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Tallahassee, FL


laniloa
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Back from a scouting trip of my soon to be hometown. The good news is that it isn't quite the culinary wasteland I thought it would be. The bad news is that there is some fabulously bad food.

Kool Beanz -- This looks more like a casual cafe/diner type place but the menu had an eclectic blend of Cuban-Caribbean-Southern and a touch of Asian. I had a spicy creole shrimp dish that was very tasty. I had a great chat with my waiter (the staff was heavy on the college-town-alternative types) who said the menu changes often and the dinner waits can be long. I can easily see myself at the counter many, many evenings even if it isn't exactly near my office or home.

Cafe Cabernet -- I was looking forward to this place as it came recommended by two independent sources. It is an appealing space with a huge bar and many bar tables that make this place half lounge, half restaurant. They had a far more extensive wine list then any other place I saw. The liquor selection was also extensive (I counted 32 scotches and 17 tequilas). The food was disappointing. When you order a jump lump cracake you expect something resembling lumps. This was more like pureed and I just couldn't get past the texture. The garlic sauteed veggies were in a pool of oil without a hint of garlic.

Scales and Tails -- OK, I admit it, I went here because of the name. This is one of many Florida-style seafood places. The jumbo lump crabcakes here had definite lumps and a nicely spiced remoulade. On the side were lightly battered and crispy onion rings that didn't get soggy by the end of the meal. Yep, a nice light meal.

Paradise Grill -- Another Florida-style seafood place. It sort of looks like someone's screened-in porch. It was, shall we say, weathered. As were many of the patrons. The blackened Gulf shrimp were fabulous. Nicely spiced and served with lemon and cocktail sauce. Also on the side was some of the best coleslaw I've ever had. It was very lightly dressed and the veggies hadn't started to wilt even though they were shredded pretty finely.

Mon Pere et Moi -- This is a well-hidden little chocolate shop and cafe. The cafe serves weekend breakfast, M-Sat lunch, and Saturday dinner. I had a moist blueberry muffin with streusel topping warm out of the oven for breakfast this morning. Sour cream in the batter gave it the moisture boost and a nice tang. The chocolates are made on site and looked marvelous. I'll be back.

Mozaik -- The decor was wonderful, the food was not. I had a fried green tomato salad with spinach, bacon dressing. It was really bland. How can something with bacon be bland? Many of the mains seemed too fussy with too many "featured" ingredients in one dish. My sense was you'd loose the great characteristics of each in the mix. I've been told to give this place another chance. Stay tuned.

Sonny's BBQ -- This is a 37-year old Florida-based chain. The cars were backed up in the parking lot at 11:45 for the start of the lunch crowd. I had the pulled pork which was nicely smoked but a little mushy. My waitress confided to me that the sliced pork is much better. I wished she'd said something when I ordered! There are a selection of sauces on the table and I liked the smokin' sauce that was heavy on chipotle the best. The coleslaw was serviceable and a nicely grilled and buttery corn cob. I love sweet tea with BBQ and they serve it no kidding around sweet in about gallon size glasses.

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So I've moved. Big deal. I can post here because I'm still intrepid.

I've had some spectacularly bad meals here over the past few days while I'm waaaaiiiiitttting for my stuff to arrive. There were the unbelievably overcooked and rubbery shrimp served with canned green beans and boiled bacon at Crystal River Seafood. The servers here must have all graduated at the top of their class at slow school. They were practically moving backwards.

The food at Manna sounds wonderful but I wouldn't know because the front of the house is so horribly run that I had to leave. The 20 minute wait stretched into 45 minutes when I started to feel dizzy from hunger. At 1 hour I gave up. I'm thinking takeout from their market might be the better way to go.

The bright side is still Kool Beanz. The people here might get to know me very well. I had a wonderful duck with a blackberry port glaze, garlicky (and they mean garlicky) escarole, and mashed potatos. The dessert was a very dry, clearly not housemade chocolate cake with poached pears and chocolate chantilly cream filling. It was interesting but (gasp) I'll probably be skipping dessert here in the future.

Stay tuned.

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Had a great barbecue lunch today at Banjo's. From the outside, it looks sort of like a fast food restaurant. Inside, it looks like 1977. I'm sure the soot covering the ceiling tiles was at least that old. Not letting that phase me, I took a seat at the empty counter as I didn't want the Sunday buffet in the dining room. I had a pork sandwich on garlic bread with coleslaw. The cook/counter waiter pulled a chunk of pork from the walk-in holding pit (that is the best way I can think of descibing this massive brick room with multiple trays of meat being kept warm) and had at it with a cleaver. Added some Carolina-style vinegar sauce to the meat and piled it onto the toast. It was smoky. moist, and a very nice mix of charred end bits and juicy middle pieces. Served with a side of fried corn. I'd never had fried corn before but the cook assured me it was the way to go. The ends were very crispy and tasted like Fritos while the middle was juicy and sweet. Where has this been all my life?

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I hear Carrabas is a happening spot for the local diners!

In the scary but true category, this place has a one hour wait every single night. Big problems with neighbors because of all the cars overflowing the parking lot.

Words I never thought I'd say -- this town could really use a Cheesecake Factory.

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I'm striking out left and right in Tallahassee so I thought I'd post about a barbecue joint I went to in Macclenny (exit 335 about 35 min west of Jacksonville). I figured more people might recognize an I-10 stop then the town of Macclenny. Plus, it is a highway I frequent.

I've seen the sign for Woody's on several trips to Ponte Vedra but never at the right time to stop. Meetings ran long on this trip putting Woody's in my path at dinner time. I'll be stopping again. The place was packed at 7:30 on a weeknight -- a very good sign. I sat at the counter and took my very efficient but still friendly waitress' advice and ordered the sliced pork plate. She asked if I wanted lots or little ends. I went for lots. My plate was piled nicely with slices of nicely smoked but still moist pork with plenty of charred end bits. They serve 4 squirt bottles of sauce and I went for the Carolina style which was more mustard then the vinegar-type stuff JG brings to the picnics. Still tasty. The fries were a soggy mess but the greens were tender and full of bacon. Unlike the soggy and not at all garlicky Texas toast a lot of places around me serve, this was toasted, garlicky, and made from sesame seed Italian bread. Rounded out with a half-and-half tea in a replace all your bodily fluids size. After some really sorry cue in Georgia the week before, this was much, much better.

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Awfully long time has passed but I have finally found another place worth writing about. That's right, 10 months without a meal out in this town worth mentioning. Feel my pain.

Had a great meal at Masa on N. Monroe street on Monday. Split an order of crab wontons to start. Three large wontons with big chunks of lightly dressed crab. No hint of grease on the wrapper. A spicy-sweet chili dipping sauce that I skipped because I wanted to taste crab.

I had the salt and pepper shrimp for my main. Nice size portion of just right shrimp stir fried with slices of peppers, zucchini, squash that still had a hint of crispness. In more of a broth then a sauce with a nice hit of garlic and pepper. My companion had a thai chicken breast that disappeared mighty quickly. Had a glass of Bonny Doon Pacific Rim Riesling with mine and I'm not sure what he got.

Appetizer, two glasses of wine, two entrees for $60 including tax and tip.

There were a number of (more expensive) house specials (duck breast with chili glaze, a yuzu pork tenderloin) that I'll try next time. Simple was calling my name this time.

Even better news -- I have a line on another place that shows promise.

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Not so sure how helpful this will be, but I remember quite enjoying the fried pickle slices at Po'Boys in Tallahassee. It's apparently a chain, but for a cheap beer and good fried appetizers craving, might be worth checking out. Of course, this was a couple years ago, so it might be completely irrelevant now.

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Not so sure how helpful this will be, but I remember quite enjoying the fried pickle slices at Po'Boys in Tallahassee. It's apparently a chain, but for a cheap beer and good fried appetizers craving, might be worth checking out. Of course, this was a couple years ago, so it might be completely irrelevant now.
I'll check it out and report back!
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Pleased to report that I had a very pleasant meal Thursday night at Food Glorious Food on Thomasville Road. They are part bakery - part catering - part restaurant. The weather was gorgeous so I sat outside in what is essentially a strip mall courtyard but the trees and second story iron balcony helps you pretend it isn't. I had a lovely potato-leek-crab soup to start. It needed an extra shot of pepper, but was light, rich, and had plenty of crab. I followed that with a fried green tomato salad. Calling it salad was generous. It did have some mixed greens under the 3 thin, lightly battered and not greasy tomato slices, but they were more garnish then salad. It came with 3 chilled shrimp, a sprinkling of goat cheese, and a horseradish dressing. I thought the goat cheese was overkill as the horseradish dressing provided the necessary creamy-tangy contrast. I would have liked more zip to the dressing but overall it was well prepared and nicely presented.

What I'm learning about this town is that the few restaurants that try something more ambitious don't exercise enough restraint. Rather then build upon flavors to highlight on a single plate, they seem to want to try something new and different in each component of the dish (main with two sides) and it is just too busy. I want to pull one or two ingredients off each dish.

I have a lead on another place to try next week!

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A year since my last post about this town. So sad.

Mon Pere et Moi has been re-made into Sage. They still have the chocolate business inside and I highly recommend picking up an assortment. This place aspires to be more then its appearance would lead you to believe. Who cares, the food is good so look past the the oddity of eating a $22-32 entree (tres expensive in this town) in what is basically a coffee shop. They also have a decent by-the-glass wine list with about 30 choices including actual rose and not white zinfandel listed as pink wine.

After a brutal day dealing with absolute nonsense from the legislature (these people are trying to kill me), I headed here for some TLC. I had an absolutely wonderful duck breast that was melt in your mouth tender. It was served with an anise-pinot noir reduction, haricot verts, and wasabi mashed potatos. I had a glass of pinot noir my server recommended and left somewhat restored.

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