Welcome to another edition of Tallahassee Foodies Pro Feature! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I did not start this group because I’m a foodie (whatever that means), I started the group so that I can learn from those that know more than me, which was actually very little after chasing two little kids around for years! So who’s our pro this week? If you don’t already recognize the name, allow me to introduce you to Ryan Chavers, a pro at our foodies group! Ryan always has stand out recommendations, so I invited him to do what he does best at our Facebook group, break down his top 5 for all of us. Just work your way though this list… you’ll thank him later! I’ll let Ryan take it from here…
I was born in Tallahassee and have lived here most of my life. My folks fed me regularly, so eating turned into a daily habit that I can’t seem to kick. Fortunately, I’ve found some great places to get my fix over the years. These are a few of my favorites.
1. The BARK - Tofu Banh Mi
This list was really difficult to narrow down. Ultimately, the deciding factor was whether I could get the same dish made as well anywhere outside of Tallahassee. I honestly can’t imagine a better version of this sandwich. Seriously, everything about it is as good as it gets. You get pan-fried tofu, pickled carrot, cucumber, fresh sliced jalapeno, scallions, vegan mayo, sriracha, along with peanut and sweet pepper sauces. Arguably the biggest star of the show is the bread, a pillowy baguette that turns everything it holds into a small miracle. Don’t let the fact that it’s vegan keep you away, I’d totally take on that diet if I could always have this sandwich. By the way, for my people with a sensitivity to it, there’s a gluten-free option as well.
2. A Bird’s Burger
Bird’s Burgers (seasoned with Bird’s special spice) topped with bleu cheese, jalapeños, and onion rings. Most people who wind up in Tallahassee aren’t around for very long. While folks I know who’ve passed through over the years tend to miss many of the same things here, the burger from Bird’s Aphrodesiac Oyster Shack consistently tops the list. I’ve been a few places and had some great ones, and I’m so glad that I don’t have to live without it.
There’s a lot to be said for doing a simple thing exceedingly well. A hamburger ain’t all that complicated, but Bird’s takes it to another level. The patty is on point; a sizeable 10 oz., juicy and flawlessly seared to a standard medium every time, then slapped between a grilled bun capable of maintaining its constitution ’til the last bite. You can choose from a list of typical and less conventional toppings to add on to their meaty masterpiece. What I think sets them apart, though, is that you don’t really have to. A plain, unadorned burger can hold its own as the best you’ll have anywhere.
3. The Leon Pub - A Pitcher Of Guinness
Probably not a place many would consider for a list like this, but I assure you that a pitcher of Guinness is most definitely a meal, and there’s no other place I’d rather enjoy one (or more) than Midtown’s longest-running bar. Admittedly, it makes the cut mostly for sentimental reasons. I think that counts. I’ve had some of the best times of my life here with some of my favorite people, many of whom I met while draining pints and filling the ashtrays until closing time. Drank away plenty of bad times by myself, too. Whether I’m on top of the world or at the end of my rope, a cold one at the Pub has been a reassuring constant since I’ve been old enough to get in the door. The beer just tastes better there.
4. Lucilla - Snapper St. Charles
Along with offering what I consider the ideal fine dining experience, Lucilla represents what I love most about Tallahassee. I have plenty to say about that, but in the interest of brevity, I’ll stick to my favorite dish.
I’ve never had anything on the menu at Lucilla that I didn’t love, but the Snapper (sometimes grouper) St. Charles is what I have the most difficulty not ordering. Every ingredient’s flavors and textures play off the others perfectly. Resting on a cloud of creamy mashed potatoes, the headliner is a generous helping of fresh, lightly seared fish, piled up with lump crab meat and crunchy pecans, bathed in lemon butter, and topped off with crispy sweet potato ribbons. It’s unbelievably rich with the right amount of sweetness and a little bit of acidity to round things out.
They offer curbside pickup and I’m happy to say that a to-go order holds up just fine on the way home. Also worth noting, their excellent wine and beer (I really enjoy the MIA Mega Mix pale ale with this dish) selections are 40% off right now. It’s ideal for date night dinner, family meal, or if you simply want to treat yourself – and you should!
5. Wilbury - Wings (Gnarly Hot) with Alabama White Dipping Sauce
Many a fine chicken wing can be had in our little berg, but the folks at The Wilbury go the extra mile to make my favorite. It’s a country mile, for sure, and they clearly add a lot of love along the way. Brined, slow-smoked, then flash fried to order, the result is about the tastiest wing I’ve ever enjoyed, moist on the inside with just the right amount of crunch. I’m a big fan of the spice, so I always get them tossed in the “gnarly hot” sauce, made in house with plenty of heat that never compromises its incredible flavor. The Alabama White dipping sauce is its own unique thing, and it’s outstanding, too. Also doesn’t hurt that they have a solid list of beers and cocktails to wash it all down.
Full disclosure: I work here. It has no bearing on my opinion, which I had long before the job. I am not receiving any compensation for this beyond the joy of guiding you to chicken wing nirvana.
Cabos – Fish tacos
Essence of India – Lamb korma (extra hot) and bullet naan
Gordos – Lechon Asado + Gordo Smash
Khufu’s Smoke House – Ribs
Kool Beanz – Duck (preparations vary, but I like the version with blueberry compote best)
Olean’s Cafe – Fried chicken w/ greens and mac n cheese
RyRy’s Kitchen – Rib Candy
Sahara – Lamb kebab + dolmades + pistachio baklava
San Miguel – No. 1 lunch combo (with chicken) + toreados
Siam Sushi – Tom kha + udon pad kee mao or the braised short ribs (tie).
Village Pizza – Eggplant Florentine
Ryan Chavers is a Social Media Marketing and Management Specialist, local musician, and sometimes artist. We are inviting guest bloggers to share at TallahasseeFoodies.com in exchange for some social media link love. Ryan opted to link out to some local charitable causes instead of his business social accounts. Thank you, Ryan!
Please consider contributing your time, resources, and financial support to the following: the Kearney Center provides food, shelter, and support services for our neighbors experiencing homelessness: https://kearneycenter.org/donate/
The Going Places Street Outreach Program offers services and resources to remove youth from the street and put them on the road to self-sufficiency. https://www.ccys.org/programs-at-a-glance/going-places-street-outreach/
The mission of Refuge House is to provide direct services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, and to their children and families, as well as to eliminate such violence through community education and public advocacy. https://refugehouse.com/support/