Sweet Rack: Great Racks and Butts
$15 as of January 2015. The advertisement for this place says "Our racks and butts will drive you nuts". They leave it open to interpretation if they mean the barbecue or the healthy college coeds in T-shirts and shorts working there (or most likely both). The service is good enough and the food is great. Popular with students from FSU, Florida A&M and tourists too. Worth checking out.
Favorite Dish: Great Buffalo Wings
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Cracker Barrel: Good Comfort Food
$13 as of January 2015. This was a typical Cracker Barrel, which to me means it's very good. The atmosphere is homey and the staff almost always efficient and friendly; my waitress, Eva, was better than most. Hours are 6 AM to 10 PM Sunday through Thursday and 6 AM to 11 PM Friday and Saturday.
Favorite Dish: Chicken and Dumplings, with pinto beans, green beans and mashed potatoes.
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Hooters: Mediocre Food, Great Waitresses
$10 as of December 2013. Most people do not come to Hooters for the food you come here to watch sports, drink beer and watch the ladies in the short orange shorts and tight t-shirts. This one was fairly typical with cute girls and mediocre food (I do like the chili though). Hours are 11 AM to 12 AM Monday through Saturday and 12 PM to 11 PM on Sunday. Chili with Onions and Cheese.
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Marie Livingston's: Questionable Service / Spotty Food Quality
Arrived at 8:35 for dinner, party of 3, Wednesday night, restaurant approximately half full. Was seated and waited 12 minutes for a waiter to present himself to the table. When the waiter arrived, he advised he was not told he had a table. Asked for water and if the restaurant had a wine list (not provided at sitting). 7 minutes later, the waiter returned with water and the wine list. Reviewed the specials. Asked about recommended appetizers. Recommended the "special" fried mushrooms with a horseradish sauce. Menu indicated "crab claws" on the appetizer list. Asked waiter what species of crab they were, he did not know, said he would check with the kitchen. Ordered the "special" fried mushroom caps, but requested a roumalade sauce (also on the menu). Waiter returned to take our order and asked again about the crab claws. He said he asked the kitchen, and the cook "showed him the can they came in". So they are canned and not fresh? "Yes". What species of crab? I don't know. We ordered a 20 oz T-bone, medium, 10 oz. ribeye medium well and a 14 oz. NY Strip medium rare. Salads were standard iceberg, unimpressive. "Homemade" salad blue cheese salad dressing was bland. Wine service of an Australian Chiraz went well. Waiter did not realize he needed to pick up the salad plates prior to trying to plate our entrees, we assisted and our meals were served. Water glasses went unfilled until I was finally completely out of water and unable to finish my meal. Waiter made no effort to check back to see how our entrees or meal was progressing. My 14 oz. NY Strip was EXCEPTIONALLY rare and completely cold inside. We finally saw our waiter and showed him the steak. "Wow, that's sushi" was his response, "Let me take that back". The steak went in and returned approximately 15 minutes later. Same steak, same plate, not re-plated, surprising for the price point of their meal. Due to the delay of my steak we ended up being the next to last table in the restaurant. Then the fun began. Someone began pounding out unintelligible notes and variations of chop sticks on the piano in the place. Ambiance and decor in the restaurant was fine. My dinner companion dropped their steak knife. The bus boy and another waiter were hanging out at a large round table chatting. When my dinner companion tried to get their attention to obtain another knife, they retreated into the kitchen, not bothering to let our waiter know we needed attention. When our waiter did appear, he quickly replaced the knife (still no water service at this point). My two dinner companions were enjoying the wine (I only had a glass and a half since I was driving). The wine ran empty and was unable to reorder another bottle because no wait staff was visible. Was able to obtain another bottle and quickly moved to finish my meal. No offer for desert offerings, coffee or anything following the meal. When one of my dinner companions asked an employee to take a picture of our group, another then appeared and they whipped out their cell phones to ask if the lady in my party would pose for a picture with them. Absolutely unacceptable. We asked for the check. When the waiter brought our check, he asked if we enjoyed his piano playing. I thought really... We're spending almost $200 dollars on a meal to listen to you bang on a piano and would have been out of the restaurant closer to closing had their been any management or quality control measures in the place. Tipped the waiter (a college student) handsomely solely because it was 5 days to Christmas (remember paying my bills in my youth as a waiter). Avoid this place. It receives high reviews on web sites and from restaurant service employees in the city, but wholly unworth the price. Oh about the "special" fried mushrooms... They were frozen and mushy inside. It seemed they were not only frozen but had been microwaved because they were warm on the outside, mushy consistency and cold on the inside.
Favorite Dish: The gummi bears I grabbed a handful of after I got back into my car after the meal.
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Sonny's BBQ: Tried and True Southern BBQ
I have eaten at Sonny's at other places, and it is good, and reliable, and cheap. What else did you want? Beer even is only $3 a 24 ounce. Ribs are the best, but they have all the kinds of BBQ meats, and chicken besides, and I think even pasta?
Favorite Dish: All you can eat slab of ribs was the special that night; so why not try it? It cost only $13 and I had at least 1 1/2 slabs, or around 20 ribs based on the bones left. All was good and fingers got messy; a good sign.
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Calico Jacks: Seafod/CAjun/Wraps
There is a pretty good selection of food at this restaurant, and all was good that we had. The wraps seemed especially good based off mine choice; Ahi Tuna wrap. The fish and calamari plate Micky got was also good food. They specialize in all sorts of chicken wings. Prices run $7-20 range and beer cheap at $2.50 a pint.
Favorite Dish: Ahi tune was cooked just right, and there was a very large portion in the wrap. The sauce added to the savory flavor
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Marie Livingston's Steakhouse: Lasso yourself a fine steak at Marie's
If you've read my previous tip for Shula's Steakhouse, you've heard where to find the FINEST beef in Tallahassee....at a price, of course. For those times that you'd like a good steak, but maybe would like to leave with a little jingle in your pocket, I suggest you head over to Marie Livingston's Steakhouse and Saloon on Apalachee Parkway. You'll find excellent service, well-prepared steak and all the trimmings.
Marie's serves the finest in CHOICE grade beef, which is the difference between it and a place like the afore mentioned Shula's, where PRIME is the fare. CHOICE beef is the type sold in most food markets in America, and at its best, it is very good - and reasonably priced. That's the magic at Marie's, good steaks, hearty side dishes, tasty desserts and a nice wine and drinks menu, and you could easily escape for $30-35 per person.
Marie's has been open in Tallahassee - in three different locations over the years - since the mid-1980s. I've never had a bad meal there, always good. It's also a big favorite with the citizenry of Tallahassee, and long waits can occur, especially on the weekend. They DO take reservations for parties of six or more. My advice is to make a reservation even if you're only four or five - and then be "disappointed" when the others cancel at the last minute. :) Otherwise, it CAN be tough to plan an evening around the unknown wait at Marie Livingston's.
Favorite Dish: Well, it's really all about steaks here. But, they do also have some excellent babyback ribs, as well as some grilled chicken and seafood dishes. The usual steakhouse sides are available, including some less common wonders like "good old sweet potatos", one of my favorites.
There are two sizes of ribeyes and filet mignons, along with the ubiquitous strip and sirloin steaks. If you're ready to fill up big-time, you might try that 24 oz porterhouse, I'd recommend medium rare, with some garlic steak butter.
There's a nice wine list, and often you will find little wine specials, like an order of three different wines served appropriately - with respect to the course - during the meal.
Some of those desserts are scary they are so big and good.
You'll enjoy Marie's.... and if you're going to do the "Pete thing" there, go for the 12 oz ribeye, medium rare, with a loaded baked potato and a nice salad. Perfect American steakhouse eats.
Rodizio's South American Steakhouse: Steak, the "gaucho way" in Tallahassee
If you are a vegetarian, you might want to read one of my other tips. Rodizio's is not your place. :)
Basically, this is one of those "South American style" steakhouses. Nice salad bar, good mixologist and liquor list, and then all you can eat meat meat meat.
When you arrive, your table is given a little "rodizio" disk, one side is red, one side is green. Start out with having the red side up on your table. Order your drinks and then go get yourself a salad, and other "side items". It's all you can eat, and some of it is pretty darned good. For those of you who have been to other South American style steakhouses, be advised that Rodizio's doesn't serve "side items" (mashed plantains, peas, etc.) with the meat courses, so if you'd like something to enjoy along with the coming meat barrage, get it at the salad bar. The potato salad, the fried plantains and the black beans and rice are good suggestions.
OK, when you're ready to eat meat, flip the "rodizio" over to green and the "gaucho waiters" will descend upon your table. Each one will have another succulent roasted item on a skewer. If you want some of what he has, get your tongs handy.... he will begin the slicing process, and you will take "possession" of the slice by grasping its top with the tongs. As it falls from the skewer, put it on your plate. That's how it goes. And you're literally going to have dozens of choices, and they keep coming and coming and coming ..... until you turn the rodizio disk back to red, which will bring a quiet post-meat feeding frenzy respite to your table. Now, it's time to consider after dinner drinks, coffee (it IS a South American place, remember) and/or dessert.
The prices are pretty basic, and if you're not ready to eat eat eat, they're kind of pricey. But if you come hungry, you will "win" the economic battle at Rodizio's. Adults all you can eat salad bar and meats price is $28. Children 11 and under are only $12. (that's the charge to eat, they don't roast and sell children under 11 for $12!)
Desserts, after-dinner coffee and all drinks are extra, and again... I think they're kind of pricey. But, the quality is all good.
Favorite Dish: All of the meats are quite good. It's probably one of those situations where certain nights means that certain meats are best, just depends on the cut and the roaster. For example, the night we were there, I thought the lamb was a little dry. But everything else was very very good. And to my surprise, the hit item of the night really wasn't a four-legged wonder. It was the bacon-wrapped sea scallops, very sweet and tender.
Among the meats we saw on our night were lamb, beef tenderloin, parmesan-crusted pork, new york strip steak, rib steak, spicy Brasilian sausages, chicken wings, roasted chicken, skewered and flambeed pineapple, filet mignon, top sirloin, salmon and a few others. And it keeps coming and coming. Like I say, come hungry.
For dessert, there were several sweets... a couple of cheesecake items, some chocolate cake, and my personal favorite, classic flan with caramel sauce accompaniment. Coffee was good, as were the pre-dinner drinks.
Rodizio's has an extensive list of martinis and a small but passable winelist. And they're especially proud of their mojitos (which they claim are the best in town) and the native Brasilian caipirinha. (that's what I had)
Sonny's Real Pit Barbecue: The best barbecue chain restaurants in the South
Sonny's Barbecue operates several popular restaurants in Tallahassee and throughout Florida. The first Sonny's originated back about 1968 in Gainesville, Florida. And yes, it was started by a big fat guy who loved barbecue named Sonny Tillman.
What you get at Sonny's is a good barbecue and consistency. It's always good. It's always clean. The service is friendly. In short, going out to Sonny's is always a treat.
When we have visitors from outside the South, we usually take them to Sonny's for some southern barbecue. Anytime you're in the South and see a Sonny's, it might be time for a feed. Pull over and enjoy yourself.
Sonny's corporate advertising slogan sums it up...
Favorite Dish: The barbecue. They have a daily special, and the ones I remeber are
Saturday and Thursday,
All you can eat barbecued chicken
All you can eat pulled pork. (My favorite)
All you can eat St. Louis ribs
All you can eat sliced pork
Kids eat free.
Sonny's also has some excellent side dishes to go with their barbecue.
Barbecue beans (absolutely THE best)
fried corn on the cob
baked potatoes AND baked sweet potatoes
great french fries
Sonny's also has a terrific salad bar. It's loaded with true southern specialties, including old fashioned potato salad, ham salad and homemade banana pudding. (the best)
Bada Bean Coffee & Tea Company: Bada-bing, it's Bada-Bean for morning coffee!
I have nothing against the Starbucks, Peets and Seattles' Best coffee places of the world. They've gotten me jolted in enough airports to earn my praise forever. :)
But, I just like local places.....
The Bada Bean coffee shop recently opened in Tallahassee. And although it's nothing new or exciting, they brew a nice pot of coffee and offer a nice place to relax and catch the morning news on TV, or to read a newspaper.
The coffee is quite good. I haven't tried the tea yet, but will someday. The accompanying cheesecake, muffins, turnovers and such are fine. Bottom line... it's a coffee place, folks.
And most importantly, it's a local coffee place, the type that develops their own little cadre of regulars. For me, it's a slice of a smaller town in what is becoming a bigger city.
Favorite Dish: coffee, duh!
They have espresso, machiato (con panna), a nifty house coffee ("Tallahassee breakfast blend"), americano, cappuccino, latte, mocha, chai latter, hot chocolate and steamers, breve and Cuban-style Con Leche.
Other drink items include iced tea, individual pots of gourmet tea, bottled juices, and a great menu of ice cream treats, including milkshakes and their custom "Bada-cino".
From the bakery, there's scones, muffins, croissants (the raspberry-cream cheese variety is good), cookies, bagels. If you're into meatier stuff, they seel a ham and egg version of their croissant. The spinach-feta croissant is different and tasty, too. (I like it later in the day)
They also have lunch sandwiches and soup, although I have yet to try them.
Crystal River Seafood: Mediocre
Busy place. Prices are relatively low, but the quality of the food relects that! Very mediocre. With a few exceptions.
Favorite Dish: Gator bites were excellent. He said the most tender he has ever eaten & he has loved them for years. Seafood dip served as appeatizer was very good. I had broiled scallops & mixed veggies. Scallops were totally without seasoning & no taste whatsovere. Veggies were soggy & also NO seasoing. Inedible. Baked potato was o.k. tho.
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Calico Jack's: Great seafood!
North on #319 aways, but worth the drive, however, Not in rush hour traffic!! Rustic appearance. Servers good & attentive.
Favorite Dish: Hubby loved the raw oysters....Been looking forward to Florida oysters for months since live in landlocked Indiana! He was in heaven. Gumbo great. Fried oysters exceptional also. Even the hushpuppies were very good! Cajun redskin potatoes were "ehh" however.
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Voodoo Dog: Black Magic and hot dogs on Macomb Street
Hotdogs/frankfurters are favorites all over America. From the ballpark to the movies, they are loved by Americans in all forms. Some places actually argue about whether "their" style of hotdog is the best. Chicago natives are aghast at the thought of ketchup being added to a weiner on a bun, and have added diced cucumbers and tomatoes as a standard dressing. And of course, NYC street vendors are talking onions, mustard, ketchup, kraut, etc.
Tallahassee is getting several places now that have local spins on the hot dog, the frankfurter. The latest is really "out there" and the food is damned good. The new place is called "The Voodoo Dog". Located between Florida State and Florida A&M, over in an artsy and quirky part of town, these guys are pushing the envelope for both hot dogs and hamburgers. Granted, there are a wide variety of hot dog and burger offerings, but beyond that - it's a very simple menu. The only sides available are fries, chips, baked beans and cole slaw. End of story.
Now as for "toppings", the opposite is true. Among the items offered as topping for both hamburgers and hotdogs are (* indicates a free topping) mustard*, ketchup*, mayo*, relish, diced onions-tomatoes-cucumbers, shredded lettuce, sauerkraut, chili, cheese, egg (yes!), bacon, coleslaw, guacamole, sour cream, pineapple (yes!), pickles, jalapenos, sauteed onions and peppers, and baked beans. So as you can see, you can create a masterpiece or mess, your choice.
I will describe some of the hotdogs and burgers down below, but let me say a "hurrah!" for the tasty, homestyle fries. Skins-on and sliced medium thin, you get a nice big order cooked on your request. They put salt and pepper on them, too.... becoming a rarity in these silly days where people are intent on telling or mandating to other people what they can and cannot eat. Unless you are allergic to potatoes, DO BE SURE to have some fries with your order.
One little negative for now is that the Voodoo doesn't yet have a beer license. They are working on it, but as you'd expect - they're getting little or no service from government. I'm sure that 20 or 30 overpaid bureaucrats have to review it first. Can anyone say "throw the bums out"? :) OK no more politics, we are talking hot dogs.
Go to Voodoo and feel the black magic. You'll also enjoy the quirky decoration job done. You KNOW it's not your standard place when you drive up and see the metal-sided building decked out in purple.
Oh, one other thing... if you take one of "those vegetarians" with you to Voodoo dog, they'll substitute a vegan dog to any order for 50 cents.
Favorite Dish: Among the hot dogs they sell are:
Voodoo dog - Wrapped with bacon then deep fried.
Manhattan dog - New York style. All-beef frankfurter. your choice of toppings.
Chili dog - Regular dog smothered in mustard, onions and secret chili sauce.
Tijuana dog - Bacon dog, with guacamole and sour cream
Philly Tubesteak dog - Regular dog, with cheese and sautéed onions.
Abe Frohman dog - Chicago style. tomato, cucumber, onions, pickles, relish, celery salt
Shareef dog - Bacon dog, topped with hummus, cucumber and cumin
B.L.T. dog - Bacon dog, with lettuce, tomato and mayo
Fat Katz dog - hot sauerkraut, brown mustard and melted swiss cheese
Hari Kari dog - Bacon dog, covered with teriyaki, pineapple and chives
Wake-n-Bake dog - Bacon dog, smothered with melted cheese and a fried egg
Good Ol’ Boy dog - Bacon dog, smothered with baked beans and coleslaw
Bon Jovi dog - Jersey style. Bacon dog, covered with sautéed onions and peppers
Atomic Veggie dog - Veggie dog, covered with onions, tomato, cucumber and jalapeños
Corndog - Homemade (I LOVE corn dogs)
How about burgers?
(all burgers come with fries)
Voodoo burger - Topped with kielbasa sausage along with cheddar cheese, lettuce and tomato
PB&B burger - Peanut Butter and Beef! Topped with bacon, cheddar cheese and slathered with peanut butter
Cowabunga burger - Topped with grilled pineapple, bacon, onion, mozzarella cheese, lettuce and tomato
Das Autoburger - Topped with bacon, sauerkraut, swiss cheese, onion, lettuce and tomato
Bleu Moon burger - Topped with our bleu cheese spread, bacon, onion, lettuce and tomato
Holy Moley burger - Topped with guacamole, bacon, swiss cheese, onion, lettuce and tomato
Barth burger - Topped with a fried egg, bacon, cheddar cheese, onion, lettuce and tomato
Veggie burger - Our homemade veggie burger topped with swiss cheese, onion, lettuce and tomato
carl's steakhouse (formerly nino's) is located on apalachee parkway (US 27) about 8 miles east of the capital. this new streakhouse occupies the old nino's german restaurant. i have not dined here yet but according tallahassee native pete chamlis it is quite good. i will expand this tip on my next visit to tallahassee. closed mondays.
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Shula's 347 Grille (at the Duval Hotel): Uncompromisingly fine STEAKS
Don Shula is the winningest coach in National Football League history. During his 30+ year career, he coached both the Baltimore Colts and the Miami Dolphins. His 1972 Dolphins team remains the only American professional football team to ever achieve an UNDEFEATED season.
Among Shula's many passions are fine steaks, and years ago, he began a respected chain of steakeries across the country. They're called SHULA'S 347 GRILLES, with the "347" referring to his 347 career victories as a head coach. Recently, Tallahassee was fortunate enough to open a Shula's 347, over at the downtown Duval Hotel.
The thing about Shulas is their meat. They advertise what they call "The Shula Cut", which they claim is "better than prime", the top restaurant cut in the USA. Shula's maintains their own herds of top-grade black angus cattle, from which they supply their grilles. And speaking AS a steak-lover, the quality is excellent. Sure, it's a bit pricey, but this is steak the way steak SHOULD be. As my wife put it when she was eating her 8 oz filet mignon, it literally melts in your mouth.
If you want a fine steak meal in Tallahassee, go to Shula's. You'll need to make reservations, the manager tells me that the ONLY time you'll succeed as a drop-in is on Sunday afternoon. If you're not into steaks, there are plenty of other entree specialites on the menu. My daughter had grilled shrimp on a recent visit. They also serve top-quality burgers and sandwiches, a nod to Shula's long love of "sports food". But honestly, I can't imagine going to Shula's 347 and not sinking your teeth into one of those perfect steaks.
You can download the menu at
For parking, you have two choices.... sometimes, there is parking along the streets. And if it's the weekend or after 6 pm, you don't have to pay the parking meters. Or, if you'd like to park at the hotel, there is valet parking - validated (of course) for restaurant patrons.
"Never compromise". That's the motto and "thing" at Shula's. Coach Shula's motto was always "Never compromise", and it's etched on a plaque as you enter the restaurant. There is no compromise in quality at Shula's 347. Enjoy.
Favorite Dish: STEAKS. Shula's has five steaks that they serve. All are "Shula cut", which they claim is better than prime. As for that claim, it's a tough one... prime IS perfection in beef, so how can you be better than perfection? The Shula cut is an excellent representation of what "PRIME" beef should be.
The five basic steaks served at Shulas are:
8 oz filet mignon, $32
14 ox NY strip, $31
16 oz "cowboy steak" (a bone-in ribeye), $32
24 oz porterhouse, $42
Steak MaryAnn, a Shula's version of Steak Diane. (MaryAnn is Mrs Shula's name), $41
All come with your choice of a vegetable and a potato. On our last visit, we chose the grilled butternut squash as the veggie, and went for fully-loaded baked potatoes as our spud entry. Excellent.
There's a good wine line, but not a lot in what you might consider an economy class. Most wines are at least $40-50 per bottle. They have a nice run of bold reds, my favorite. (there's a photo of Bonnie and I toasting our dinner with an excellent cabernet, down below)
Shula's also features a list of specialty martinis, all are well presented and well-stoked with quality liquor(s). My daughter, reveling in finally being "21", loved her "lemon drop martini" (see photo below).
There are a variety of burgers and sandwiches on the menu, along with other specialty entrees. Sara had the grilled shrimp the other night. They also had pecan-crusted salmon, wild rice risotto (for any vegetarians you've tricked into coming along for dinner), seared ahi tuna, the fresh fish "catch of the day" (it was mahi mahi the last night we were there) and pan-seared chicken. Among the specialty burgers were a "hickory burger", a "black and bleu" burger - both featuring an 8 oz angus patty cooked to your order. There's also a fresh fish sandwich, and a chicken sandwich.
Starters are varied and well-done. Knowing that my steak would be huge, and that the potato and veggie would more than fill me up, I started with a "simple" Caesar salad.... perfectly done. Fresh and crispy lettuce and freshly baked croutons.
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