The culinary scene in Tallahassee was bittersweet in 2017. We welcomed a host of new restaurants, including our first cat adoption cafe, but we also said goodbye to a few faves.
On the plus side, we savored new flavors, but also discovered we still love comfort food (and tacos).
Here are some of the noteworthy ups and downs in our restaurant world this year — with a look at what’s coming up. We realize there are a lot more newcomers, so please send along your recommendations to [email protected]
A treat for cat lovers: Customers can order a cup of coffee and pastry, then pay $7 an hour to enter a playroom and cuddle cats that need a home. The goal of The Fat Cat Cafe, and other similar venues opening around the world, is to spur adoptions — 35 cats have been adopted at the Tallahassee cafe since the place opened Aug. 11. There are also special events geared to kiddies and kitties. Fat Cat Cafe, 2901 East Park Avenue, Suite 2600; 850-402-9850. Another feline venue, The Tally Cat Cafe, is planning to open in 2018.
Ethnic cuisine: From Afghan kebabs to Vietnamese-style beef stew, several ethnic restaurants debuted in 2017.
- Arepana Latin Grill: Viet and Nam Vu (Taco Republik, MoBi food truck) have opened two tasty additions to Tallahassee’s dining scene — Arepana and Izzy Pub & Sushi. Nam opened Arepana in April, featuring inexpensive dishes influenced by Colombian, Cuban, Puerto Rican and Venezuelan fare. Find arepas (corn cakes with a protein or vegetable filling), rice bowls with roast pork, carne asada (steak), chicken or vegetables, salads and sides like yucca fries and plantains. 1176 Capital Circle SE; 850- 597-9931.
- Izzy Pub & Sushi: Viet Vu joined forces with chef Xinzheng “Alex” Fang to create the chill, Japanese-style gastro pub. Diners can devour an array of sushi, sashimi and small plates plus a choice of sake, including the first kegged sake in Tallahassee. Open since February, the pub is also bringing in harder-to-find fish from Japanese markets. 1123 Thomasville Rd.; 850-222-5000.
- Chuan Cafe: The restaurant’s slogan is “Never Spicy Enough” but there are lots of milder choices at this urban College Town space. Just indicate your spice choices when you order. Dishes include hot and sour soup, dim sum, Kung Pao chicken and vegetarian choices. Bento combos are available until 5 p.m. 619 Woodward Ave. (across from Centrale); 850-727-0228.
- Da Khyber Grill: The restaurant is an exotic addition to Tallahasee. The place touts a fusion of Pakistan-Indian and Persian flavors with a few items influenced by Afghanistan cuisine, including a kebab with rice. An inexpensive buffet is available at lunch daily and during dinner Friday and Saturday. Order off the dinner menu on other evenings. Open since September, Da Khyber Grill touts a menu that’s 100 percent Halal (foods permissible under Muslim law). 2819 Mahan Dr.; 850-320-6450.
- Dao: Open since April, Dao is an upscale version of Azu, offering a large, pan-Asian selection in Bannerman Crossings. Owners are Masa Nagashima, who was the general manager of Lucy Ho’s restaurants for nearly 40 years, and Azu’s Kenny Fan, the nephew of Ho’s late husband. 3425 Bannerman Rd.; 850-999-1482.
- Lemongrass: Savor Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese cuisine as well as sushi and sake at the serene restaurant, open since June in the Centre of Tallahassee. Specialties include Vietnamese beef stew, bánh mì sandwich (at lunch), curries and rolls. From the owners of the former Far East Cuisine. 2415 N Monroe St.; 850-765-0672
- Tour of Italy: You’ll find housemade pasta, pizza, calzones, favorites like chicken parmigiana and shrimp fra diavolo plus “mama kababs” at this homey eatery, which launched Nov. 6. Indoor and outdoor dining. 3805 N. Monroe St.; 850-629-8203.
An eclectic bunch: These intriguing newcomers are offering a change from tacos, pizza and burgers.
- The Bark: The restaurant has moved to a new, larger venue (formerly Perry’s Lounge) and it’s now a full bar and music venue as well as a cafe. Open since Sepember, The Bark serves fresh bread and a vegan/vegetarian menu, with Saturday and Sunday brunch. 507 All Saints St.; 850-900-5936.
- Cafe Taverna: This is a new venture from the team behind Lucy Ho restaurants, touted as “Southern American cuisine with a Latin twist.” Dinners include small and large plates, with fried eggplant, rib-eye, pork tenderloin, charcuterie and a vegetable plate. Brunch choices feature breakfast fajitas, crab-filled crepes eggs Benedict and fried chicken and biscuits. 1019 Monroe St.; 850-999-8203.
- Hawthorn: The elegant new restaurant is a white tablecloth establishment from Jesse Edmunds and the team behind Liberty Bar & Restaurant and El Cocinero. The menu, offering small and large plates, is inspired by the dishes of the American South and the south of Europe in an atmosphere Edmunds calls “refined dining.” 1307 N. Monroe St.; 850-354-8275.
- Lucilla: The restaurant, in the former home of Sahara, has been serving breakfast and lunch, and just started offering dinner on Jan. 2. The fun menu, from owners Joe Richardson (the chef) and Lara Hooper, focuses on American comfort food with Creole and Southern accents. Dishes include pimento cheese fritters with a smidgen of bourbon peach glaze, fried oysters, root vegetable pot pie and bread pudding with white chocolate and pumpkin (scrumptious). 1241 E. Lafayette St.; 850-900-5117.
- Lucy & Leo’s Cupcakery is moving to the second floor of Midtown Reader, at 1123 Thomasville Rd. (the pink house is where the shop’s story began) in late January.
- Au Peche Mignon, at 1415 Timberlane Rd., has opened a second location at 220 N. Duval St.
- SoDough opened in Midtown in September, baking doughnuts, kolaches, cookies and brioche bread. 1306 Thomasville Rd.; 850-765-8991.
- The Goodberry, which opened in June, specializes in açaí bowls with a choice of other toppings and avocado toast. 1325 Thomasville Rd.; 850-778-5167.
- Nothing Bundt Cakes, which also opened this summer, revives a nostalgic treat with these rich cakes, drizzled with a cream cheese-based icing. 346 S. Magnolia Dr.; 850-765-5188.
- Southern Velvet Cafe, featuring coffee, tea and pastries, will be opening in 2018 in Frenchtown.
Taco madness continue
- Locos Tacos & Bar: This locally owned, mom-and-pop taco spot has been a star with foodies on the local Twitterverse since it opened in April. With good reason. Go for tacos, burritos, quesadillas and much more. 1525 W. Tharpe St; 850-597-7741.
- Tin Lizzy’s Cantina: The chain, part of a College Town mini restaurant boom, was founded by FSU students Chris Hadermann, John Piemonte and Mike Evertsen. Open since August, the Tallahassee branch features a “FlexMex” style, with items like low country boil or Korean barbecue tacos and skillets including the Cowboy with fried chicken, bacon and baked beans. 619 S. Woodward Ave.; 850-558-5592.
Final course: We said goodbye to some standbys in 2017, including Old Town Cafe, Red Elephant Pizza and Grill (Midtown location) and Kitcho and Sidebar Gastrobar along with newbie Tequila Tribe. Yostie’s Chili Parlor was a casualty of the upcoming mixed-use housing development called Freight Yard. Owner Gary Yost served his last hearty dogs on the site on Dec. 29, but he’s looking for another site.
We expect Tallahassee’s dining scene to keep evolving in 2018. Here’s an idea, so far, of what to expect.
- Debuting downtown: In a much anticipated opening, Sage business partners — chef Terry White and sommelier Craig Richardson — will open a high-end, Italian steakhouse on the ground floor of the six-story building owned by Brian Ballard, CEO of Ballard Partners. The building, under construction at Park Avenue and South Monroe Street, is expected to open late summer or early fall 2018.
- The Hideaway Cafe: Coffee master Jason Card (Journeyman coffee) will be partnering with Midtown’s Waterworks to create Hideaway in the former Spaceport Lounge (the back part of the bar). “Coffee, food and interesting people” coming our way this month, Card said. 1133 Thomasville Rd.; 850-224-1887.
- Grove Market Cafe: David and Elizabeth Gwynn, owners of Cypress, will be opening a breakfast and lunch restaurant in the former home of the northeast location of the burger joint, Vertigo, which closed just before Christmas. The flagship Vertigo on Lafayette will remain open. The new cafe, expected to open in early February, will incorporate produce from local farms and “concentrate on comfort foods,” said David Gwynn. The cafe will have sit-down service and a “grab-and-go” section. The menu will offer gluten-free and dairy-free choices. 1440 Market St.
- McAlister’s Deli: The chain, known for its fat sandwiches and sweet tea, is expected to open a branch near Trader Joe’s in January. 3425 Thomasville Rd.
- 3 Natives Tallahassee: Founded three years ago in Tequesta, this 3 Natives is expected to open Jan. 6, serving açaí bowls, cold-pressed juices, smoothies, wraps, salads and bagels. This branch will be the chain’s eighth location; the Tallahassee operation is owned by Kerry Nohle (owner of Which Wich and Smashburger franchises in Tallahassee and Destin). Walker Plaza, 3020 W. Pensacola St.