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.
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.
Tallahassee's "Itza Pizza" restaurant has terrific NY style pizza. Everything is made with the best traditional ingredients, and they also show a great deal of variety and inventiveness on their menu. This is the sort of pizzaria that has both pepperoni AND broccoli available as toppings. How about fresh garlic added? White pizza, greek-style.....even nutty stuff like buffalo chicken and such.... All on that wonderful NY-style crust, the kind you fold over and cram into your salivating mouth. :)
In addition to pizza, Itza Pizza also has wings, calzones, baked ziti, hot submarine sandwiches, breadsticks, ice cream, Italian-style ices and such. All good, all filling, all served with a smile.
Itza Pizza is, for me, a bit out of the way. But, I still try to find a reason to be in their neighborhood every once in a while, just to enjoy the beauty of a true NY pizza. Itza Pizzas come in 12, 14 and 18 inch sizes, and are ready for pickup in about 20 minutes.
Favorite Dish: Well, the pizza is terrific. Among our favorites are...
The veggie deluxe, featuring black olives, onions, peppers, broccoli, fresh garlic and lots of mozarella cheese.
The doctor special (???), which is double pepperoni and double fresh mozarella.
The works, which has, ah...... damned near anything you could imagine.
And, Itza Pizza also serves something they call a breakfast pizza, which is very very good. It's egg based, and features cheese and bacon as well. You can add anything else you'd like to personalize your breakfast pie. And although Itza Pizza isn't open FOR breakfast, you can get one the night before.... breakfast pizza reheats VERY nicely.
The Red Elephant has a wonderful and unique style of pizza, a corn-dusted crush with lots of bold sauce and meats. They also have excellent burgers. In addition, the menu is expanded with wings, appetizers, main dishes, desserts and such. The Red Elephant also has full table service, as well as a plethora of big-screen TVs for sports fans, an honest to goodness bar for those who just want a few brews. So far, it appears that the Red Elephant has been a huge local success and in short order, a second edition has opened up here in Tallahassee (out on Kerry Forest Road). They are apparently now franchised and there are Red Elephants in Tampa, and one being built over in Mandarin (Jacksonville). It's the quintessential American success story, and it's damned good pizza.
If you come to Tallahassee and want to have a VT meeting with me, I may well suggest the Red Elephant. And for entertainment, there is the Miracle Movie Theaters across the road - a large complex of all-alternative filmspace. This is the sort of place you'll find foreign films, art films and other non-mainstream entertainment. The last time Bonnie and I hit the Miracle, we saw a film about prewar India called "Before the Rains". It was terrific, and I'm sure you've never heard of it. That's the miracle of the Miracle.
A perfect evening.... a nice and informal meal at Red Elephant and then a movie at the Miracle.
Favorite Dish: PIZZA is what really drives me into the Elephant.
I highly recommend the meat lovers' special.... The best part is the crispy and smoky bacon that they add - and they do so without making the pizza bacon "greasy". It's crispy and meaty, but not greasy. Perfecto.
Tallahassee has a large population of Mexican restaurants, and almost all of them are independents. For some reason, the chains (Don Pablo, El Chico, El Palacio, Cisco's Cafe, etc.) haven't survived here, although El Chico had a long run. One of our local Mexican places, Morelia's, is a bit more "upscale". But for the most part, the Tallahassee cadre of independent Mexican places are very similar to one another. Tasty food, huge portions, cheap prices.
That pretty much sums up La Rumba. (and as this tips reads on, you'll hear it called Los Compadres. Florida999 and I had a VT meeting here a couple of years ago, and in the time since, the restuarant has changed its name. But, it's all basically the same place) Los Compadres has a very extensive menu, filled with various combinations, especiales and such. All of the prices are VERY reasonable, especially the Monday-Saturday 11 am - 2 pm lunch menu.
Recently, VT member Florida999 and her family came to town. We all met for lunch at Los Compadres, and it was fine. Good service, plenty of room at our table, and a great pricing deal, too. (OK for me it was EXTRA great. Florida999 aka Silke paid for lunch for everyone, as an early birthday gift for me. Thanks, Silke, we'll return the favor someday). In one of the photos below, you can see my daughter Sara along with Florida999's kids Nona and Colin, in our "big party booth" at Los Compadres.
Bottom line is there is nothing REALLY special about Los Compadres. But, if you're in the area of one of their two locations and have a desire for a Mexican dinner, it's a good choice.
Favorite Dish: I love all kinds of Mexican food. On this visit, I enjoyed their lunch special chicken quesadillas. These Q's were a little fatter than ones I'd seen at other Mexican places...they had lots more MEAT. And my lunch order of Chicken Q's was only $5.95. Tossing in a nice Dos Equis beer and I was one happy gringo.
And, Wednesday nights are a big favorite with the college crowds. They charge something like $7.59 or so for "all you can eat" and you can pick from all sorts of Mexican goodies. And just to make sure that you have something to wet your whistle after all of that spicy food, margueritas are "two for one" priced as well.
jim & milt's is a local bar-b-que restaurant located near the fsu football stadium on pensacola street. jim & milt's attracts the college crowd with their low prices. i think their bar-b que is just ok but they offer a really great low priced breakfast.
The seafood is decent, and they often have good beer specials. The TV in the outdoors seating area is nice...and unfortunately, you might get to watch an entire program before you get served. I stopped going there because the service is woefully lacking. It's a shame, because in the past I had enjoyed going there.
Bottom line: Don't go there unless you have time to burn...and lots of it.
One of the things I've always loved about San Francisco, New York and New Orleans are the number of little "hole in the wall" local places that have excellent food. I'm talking about the sort of place that locals might just adopt as "their special little place" or "every Thursday night at so and so's". You get the idea. Well, Tallahassee has a ways to go to rival Baghdad by the Bay, or the Big Apple and or Big Easy, but... we're getting more and more of "those" places. Bella Bella Ristorante is one of them.
Apparently, this place has been in business for about six years. But until two days ago, I'd never heard of them. They are located on a little side street, very close to the place where I had my very first job some 35 years ago. The place that is now Bella Bella has been a blueprinting supply place, a print store and an insurance agency, to name just a few. I just happended to be driving down 5th avenue and saw Bella Bella, all shiny and red in color, just begging for me to come inside. (Hey, 5th Avenue... THAT sounds like NYC, too.)
Anyway, I went inside and asked for a printout of the menu. I was welcomed with open arms by the young and eclectic staff. There were a few strangely colored hair styles in there to be sure, but everyone had a glowing smile and really seemed to enjoy working where they were working. I was instantly drawn to Bella Bella's character.
I took the menu home and ran it by my wife and daughter. We agreed that we needed to check it out "one of these days". WELL.... one of these days came sooner rather than later. The very next day, our refrigerator cacked out, the victim of a dead compressor. Now, we do have another fridge - I'm a southerner and that means I have a beer fridge in the garage - so we weren't in desperate straits. But, it became more of a hassle to cook, having to schlep back and forth to the garage for butter and stuff. (FWIW, the kitchen Maytag should be fixed in another day or two, as soon as the new compressor comes in) So, we decided that Bella Bella's Chamlis family audition would happen sooner and immediately. :) We were not disappointed.
This is a simple and casual little Italian place. It looks like they could maybe seat 75-100 people inside, and there are a few street side tables outside. (it being June in Florida, they were EMPTY - hot hot hot outside) Even though Bella Bella obviously does no advertising and is somewhat obscure outside its neighborhood, the place was filled up pretty quickly. The same waitress (Avery) who'd greeted me the other day with a menu and an invitation to come back, waiting our table with spirit and a smile.
We had a wonderfully simple, tasty and fresh Italian dinner, and it all felt so very comfortable. And, I can guarantee you that we will be back to Bella Bella again, sooner rather than later. In fact, the next time my VT buddy doug48 hits town, I think we'll need to get him out there for some good food and friendly atmosphere. :)
The food is pretty simple, well-prepared, and served in honest portions. This isn't a foo-foo spot that nails you for $30 entrees that wouldn't fill up an 8 year old. Everything's homemade and well done, with simplicity and freshness the guiding principle.
My wife and daugher were in the mood to do their usual.... an appetizer and maybe a soup, instead of a main course. Sara had an order of the cheese stuffed mushrooms, and supplemented it with the soup de jour (or should I say soup del giorno??), which was Italian Wedding Soup. Bonnie added one of Bella Bella's specialty salads to her order, the "Bella Bella" salad. (see below, in "favorite dish"). I went with one of the evening specials, the basic meatballs and sauce over angel hair pasta, crusty bread and a house salad. Simple, tasty and fresh... and man oh man, was I stuffed. (Those of you who know me personally KNOW that I CAN eat, so me being stuffed and full means something).
We had intended to try dessert, but were pretty full. Still, my daughter and I had capuccinos. for me the cap was a second choice, and it exposed Bella Bella's only "weakness". They don't have a hard spirits liquor license, so you can't get caffe coretto or something with cognac or whatever. No matter, the wine list is good, and you can always do dessert wines.... just no mixed drinks.
They're open six days a week for dinner, Mon-Sat. 5 pm - 9:30 pm. They are also open Mond-Fri for lunch, 11 am - 3 pm.
Favorite Dish: From the Bella Bella menu.... and the lunch and dinner menus are pretty much the same. Lunch just adds a few sandwiches.
Appetizers include spinach & artichoke ravioli, coconut shrimp ( a favorite in Florida ), cheese stuffed mushrooms, roasted red pepper hummus and tomato & basil bruschetta.
Salads include the Bella Bella (mixed greens, topped with season fruits - last night it was strawberries, pears, orange slices, etc. and toasted walnuts), or the Tuscan (mixed greens with grilled eggplant, mushrooms, roasted peppers, carmelized onions), or the Greek (baby greens, roasted peppers and kalamata olives, topped with sweet potato salad and feta cheese). They also have a house and the ubiquitous Caesar salad varieties.
Entrees included fettucini alfredo, cannelloni, chicken, eggplant or veal parmesan, eggplant rollatini, sicilian and veggie lasagna(s), manicotti, gargonzola ravioli, shrimp scampi, grouper mediterranean or simple angel hair marinara. As you note, there are several excellent choices on all three areas of the menu for our beloved vegetarian pals. :)
The menu also mentions decadent desserts and specialty coffee and capuccinos, dessert wines and the like.
Prices? Entrees range from about $11 to $16, and include bread and salad (house or Caesar, and you can upgrade to a smaller version of a specialty salad for $2 more). Appetizers are priced at $5-8 or so, and the speciality salads are $5-7 and they're huge. (They come in a square bowl - is that an oxymoron? - that's about 14 inches square)
All good value.
One of the best new "lower end" (pricewise) options in Tallahassee is Ray's Steel City Saloon. Conveniently located on the northside of Tallahassee, Ray's features specialties from Ray's hometown of Pittsburgh, PA aka the "Steel City". In addition the saloon includes many Florida favorites on its extensive and tasty menu. And of course, it IS a saloon, so.... the 100+ beers on menu are a definite plus.
We went to Ray's the other night to celebrate another visit to Tallahassee by Doug48, one of the nicest guys on VT. Doug joined me, my wife and daughter for an early evening knosh at Ray's (OUR first visit) and we were not disappointed. One reason that we'd chosen Ray's was that our friend Doug truly LOVES a good beer.
The service was great, the atmosphere relaxed, and the prices more than reasonable. It is my understanding that Ray's has developed quite a following, so if you're going on a Friday or Saturday, you might want to get there early... or earlier.
OK, since VT now lets us have 10K characters, why don't I give you a look at Ray's beer menu? This should wet your whistle the next time you're in Tallahassee.
First, there are the "usual" brands.... Bud and Bud Light, Miller and Miller Lite, Yuengling, Coors and Coors Light. Other great US brands available are
Iron City (a Pittsburgh native, and the beer that I enjoyed most the other night)
Rolling Rock (another Pennsylvania native)
Sierra Nevada Bigfoot
Land Shark (a pitiful brew IMHO)
Butte Creek Organic Pilsner
Abita Turbo Dog
Sweaty Betty Blond
Harpoon IPA and UFO
Woodchuck Granny Smith Cider
Want to go beyond the USA, check these out...
Becks Dark and Light
Corona and Corona Light
Franziskaner Hefeweizen (always a good choice)
Lenenkugels Honey Weiss and Sunset Wheat
Pilsner Urquelle (what Doug48 had, getting ready for his trip to Prague)
Red Stripe (if you're into Jamaican shhhhhhhht, mon)
Stella Artois (one of my favorites)
If you want to spend more money, you can look over Ray's extensive premiums and micros list. My recommendation would be Sam Smith Oatmeal Stout, or maybe Dogfish Head Aprihop. Another wild and devilish choice would be Satan Red.
Favorite Dish: It's all good. The other night, I had Ray's conch fritters (they called them Konk), which are a south Florida and Caribbean classic dish. Ray's were very nicely spicy, with an extra dose of habaneros in the fritter batter. Spicy dipping sauce made a very nice start for my meal.
I then did Ray's Pittsburgh style fried codfish sandwich, truly outstanding. Beer battered north Atlantic cod on a great roll with all the fixings.
Doug48 had a simple, but quite large cheeseburger, cooked to his specific order.
My wife and daughter samples Ray's salads and soups, and pronounced everything top-notch.
Looking over the menu, you might want to try the pierogies, a Pittsburgh appetizer specialty. (little homemade raviolis, stuffed with cheese and potatoes, pan fried in butter and onions, served with a side of sour cream. Both a Pittsburgh favorite and an Eastern European staple).
Another Pittsburgh favorite on the menu is Ray's "Jacked-Up Meatloaf". It's stuffed with garlic mashed potatoes and cheddar cheese, served over Texas toast and topped with Ray's homemade bourbon gravy. Sounds good, but not for the light eater, I'm told.
Vegetarians? Sure, they'll find good eatin' at Rays. Check out the "Uva" (supposedly pronounced as ooooovah) It's a sandwich stuffed with fresh mozarella, sliced tomatoes, flame roasted piquillo peppers, guacamole and pesto oil on freshly backed ciambatta bread. It's served warm and pressed. (which is good for both sandwiches AND dry cleaning!)
Other good veggies dishes include spicy black bean soup and Ray's vegetarian chili. (The menu says that you won't believe how good it is) Guess I'll not find out, I am a meat eater. :)
in april i had the opportunity to meet the "king of tally" VT member pchamlis and his lovely family at ray's steel city saloon. good american fare moderately priced. they offer a selection of over 100 imported and domestic bottled beers. they also have a number of domestic and imports on tap. a fun place to eat and drink when in tallahassee.