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.
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.
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.
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.
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.