I was born and raised in Tallahassee, Florida. I remember throwing pizza dough onto the game room chandeliers at Barnaby’s as a kid and walking to Decent Pizza with friends after class when I went to Leon High. I somewhat recollect going to Tuesday nights at AJ’s Sports Bar in college and drunkenly jaywalking to the Whataburger on Tennessee Street afterwards. RIP. And, of course, going to the Downtown Getdowns before the FSU home games just to eat the amazing fried pickles at Poboy’s Café. We have sadly had some restaurants and bars come and go, but we have also had many stick around. Without spending any more time reminiscing, I’ll give you what you are really here for. Food n’ booze: Tally style.
Gordo’s Cuban Café (Pensacola St. & Northside Locations): They tell you to “Put a Cuban in your mouth” and while I think that is excellent advice, they also have savory croquetas, flavorful empanadas and mojo shredded pork on the menu. Damn. That’s overwhelming enough as it is.
One of my favorite spots for affordable and delectable eats hands down goes to Gordo’s. Aside from Cuban sandwiches they also have bomb burgers, chicken and rice made with beer and moros, a.k.a. black beans and rice topped with bacon. Yep. Try the ever so potent Gordo’s Smash while you are at it. A fruity rum punch served in one of their (in)famous giant green cups that will…get ya smashed. 71% recommended during your lunch hour but 100% recommended during happy hour. Yassss! And make sure, whatever you do, get everything with a side of Gordo’s sauce.
Paisley Café (Midtown): Easily my favorite brunch place in town. It is cozy, quaint and tucked into the heart of midtown. They have mimosas by the bottle, sangria by the carafe and dynamite shrimp and grits. End of story. Aside from that though, they always provide amazing service and use fresh ingredients from local merchants and farmers. Try the chorizo hash served with Mexican crema, poached eggs and a glass of their sangria du jour. The perfect hangover cure. Hair of the dog, girl.
Masa (North Monroe St.): Three words: honey walnut shrimp. That’s all you need to know. Okay, but seriously, if you like sushi and other Asian dishes, then quickly get your ass to Masa. They have a huge sushi menu with any kind of roll your little heart or tummy craves. On top of that, they have countless rice and noodle dishes, soups and traditional entrées like salt and pepper shrimp and sesame glazed chicken. Start with the lump crab and cream cheese wontons and if you are feeling sushi, try the red dragon roll with shrimp tempura, tuna, cream cheese and avocado topped with tempura flakes, eel sauce and kimchi sauce. If you are in a “fork and knife” mood, then try the orange beef or, as mentioned earlier, the honey walnut shrimp with garlic broccoli. Do I need to tell you thrice?
Uptown Café (Midtown): An affordable breakfast and lunch spot that will no doubt hit the spot. Get there early because there is sure to be an eager crowd. With quick service and so many filling menu options to choose from, you truly can’t go wrong here. Sip your hot coffee while you peruse the menu consisting of banana bread French toast, hearty build-your-own grit bowls, potato bowls and omelets and a variety of pressed sandwiches. Potatoes, grits, eggs. Don’t tempt me.
Bird’s Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack (Bronough St.): Sorry everyone else, this is the best burger in T-Town. Their menu may be little but I promise it is fierce. Both their fresh oysters and build-your-own burgers will make you feel some type of way. Boasting a minimum 10 oz. burger patty and a monstrous 20 oz., you are guaranteed to be satisfied. Choose your protein (veggie options too), spice, toppings and side. Bacon, bleu cheese, mushroom burger with a side of their killer onion rings for me. Oh, and don’t forget the beer.
Taco Republik (Midtown): My favorite quick and easy bite and most delivered meal on Bite Squad has to be Taco Republik. They have any kind of taco you could want. Shrimp, chicken, beef, tofu, and yes, chips and bomb queso. My personal fave is their Southwest chicken quesadilla. I am a quesadilla freak so believe me when I say, it truly is the best. Blackened chicken, black beans, corn salsa and cheese all melted into a flour tortilla with a side of sour cream and one of their homemade salsas. That is fucking fire ya’ll. Cheap and good. What is better than that?
Street Chefs Food Truck: You can find them at Food Truck Thursdays at Lake Ella and First Fridays at Railroad Square but this one here is a traveler! Check their schedule online because you 100% don’t wanna miss them. Delicious wraps, sandwiches and sides make this a perfect easy dinner or quick filling lunch. Serving “Not Ya Mama’s Grilled Cheese” with basil and four melty cheeses will cost you a whopping $7. And it is just as divine as it sounds. My personal favorite is “The Chelsea”, a shepherd’s pie wrap with meat, cheese, garlic mashed potatoes, veggies, macaroni and cheese, bacon and a dash of ranch all for $9. You’ve been warned.
Kool Beanz Café (Midtown): This is easily some of the best food you will ever eat in the Capital City. Their eclectic menu is vast and constantly changing so it will always be tasty and will never be boring. It gets crowded quickly so even though there may be a wait, just know it will be worth it. Try to get a seat at the bar where you can see your meal come to life in the kitchen. Some of my favorites are the mojo chicken and shrimp tossed with chorizo, black beans, rice and Jack cheese and the flank steak served with mashed potatoes, onion rings and gorgonzola herb butter. Lucky for me both menu items have stuck around over time. And still my mouth waters.
Coosh’s Bayou Rouge (Northside & Collegetown Locations): If you are like me and Cajun and Creole cuisines are your absolute fave, then you have to try Coosh’s. Besides the traditional Cajun dishes like seafood gumbo and jambalaya, they serve other classics like po’boys and fried seafood platters. All I need is their fried crawfish po’boy with lots of Crystal’s hot sauce and homemade tartar and I am one happy camper. If you are also a fellow crawfish lover, I highly recommend their crawfish etouffee. It is spicy, savory and just good ol’ comfort food at its finest. End your meal with some sugar-coated beignets and save me one too.
Marie Livingston’s Steakhouse (Apalachee Parkway): This ain’t your typical meat and potatoes restaurant. Marie Livingston’s has been around for as long as I can remember and there is a major reason for that…juicy steak in their special secret sauce. T-bone, ribeye, sirloin, whatever cut you want is smothered in that secret steak sauce that I swear was created by angels. Insert: Hallelujah Chorus. If you don’t want steak, they also serve other tasty options like chicken and pasta dishes, ribs and pork chops, just to name a few. Get the Thai sweet chili jumbo shrimp as an appetizer to anxiously await the scrumptious main course.
Liberty Bar (Midtown): With a laid back atmosphere, indoor and outdoor seating and seasonal cocktail lists, Liberty is definitely one of my favorite bars. While they serve brunch and dinner, the hand-crafted cocktails are the real show stealers. From homemade simple syrups and bitters to fresh garnishes and unique ingredient combos, you’re bound to find a delicious libation at Liberty.
Proof Brewing Company (Southside): The perfect pregame spot. Cornhole, ping pong, giant connect 4 and a variety of craft brews. What more is there? Chilling in the beer garden with an ice cold La La Land IPA listening to some live music is divine any time of year. Quote me on that.
Bullwinkle’s Saloon (Tennessee St.): I had to mention this Tennessee Strip staple. In college or not, you must go to Bull’s at least once. Nothing screams “college town” more than the famous and cheap all-you-can-drink special. It has a DJ and bar inside and a two-story deck and bar outside with live music, of course, beer pong. Yaaa bro. Now they have “Thirsty Moose Cards” where you get free drinks four nights a week if you are 21+. Now that is drinking on a budget. If only they had that card when I was in college…or maybe it is better off they didn’t.
Leon Pub (Midtown): If you’re from Tally, love beer and you haven’t been coming here, then you need to make up for lost time. When I hear the description “dive bar” Leon Pub pops into mind every time. Beer signs and memorabilia litter the walls, a pool table is front and center, taps line the bar and the entire bathroom is graffitied with drawings and phrases of drunkards’ past. I love it. The beer selection is truly top notch. Draft, can or bottle they got your back.
Madison Social (Collegetown): This is the ideal tailgate spot with an open-air lively atmosphere right across from Doak Campbell Stadium. Madso has amazing brunch serving grapefruit mimosa pitchers and Lucky Goat cold brew (another Tally gem), but also numerous signature and beer cocktails. Their drinks are refreshingly good and will definitely get you in the right mindset. If you know what I’m saying. They also have monthly drink challenges where you could win a free t-shirt. That’s incentive enough for me.
Cabo’s Island Grill (Apalachee Parkway): Okay, okay. I know that they have great food, but I had to do an honorable mention. In my opinion, they have one of the best, if not the best, margarita in the Tallahassee marg game. It doesn’t appear to be anything life changing. Just a tequila, triple sec, lime and salt on the rim margarita but they are just what you need and want. Plus they are 2 for 1 from 4 p.m. to close every single day. This is not a drill.
Lake Tribe Brewing Company (Westside): Tucked away off of Tharpe Street, Lake Tribe offers well over 10 different varieties of craft brews at very affordable prices. This is truly one of the best brew deals I have come across. For $10 you get a souvenir pint glass and 6 beer samples. But, believe me, these aren’t wimpy samples. They claim to be 1/3 pint pours which really appear like 1/2 pours…especially the more you consume. They don’t skimp on the flavor or the alcohol content so if you are a beer enthusiast, go chill on the outside deck and “find your native spirit”.
Black Dog Café (Lake Ella & Railroad Square Locations): No this shoutout doesn’t involve alcohol but it does involve the best chai tea latte in town. For real. Grab one to go and walk your pup around Lake Ella or sip and relax on the patio at the Railroad Square location. Coffees, teas and vegan desserts, they have anything and everything to keep you caffeinated and happy.
While these are some of my personal favorite places to dine and imbibe in Tallahassee, there are many other amazing options not mentioned here. Whether you are just visiting for the weekend or a local slackin’ on the restaurant and bar scene, promise yourself that you will try some of these kick ass places in the future. Tallahassee knows good food and we definitely know strong drinks.