 W. Madison St.; 850-629-7529.

Yosties Chili Parlour: known for its chili hot dogs and “krack sketti” (spaghetti topped with chili). 915 Railroad Ave., 850-459-3679.

MIDTOWN

Kool Beanz: Fun, funky destination with eclectic menu; 921 Thomasville Rd.; 850-224-2466.

Izzy’s Pub: New, hip locale serving sushi, rice bowls and other Asian small plates. 1123 Thomasville Rd.; 850-222-5000.

Lucky Goat: A new Midtown branch of the coffee shop with pastries and light fare. 1307 Monroe St.; 850-688-5292.

RedEye Coffee: The Element3 Church runs the nonprofit coffee shop, offering wraps and sushi. 1122 Thomasville Rd.; 850-425-5701.

Table 23: Attractive restaurant with a sprawling outdoor porch; Southern-style food and cocktails. 1215 Thomasville Rd.; 850-329-2261

Taco Republik: yucca fries and tostones as well as varied tacos. 1122-8 Thomasville Rd.; 850-765-3314.

 

 

Bread, Wine and Romance

For that perfect date night, lovebirds are eager to find the ideal destination for dinner. As Omar Khayyám said, it’s all about “A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou.”

To help your search, here are a dozen destinations with the right recipe for bread, wine and romance. Just make reservations early, and let love take its course.

+39
Sensual Italian cuisine, attentive service and cozy ambience add up to a special dining experience at +39, nestled inside the sprawling Urban Food Market in the Centre of Tallahassee. Open only five months, the white tablecloth restaurant showcases elegant dishes prepared by chef Alessandro Di Maggio (including his sinfully good cheesecake).
The Centre of Tallahassee, 2415 N Monroe St.; 850-536-6843.

319 Wine & Cheese Shoppe
Owners Lynne and Bill Edwards have created a warm, inviting atmosphere that gives this charming bistro a touch of romance. On Valentine’s Day, they’re presenting a three-course, $75 home-cooked dinner prepared by Lynne plus a bottle of I Heart California wine (cabernet or sauvignon blanc). The final touch: music by local singer Bobby Anhalt. 6265 Old Water Oak Rd.; 850-765-7053.

A la Provence
Savor French-Mediterranean cuisine by candlelight at classic A la Provence. You can count on gracious service, an extensive wine list

Joe Rondone / Tallahassee Democrat

(plus full bar) and a quiet atmosphere to help set the mood. The pièce de résistance: additions like chateaubriand and lobster for Valentine’s Day. 1415 Timberlane Rd.; 850-329-6870.

Clusters & Hops
Clusters & Hops has long attracted locals with its unconventional mash-up of restaurant and retail. Gourmet goodies (wine, beer, cheese, sausages, chocolate) are up front, The petite cafe and bar are in the back. With dim lights, soft music and a laid-back vibe, it’s well-suited to romance. Chef/owner Kent Steels features European-style dishes like baked eggplant lavosh, ostrich and osso buco plus more than 1,000 wine choices. One option: You can pick a wine off the shelf and pay the retail price with an $8.50 corkage fee. 707 N. Monroe St., 850-222-2669.

Cypress Restaurant
A special-occasion favorite, Cypress serves elegant renditions of Southern-inspired regional cuisine in a sophisticated setting with romantic lighting, accommodating staff and a friendly bar. Vibrant paintings by local artists add a creative spin. Along with its regular menu on Valentine’s Day, Cypress will offer a three-course meal for $45 and five courses for $65 with wine pairing options. 320 East Tennessee St.; 850-513-1100.

Essence of India
Spice up your Valentine’s Day with aromatic Indian cuisine served in an exotic setting with glistening chandeliers, long gold curtains and deep coral hues. The soothing space specializes in the food of North India, including breads and dishes cooked in a tandoor (clay oven), and there’s a full bar. For an adventurous feast, share a thali dinner for two. Parkway Center, 1105 Apalachee Pkwy.; 850-656-7200.

Food Glorious FoodThe place has a hidden-away, romantic feel. Adorned with modern artwork, the sleek restaurant features internationally inspired dishes (that change weekly), including more than a dozen small plates, creative cocktails and decadent desserts made in-house. 1950 Thomasville Rd.; 850-224-7279.

Little Italy
Who doesn’t sigh at the memory of the romantic spaghetti and meatball scene in Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp?” Share the love, and generous plates of red-sauced favorites, at this homey Italian restaurant owned by Enver Sulollari and his wife Vjollca for 30 years. The place isn’t fancy but it’s warm, welcoming and wallet-friendly. 111 S Magnolia Dr.; 850-878-7781.

Nefetari’s Fine Cuisine & Spirits
Make your sweetheart queen (or king) for a day at this opulent destination, which promises diners a “royal experience” (There is actually a queen’s table here). What’s more, the one-of-a-kind setting, decorated with Egyptian and African art, showcases a
globe-trotting menu that includes an Ethiopian stew platter, Caribbean jerk and pad Thai. Owners Sharon and Dana Dennard make all customers feel like nobility. 812 S. Macomb St.; 850-210-0548.

Sage
Terry White (named “King of American Seafood” at 2014’s Great American Seafood Cook-Off) presents a sophisticated menu served in a comfortably classy space decorated with local art — or dine in the landscaped patio. White is preparing a three-course menu for Valentine’s Day in addition to the regular menu, which includes escargot, Scottish salmon and beef tenderloin. 3534 Maclay Blvd. South; 850-270-9396.

Shula’s 347
Snuggle in the large, private booths at this traditional steakhouse, ensconced in the Hotel Duval. After a meal of steaks, chops or seafood, zip upstairs to Level 8, the city’s only rooftop lounge, for a cocktail and view of downtown Tallahassee under the stars. 415 North Monroe St.; 850-224-6005.

Z,Bardhi’s Italian Cuisine
Devoted diners praise the traditional Italian fare and warm atmosphere of Z. Bardhi’s, a local favorite for two decades. If the weather cooperates, the lovely patio is best for courting, with white tablecloths, candlelight and landscaping. 3596 Kinhega Dr.; 850-894-9919

Rochelle Koff writes about food and dining at TallahasseeTable.com. Reach her at TallahasseeTable@gmail.com