La Rumba: Muy Bueno Mexican on the north side
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: bar-be-que
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.
- Road Trip
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Calico Jack's: Hit or Miss
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.
- Budget Travel
Bella Bella Ristorante: A tiny local Italian treasure
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.
Ray's Steel City Saloon: A plate of Pittsburgh in the deep south
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. :)
ray's steel city saloon: good food plus 100 beers
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.
- Business Travel
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chez pierre: french/southern
in january i dinned with the "king of tally" VT member pchamlis at the chez pierre. fun french atmosphere. very good food and an interesting french/southern decor. they have a nice outdoor bar that accommodates smokers. pricey for tallahassee but in my opinion worth it.
- Historical Travel
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Chez Pierre: Bonjour, y'all...maybe the best place in town
Chez Pierre is a Tallahassee institution. Originally a small bistro downtown, it moved to its present Thomasville Road location about ten years ago. The best way to describe Chez Pierre may be to just parrot the way they usually answer their phone.. "Chez Pierre, bonjour y'all". That sums it up...a wonderful French restaurant that embraces southern style. (You'll notice the dish below that has "red pepper grits" as an accompaniment) It's totally classy but not stuffy. You don't need a jacket and a tie, but you don't want to wear your jeans. It's innovative and always dependable. That's Chez Pierre.
Also, they have an excellent selection of vegetarian fare if you prefer foods that didn't have parents. :)
There are a lot of fine places to eat in Tallahassee, but when it's really something special, we so often end up eating at Chez Pierre. When we had a recent gathering of VTers in Tallahassee, it was the first and only place we considered for the meeting. Good choice.
Chez Pierre serves lunch on Monday-Saturday from 11 am - 2 pm. On Sundays, a "Sunday Brunch" occurs during the same hours. Dinner is served from 5:30 pm until 9:30 pm Sunday - Thursday, and until 11 pm on Friday and Saturday. And in between all of it (2:30-5:30, they have what they call the "bistro menu")
In and around holidays, Chez Pierre often has a "special dinner" of some kind, always check the website or give them a call.
There's a nice outdoor (but AC and heated) bar, and Chez Pierre often features live entertainment for your dining and cocktail hour pleasure.
Favorite Dish: The menu changes often, so I always recommend visiting the website before your visit, if you'd like to get an early take on what you'd like. EXCELLENT winelist, and exquisite desserts compliment the varied and satisfying appetizers and mains. Among the recent best on the menu are:
A P P E T I Z E R S
ESCARGOTS BOURGUIGNON / Snails in garlic butter
ASSIETTE DE FROMAGES / House cheese selection
SAUMON FUMÉ DU CHEF / House smoked salmon
MOUSSE PÂTÉ AU SAUTERNES / Goose liver pâté
CHILLED LUMP CRAB TARTARE / Jumbo lump crab
BISQUE D’HOMARD / Lobster bisque
FILET DE SAUMON AVEC CHAMPIGNONS / North Atlantic salmon, pommes purée & roasted mushroom confit
TUNA SALADE NIÇOISE / Ahi tuna, pan-seared w/ mesclun greens & Mediterranean accoutrements
POULET ROTI À LA PORTUGAISE / Whole baby hen twice-roasted with fresh herbs, w/ chorizo and red pepper grits
TRUITE AVEC FRUITS DE MER ET GNOCCHI / River Run trout stuffed with a fennel-crabmeat mélange, served on spinach enhanced gnocchi
KOBE HACHÉ ET POMMES FRITES / Snake River Farms Kobe beef chopped sirloin steak with black truffle butter and house fries
CÔTE DE SANGLIER AVEC FLAGEOLETS / Kurobuta boar loin, braised with garlic confit, bacon and served on a nest of white beans
ROTI DE PORC TENDERLOIN NIÇOISE / Succulent house marinated pork tenderloin fire roasted and served in the Mediterranean style
BOEUF AU RIBEYE AVEC CHAMPIGNONS / House aged Angus beef with portabellas, roasted potato and braised market greens
ROTI DE CANARD AVEC PETITE ROCKET / Roast duckling with baby Arugula, dried cranberry and pine nuts
COUSCOUS MAROCAIN À L’AIL CONFIT / Couscous with roasted garlic, lemon and mint julienne
SAUCISSON À L’AIL AUX LENTILLES / Lamb merguez sausage with French green lentils
CONFIT DE CANARD À LINGONBERRY / Duck confit on wild rice with lingonberry jus
FLAT IRON BOEUF AVEC POMMES FRITES / Grilled flat iron steak with house fries
FLAGEOLETS À LA NIÇOISE / French white beans with roasted vegetables
GNOCCHI À LA PARISIENNE / Pan roasted herbed gnocchi with vegetable jus
Super China Buffet/ China Super Buffet: the BEST chinese buffet in town!
When I lived there it was $5.25 lunch buffet (available till 3.30 pm or so). ALL YOU CAN EAT Chinese food, hibachi, and sushi. They say only take 8 pieces of sushi, but no one has every complained at taking more.... put a dollar in the tip jar and they will be more than happy to make you what you want!
I dont know that this is the most authentic asian food out there.... but it is very tasty! I used to go every single Sunday.
Such a great price for such a big selection!
it isn't a picturesque place, but you dont come there for the atmosphere really.
Favorite Dish: Philadelphia sushi rolls, or honey chicken!
- Budget Travel
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Los Compadres: All you can eat mexican!!!!
Los Compadres has multiple locations in Tallahassee.... One up on north monroe street, the other off pensacola street.
Unless times and prices have changed since i lived there, its $6.99 All you can eat on Wednesday nights. It is a really popular place to go and the food is said to be more authentic than most similar places. Whether you go for the all you can eat night or not, it is still a very cheap and filling choice.
It is not a buffet-- you just sit at the table and order as much as you want from a waiter as many times as you want and they will bring the food out to you! What more could you ask for!
The menu for the All you can eat is more limited than the standard menu, but it has all the basics you could want on it. You can always order from the standard menu (even on Wednesdays) if you want to.
Favorite Dish: I would particularly recommend the Chicken Quesadillas!
- Budget Travel
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Zaxby's Chicken: THE best chicken in a chicken-lovin' town
Tallahassee, like most of the south, LOVES fried chicken. Many places serve fried chicken, and its most recent incarnations, chicken wings and chicken fingers or tenders.
THE best chicken in Tallahassee comes from a relatively-new fast food chain, Zaxby's. Headquartered in Athens, Georgia, Zaxby's has now opened two restaurants in our city, with two more on the way.
While technically fast-food, it's not quite true at Zaxby's. They prepare the orders fresh as you order them, so there is a slight wait for one's food.
The great thing about Zaxby's is their quality and freshness. Hot, fresh and tasty, every time. They also have a wide variety of items on their menu, all of which are good.
Anyway, if you find yourself hankerin' for some chicken fingers in Tallahassee, or in the south..... give Zaxby's a try. It's by far my favorite place.
Favorite Dish: Their chicken fingers are hot, fresh and tasty. Ask to have them done "Buffalo style" for some extra kick.
Zaxby's also has some terrific salads, generally featuring chicken tenders, fried, blackened or buffalo style. They are huge, fresh and filling. They call them "Zalads". They've just brought back (by popular demand) their Ranchero Zalad, which features grilled or fried chicken, greens and a Tex-Mex twist.
The Bad Ass Coffeeshop: Another BAD ASS place for coffee and WiFi
Badass Coffee company is headquartered in Hawaii, and they feature the best of American-grown coffees. Smooth and satisfying, Badass' Kona rules as far as I'm concerned. I love the Kona au lait.
Badass also has various teas, smoothies, iced coffees and other treats. Cookies, muffins, sandwiches, wraps and salads.
And since they open at 6 am on most days, there are various breakfast sandwiches and such to accompany your cup of Badass Kona.
The website URL below (www.badasscoffee.com/) is the national website for Badass. You can purchase their coffees by mail, and the prices are reasonable. We buy ours locally at our outlet.
Favorite Dish: Duh! COFFEE.
I like the Kona au lait, 16 ounce size, with one sugar. :)
Badass also claims to have the best cookies around. They're huge and you'll see them over by a sign that says "Cookies, $2... who says money can't buy love?"
I personally prefer my wife's homemade oatmeal and golden raisin cookies...but for the store-bought kind, these are pretty good, too.
The Black Bean: Inexpensive Cuban food
The Black Bean is a simple little Cuban Cucina in Tallahassee, a place for some great Latin fast food. There may be a "millione" of these places in Dade County/Miami, or even in Tampa.. but they're less prevalent in far-north-Florida Tallahassee. We don't have anywhere near the Cuban population that exists down south.
The dishes at Black Bean are simple, well-prepared, authentic and quite inexpensive. They proudly advertise that EVERY menu entree is BELOW $8.
The outside patio can be nice on a summer's night, after some of the traffic on the parkway dies down. For a nice local newspaper review of THE BLACK BEAN, go to http://www.tdo.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060127/ENT03/601270304/1020
Favorite Dish: Fried plantains are wonderful. Black beans and rice. Authentic Cuban sandwiches. All good stuff. (Bring your Prilosec or antacid of choice on the Cuban sandwich!) Arroz con Pollo, all of the standard Cuban wonders.
As for dessert, I am a huge Flan fan. :)
Andrews 228: Andrews 228, home of the $5 martini!
Andrews 228 is another venture of Tallahassee's leading local restarauteur, Andrew Weiss. Among his past wonders are ANDREWS SECOND ACT and TUTTO BENE, which was absolutely THE best Italian place we've ever had in town. Both are closed now. But Weiss presently runs both ANDREWS 228 and ANDREWS CAPITAL GRILLE.
228 is a bit more upscale, featuring American and Italian dishes with a nice updating. Try out "lobster-cargot" as an appetizer. :)
228 is a great place for a special dinner...right downtown, and if the weather is nice, you can go for a walk after dinner.
Favorite Dish: EVERYTHING is good. They're mighty proud of their martinis here.... a sign at the door proclaims "the home of the $5 martini". They're quite good.
The "lobster-cargot" appetizer is good, as is the black olive tapenade crostini.
Andrews also features the Caesar Salad, a la "Hans". Hans is Andrew Weiss' dad.
The butternut ravioli sounds good, and if you're into seared tuna...they have the best. (never one of my favorites, but...)
You'll love the place. Enjoy and take somebody special to dinner there.
Po' Boys Creole Cafe: Cult following restaurants in Tallahassee, part 3
Po' Boys is another Tallahassee tradition, with a huge cult following. For years, folks who work downtown have enjoyed lunch and early dinner over at this Cajun cafe favorite on College Street. Located in the 200 block of EAST College Avenue, this is a place to find lawyers, politicians, criminals out on bail, bailiffs, students, homeless people and just about anyone else.
If the weather is nice, there's an outdoor patio to enjoy. And although I've never been there at night, I hear things can get pretty cranked up, especially on Saturday night. I'll bet that when the jukebox or occasional band plays "Jole Blon", it' sends the revellers into a Mardi Gras fit.
There are actually two other Po Boys cafes in town...one near FSU and the other is...can't remember. But the downtown one is the place we all know, knew and love.
Favorite Dish: They have lots of Cajun goodies, plus the usual collection of burgers, fries, chicken fingers, wings, etc.
I really enjoyed their gumbo, and the shrimp etouffe is good, too.
Nice selection of cold beer as well. I think they have DIXIE BEER, a New Orleans favorite. Get some of that with a pile of hot wings or maybe some Louisiana crawfish. Tasty and mighty hot!
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