Tallahassee has taken a big leap in the restaurant world. We’ve added Asian street tacos, Cuban pastelitos, escargot and plenty of bowls. Sure, we still have plenty of places for burgers, wings and pizza, but now we can also feast on foie gras and frog legs. Along with plenty of casual spots, we welcomed at least three upscale settings: Mimi’s Table, Savour and high-end Il Lusso.
Along with a long list of new local restaurants, a few chains added Tallahassee links, including 5 Star Pizza, McAlister’s Deli and A-Town Wings.
We also splurged at new dessert destinations offering cool treats like a “Fronut” doughnut sandwich, a shake topped with birthday cake and a cereal milk latte.
But the year was also bittersweet. For varied reasons, more than 20 restaurants can closed in the past 18 months, including some old favorites.
In case you’ve missed a few changes in 2018 and 2019 (so far), we’re here to help you navigate the new dining scene, keeping in mind that we also have plenty of excellent, established restaurants we don’t want to neglect.
We’ve come across more than two dozen new restaurants opening in 2018 and the first five months of 2019, but this isn’t meant to be a definitive list. If we’ve left out a good choice, write us at [email protected]
Blossom Kitchen:Open since November,the Chinese restaurant serves Szechuan-style fish, eggplant with garlic sauce and roast duck ramen on its long menu, plus Mr. Cool rolled ice cream. Open daily for lunch and dinner. 625 W. Tennessee St.; 850-765-5743.
Boru Boru: This new space is the latest in a “bowl’ craze that has reached Tallahassee. This is the first branch of Boru Boru outside of Atlanta. The restaurant, which opened in April 2019, specializes in poké bowls, rice bowls, salad bowls and sushi burritos. They also serve sushi nachos, sides like edamame, sweet fried yam disks and the ball-shaped snack takoyaki (with diced octopus inside) and boba tea and desserts. Gluten-free and vegan dishes are available. Varsity Plaza (Target), 1861 W. Tennessee St.; 850-270-9253.
Bumpa’s Local #349: Eddie Agramonte, owner of Gordos restaurants and Bandito Burritos, moved into the sports bar arena in February. Bumpa’s menu covers familiar territory with burgers, tacos, salads and pasta plus beer from Tallahassee’s Proof and Deep, among other Florida breweries. It’s open daily for lunch and dinner, with live music on Thursday and Friday nights. 2738 Capital Cir NE; 850-999-8652. Gordos moved its Northeast location to 1460 Market St. in 2018.
Chi Chi’s Cafe:Rafael Diaz and his wife Donna (whose nickname is Chi Chi) opened this lively Cuban eatery in February, serving breakfast, lunch and bakery goods. With its Miami vibe, the cafe has resonated with South Florida transplants who line up for favorites like pastelitos, picadillo or palomilla steak and medianoche sandwiches. Pair with Cuban coffee specialties like a colada or cortadito. 460 W. Tennessee St.; 850-597-7588.
Crafty Crab: A branch of the chain is now open in the former Crispers location, offering New Orleans-style low country boil plus fried items, salads and a seafood platter. 1241 Apalachee Pkwy.
G & G Caribbean Restaurant opened its second location in early April 2019, in the former home of Wharf Casual Seafood. It’s already gaining fans for its islandy favorites like goat curry, stewed chicken, red beans and rice, fried “dumplins” and jerk chicken. You order at the counter and the food is brought to your table. G&G also serves ackee, callaloo or butterbeans with saltfish for breakfast. 745 Apalachee Pkwy.; 850-727-4065. The original location is at 2039 W. Pensacola St.
Grove Market Cafe: David and Elizabeth Gwynn, owners of Cypress, feature an appealing lineup of breakfast and lunch choices at this colorful space, including a Mediterranean omelet (with shrimp and vegetables), meatloaf platter and chicken pot pie as well as burgers, salads and desserts. Gluten-free and dairy-free items available. Open since May, the cafe replaces the Northeast branch of their burger joint, Vertigo. The Lafayette Street Vertigo remains open. 1440 Market St.; 850-894-5060.
Hawthorn Bistro & Bakery: Jesse Edmunds, owner of Liberty Bar and Restaurant and El Cocinero, opened this new venture in January 2019 in his former upscale restaurant. Instead he and his team are focusing on fresh-baked artisan breads plus sandwiches, salads and soups. The housemade bread emerges from the oven at 4 p.m., in time for customers to pick up a loaf after work. Hawthorn has also started opening at 8 a.m., offering breakfast croissants and other early morning items. 1307 N. Monroe St.; 850-354-8275.
Hangar 38: The place is billed as a family entertainment venue/restaurant/bar with eight lanes of “boutique” bowling and more than 70 arcade games. Owners The Blu Halo’s Keith Paniucki, Johnny Lee and Manny Arisso are offering a casual menu with starters like shepherd’s pie egg rolls, nachos and fish dip as well as salads, sushi, sandwiches, wings and burgers. 6888 Thomasville Rd.,
The Hideaway Cafe: Don Quarello, owner of Midtown’s Waterworks, opened this charming nook in February as a separate restaurant in the back. The retro setting features coffee specialties and a variety of breakfast and lunch choices such as a lox-and-bagel sandwich, Belgian waffles, salads and frittatas. Saturday and Sunday brunch is served all day, and there’s a small, outdoor patio. 1133 Thomasville Rd.; 850-224-1887.
I Heart Mac and Cheese: This restaurant chain has opened a branch in Tallahassee’s College Town, offering different versions of the beloved dish with customizable macaroni and cheese bowls (you choose your type of pasta, protein, sauces and toppings), grilled cheese sandwiches and salads. Open till midnight. 799 W. Gaines St.; 850-597-9406.
Il Lusso: Open since Dec. 6, this elegant Italian steakhouse anchors the first floor of the new, six-story building owned by Florida lobbyist Brian Ballard. Sage business partners — chef Terry White and sommelier Craig Richardson — are behind this downtown destination, with a formal, reservation-only dining room. Along with dry-aged steaks, the Italian fare includes blue crab ravioli with butternut squash and pork shoulder agnolotti. There is also a bar area and cocktail lounge. Il Lusso recently added brunch service on Saturdays. 201 E. Park Ave.; 850-765-8620.
Little Masa: The counter-service venue is a College Town offshoot of the popular Asian restaurant on Monroe Street. Located in the site of the former Chuan Cafe, Little Masa offers noodles, soups, starters, sushi and a “wok-this-way” selection own dish. Beer, wine and sake are available. 619 S Woodward Ave. (across the street from Madison Social); 850-727-8909.
Little Paris:Take atrip to the City of Lights when you dine at this cozy Parisian bistro. Owner Marie Warmack, a native of Marseilles, offers a menu of authentic fare with dishes like foie gras, vol-au-vent (seafood in a pastry shell with a béchamel sauce), confit duck legs and croque monsieur (for lunch) with French delicacies for dessert. 1355 Market St.; 850-765-7457.
The Mann’s Doghouse: Scott Mann’s popular food truck has evolved into a brick-and-mortar business which opened on Tennessee Street in February. The casual, counter-serve spot is known for its burgers grilled to order, signature Coney dogs, Po’ Boy sandwiches, hand-cut fries and shakes. 1414 W. Tennessee St.; 850-597-8883.
Magda’s:If you’re a fan of Bassetts ice cream, you’ll be happy to know this College Town spot serves the ultra rich confection. You’ll find a dozen flavors plus coffee drinks like a Lucky Goat latte made with cereal milk (like sipping the milk left from a bowl of Fruity Pebbles). Open since February, Magda’s is a new venture from the For the Table Hospitality team (Madison Social, Centrale, Township). 815 W Madison St.; 850-321-8272.
Maria Maria: The restaurant, touting homemade Mexican cuisine and a bakery, opened in early July 2019 in the former Crepevine location at 1314 N. Monroe St. Maria Maria is serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu features small bites, appetizers, entrees and desserts. 850-270-9057.
Mimi’s Table:Executive chef/owner William Lawson transformed the former Miccosukee Root Cellar in the Old Town District into a chic setting with a relaxed ambiance. Open since July, Mimi’s is a French-inspired bistro that also dips into Italian and Southern fare. The menu features diverse items such as frog legs, meatballs with Sunday gravy, a smoked pork chop and a bistro burger on its evolving menu. 1311 Miccosukee Rd.; 850-999-8406.
Moku Poké: Open since September, this local, counter-serve spot specializes in poké bowls with a choice of 11 proteins including ahi tuna, shrimp, octopus, grilled chicken, scallops and organic tofu, two dozen toppings and four “crunches.” 1525 W. Tennessee St.; 850-320-6455
New Orleans Seafood: The new gem, which opened April 26, 2019, has already been winning raves for dishes like gumbo, red beans and rice and boiled crawfish. A family business, it’s take-out, order-at-the-counter casual. You can either order cooked items on the menu or buy the items in the freezer — including alligator sausage, crawfish boudin, andouille and crawfish tails. Most of the cooked items are fried – different permutations of battered catfish, shrimp and oysters, which come with fries. The menu also features boiled seafood and just a few meat choices — chicken wings and sausage po’ boys. Suddenly the flavor of New Orleans seems a little closer to home. 2819 Mahan Dr.; 850-727-8464.
N2 Sweets: Liquid nitrogen gives N2’s ice cream its extra creamy texture. The ice cream parlor, co-owned by Blu Halo’s Keith Paniucki, features 21 flavors plus gluten-free choices, doughnuts from Donut Kingdom — the base for an ice cream filled doughnut called the Fronut — an edible cookie dough ice cream bar and breakfast sandwiches. 1870 Thomasville Rd.; 850-765-3979.
Pancho’s Mexican Grill: Open since August in the former site of TacoSpeak, this locally-owned restaurant features a huge menu, with favorites like tacos, enchiladas and fajitas plus margaritas. 1525 W. Tennessee St.; 850-354-8220.
Proper: The new, larger Proof Brewing Company features the restaurant, Proper, owned by Brad Buckenheimer (Canopy Road, Merv’s Handcrafted Melts) and Viet Vu (Izzy’s, Taco Republk), also the executive chef. The eclectic menu features elevated pub fare plus what’s billed as a fun spin on Sunday brunch. 1320 S. Monroe St.
Rev Cafe: Joe Costanzo opened an offshoot of his Monticello restaurant at the Goodwood Museum & Gardens this year, featuring Southern cuisine Tuesday through Saturday afternoons. The restaurant replaces the former Fanny’s Cafe. 1600 Miccosukee Rd.; 850-629-0138.
Relish Burgers: This small, Gainesville-based burger joint has moved into ‘Noles territory. Along with Angus beef burgers, Relish offers the vegan Impossible Burger, the turkey burger, veggie burger and salmon burger. Another attraction poutine fries, and unlimited sauces and toppings (guacamole is free but avocados are $1 extra). Another appeal, especially to students looking for a late-night bite: Relish is open to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday and till midnight other nights. 1935 Tennessee St.; 850-807-0152.
Rik-Sha Tacos: The counter-serve restaurant, which opened June 29, may look like a fast-food eatery but it’s much more adventurous. Owners Nikhil and Sunil Rajan specialize in Asian street food, featuring ingredients or spices from Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Korea, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. Instead of a tortilla, the base for the tacos or open-faced burrito is either paratha, an Indian flatbread, or a scallion pancake. Bowls are also on the menu. Combos include Malaysian chicken with coconut lentils, Korean barbecue, vegetable curry and Kerala beef. If heat isn’t your thing, ask for mild choices. 1955 W. Pensacola St.; 850-536-6352.
Savour: This snazzy new downtown venture from restaurateur Drew McLeod presents “classics with a twist” in the former home of Avenue Eat & Drink. Chef Brian Knepper (Cypress Restaurant, the Governor’s Club and Table 23) creates a diverse menu with escargot pot pie, bone-in veal chops, Gulf Coast Bouillabaisse and cracklin’ crusted soft shell crab. McLeod is also the food and beverage partner at DoubleTree by Hilton Tallahassee. 115 E. Park Ave.; 850-765-6966.
Sugar Rush Bar:The cheery ice cream parlor is known for its over-the-top confections, like shakes topped with a piece of cheesecake or birthday cake. Owner Juan Severini, who opened Sugar Rush in January, also offers ice cream cones, cups and bins of candy. Seasonal treats include a campfire milkshake, hot cocoa and s’mores with roasted marshmallows. 414 All Saints St. and Bannerman Crossing; 850-778-9227.
Thai Orchid:The owners of Siam Sushi on Monroe St. have spruced up the decor in this new Thai and Japanese restaurant, open since November in the site of the former Samrat Indian restaurant. The menu offers favorites like spring rolls, pad Thai and curry choices as well as more elaborate specials. The Japanese menu features an extensive list of sushi and sashimi. Thai Orchid is open daily for lunch and dinner. 2529 Apalachee Pkwy.; 850-942-1993.
Tally Cat Cafe:Cat cafes are springing up nationwide in an effort to get homes for the abundance of homeless cats. Tally Cat Cafe, which opened in May, provides a comfy lounge, for cats and humans, plus a separate coffee bar. 2218 N Monroe St.; 850-765-7539. It joins The Fat Cat Cafe, which opened in 2017 at 2901 E. Park Ave.; 850-402-9850.
Tally Mac Shack: Justin Cruz, founder and owner of the popular food truck has added a brick-and-mortar location inside Happy Motoring in the emerging SoMo District so you can now indulge your craving for all your mac ‘n cheese faves. Cruz, a Florida State University grad, presents creative bowls including the basic Praise Cheesus, a blend of yellow mild cheddar, American, mozzarella and provolone cheeses, the Goaty Hawn made with goat cheese and the What’s Mac Hen Hen, with roasted lemon pepper Cornish game hen nestled on a bed of Vermont white cheddar and asiago mac and cheese.1215 S Adams St.; 850-597-9784.
The Egg Cafe & Eatery: This breakfast favorite has expanded to a second location offering a full breakfast and lunch menu in the downtown Plaza Tower. 300 S. Duval St.; 850-907-3447. The restaurant’s original full-service venue is at 3740 Austin Davis Rd. The express branch at the R.A. Gray Building (Museum of Florida History), 500 S. Bronough is expected to close in early 2019.
3 Natives Tallahassee: The casual eatery, a branch of a Tequesta-based chain, serves a wide choice of açaí bowls, cold-pressed juices, smoothies, wraps, salads and bagels. Walker Plaza, 3020 W. Pensacola St.; 850-727-4895.
Yes Chef Cafe: The small restaurant inside The Breezeway Market at Railroad Square Art Park offers a small, casual menu of soups, salads, sandwiches and handmade cookies. More importantly, it offers a second chance to ex-felons who graduate from the ReFire Culinary program. The program, developed by chefs and culinary educators, provides basic skills training, job experience and job placement support. All profits from the cafe will go back into ReFire, which was founded by Rebecca Kelly-Manders, a classically trained chef. “Everyone makes mistakes,” she said. “ReFire helps get them out of the system.” The cafe is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and evenings during First Friday and other Railroad Square events. 618 McDonnell Dr. (across the street from the Mickee Faust Club); 850-792-9441.
A long list of restaurants have closed since Jan. 2018. They include: Aura, Avenue Eat & Drink, Cafe Taverna, Connie’s Ham and Catering, Crisper, The Deck, Downtown Ramen Bar, Fat Noodle, Fujiyama, Jasmine Cafe, Judd’s Cafe 21, Krew de Gras, Lennys Subs, Saltwater Seafood, Samrat, Savannah’s, Southern Public, Southern Velvet Cafe, Spring Creek Restaurant, Taco Bout It, TacoSpeak and Urban Food Market. The Hawthorn switched from a fine dining restaurant to a bakery and bistro. Pitaria closed on Tennessee but its express location on Apalachee remains open.
Here’s a look at a few places expected to open in 2019.
KB Kitchen: Keith Baxter, the owner of Kool Beanz Cafe, is opening a new restaurant in Lake Ella, featuring sandwiches, salads and bowls. It will offer lunch Tuesday to Friday, weekend brunch, dinner on Food Truck Thursday nights and be open for private dinners. 1611 N. Monroe St.
cafe taverna is also a failrly new restaurant. they opened on october 2017. they serve lunch , dinner and weekend brunch.
Hi Fran, thank you for reading and for your comment. I did include Cafe Taverna in previous stories about new restaurants but I limited this list just to restaurants that opened in 2018. Take care and love the feedback!
Appear to be a Dave’s Wings place opening soon in the Bannerman Center across from Mom and Dad’s.
Thanks for letting me know, Stephen!