by Tallahassee Table

You’d be hard-pressed to find a Tallahassee restaurant with more Seminole spirit than Spear It: Legendary Food & Spirits on Tennessee Street.

For starters, the name clearly pays tribute to Florida State University and Chief Osceola. When you arrive in the parking lot, check out the replica of the flaming spear that’s slammed into Bobby Bowden Field right before kickoff. And yes, this replica lights up. Step inside, and walls are decorated with some photos and artwork that honor the Seminole tribe and the university.

The Seminole theme isn’t a big surprise given the restaurant’s proximity to campus, yet this is spirit done tastefully. The place isn’t plastered with sports memorabilia, for instance, and while it has a bar and TVs, I don’t think they dominate the restaurant.

The interior, with room for about 150,  has a clean, classy look and relaxed atmosphere, with lots of booths and gleaming wood floors. The patio is pet friendly.

But there’s another reason for the theme: Owner Mike Smith is a 1991 FSU graduate who studied hospitality at the university. His daughter is also a student.

“I graduated nearly 30 years ago and I’ve been in the restaurant business ever since,” he said. 

Smith launched Spear It in 2016, totally renovating the building. In past lives, the structure had been home to Tomahawk Sports Bar and Loop. 

“I remember when it was a Hardee’s,” said Smith. “People come here and say they didn’t know there was something like this here.” 

Spear It is undoubtedly a prime destination for students and visiting parents, but it’s also a venue that deserves a much wider audience.

My husband and I have been to Spear It a few times with friends, and during each visit we all agreed that it’s an easily missed destination if you don’t live or work in the area and you’re just driving by. 

It can easily be a go-to choice whether you’re out with friends, a date or family.

The selection is far-ranging so you can likely please everyone at your table. There are the not-surprising, over-the-top items like the Nachos Legendarios, the Freshman 15 burger and Sophomore Slump sundae as well as more crowd-pleasing soups, salads, customized bowls, sandwiches (including a shrimp po’ boy) and entrees (with two sides) that include meatloaf, salmon, steak and roast chicken. 

Prices are reasonable with all dishes, including main plates, under $20.

We were hooked at the start when we came across craft cocktails like the pear and elderflower Collins and raspberry Cosmopolitan. The bar also makes a killer sangria (blackberry or peach). Craft beers from local breweries include Proof’s 850 and Mango Wit, Deep Brewing Company’s Spear Pressure and Mills Pond Dirty Blonde and Hooter Brown Ale from Oyster City Brewing Company of Apalachicola.

You could easily graze here, sharing appetizers like nachos Legendarios, wings, shrimp tacos or the hummus plate with grilled flatbread. 

Spear It offers six burger choices, served on brioche rolls with a side of fries,  but the biggest is the $15 Freshman 15, a reference to the fabled number of pounds a typical first-year student allegedly gains. 

On one visit, our friends’ 16-year-old son, Max, decided to order this mammoth concoction, which tops a burger with chicken tenders, bacon, cheddar, shaved ribeye meat, cheese sauce and fried egg PLUS ketchup, mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and pickles.

Our young friend methodically worked his way through the entire burger, and especially liked the chicken tenders. When I asked him later how it was, he said thoughtfully, “it was almost too much.”  Makes me wonder what would be too much.

Another friend had the Bash Burger, which is somewhat less decadent. The cheeseburger is paired with a patty of fried mac ‘n cheese, cheese sauce and cherry pepper ranch over a cheeseburger. The patty was perfectly cooked and juicy and as for the fried mac ‘n cheese patty, do we ever stop loving mac ‘n cheese? I don’t think so. 

I have to confess that in a moment of weakness, I ordered the mac ‘n cheese nuggets and they were pretty darn good.  

On another visit, we enjoyed a more sensible veggie burger which gets extra zip from a soy-ginger glaze and a hearty portion of Cajun pasta with grilled chicken.

As for salads, a friend liked her Steakhouse Bleu, which brings a generous amount of wood-grilled tenderloin over mixed greens with a rich blue cheese dressing, bacon, tomatoes and red onion. 

For a lighter salad, consider the Harvest Fresh with grilled chicken paired with greens, quinoa, roasted tomatoes and grilled peppers with other veggies.

Bowls are another highlight. You can customize your choice, picking the base, protein, toppings and sauce. I chose the grilled shrimp, flavorful and perfectly cooked with a hint of oak and pecan, plus black beans, basmati rice and corn, garnished with avocado. It was a generous serving, and a reasonable $14.50. Other toppings include roasted vegetables, grilled sweet peppers and garlic broccoli.

On Sundays, stop by Spear It for brunch and bottomless mimosas. Their French toast is a treat, served with blueberries, strawberries and a tuft of whipped cream or go for a savory breakfast burger, made with Bradley’s sausage and Angus beef patty. The chicken and doughnuts combo is a far more decadent dish than chicken and waffles. Trust me. 

We shared these doughnuts for dessert and they are delicious — light, fluffy and plentiful. You get a stack of about 10, dusted in cinnamon sugar and served with small cups of sea salt caramel,  homemade chocolate sauce and coffee whipped cream for dipping. 

For a dish with gooey goodness, there’s Sophomore Slump sundae, with a triple chocolate toffee brownie, ice cream, housemade chocolate sauce and whipped mascarpone.

As my friend Max would say: “It was almost too much!” 

Bottom line: Don’t wait for game days to discover Spear It. 

If you go …

Spear It: Legendary Food & Spirits: 609 W. Tennessee St.; 850-250-0045.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Wednesday. 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight, Friday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. Brunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Happy hour is 4 to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday.

A sampling of prices: Appetizers $8 to $14; salads $11 to $15; soup and salad $8; burgers $10 to $15; bowls $11.50 to $14.50; pizza $8 to $12; sandwiches $10 to $14; entrees $11 to $19; desserts $7.50 to $8.

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