Tallahassee has its share of typical college fare, but the Capital City also boasts a vibrant dining scene. Talented chefs are pushing the limit, and everyone is benefitting. Here are 14 places worth discovering, whether you’re looking for goat curry, a great burger, or a vegan-tasting menu.Read More
Where to Dine in Tallahassee Right Now
Where to find the city’s essential restaurants
Café de Martín
The charming restaurant is the place to go for authentic Peruvian fare like ají de gallina, stir-fried beef lomo saltado, cilantro lamb stew, and homemade desserts (tres leches cake, for one). Chef and co-owner Martín Araujo Bohorquez, originally from Lima, has created a sweet setting filled with striking artwork and decorations reflecting Peruvian culture. Cafe de Martin recently opened an adjacent, full bar where pisco sours and occasionally live music are an added attraction. Patrons can also savor a refreshing plate of ceviche with a cup of cafe con leche under the shade of colorful patio umbrellas.
La Tiendita Mexican Restaurant
Nora Getz was born in Mexico City, and her husband, Sid, is a native of São Paulo, Brazil. Together, the couple share their native cuisines in an extensive menu that covers both countries. Nora creates elaborate entrees and sauces like the mole poblano recipe she learned from her mother. Popular dishes are all here, including much in-demand birria tacos, enchiladas, burritos, tortas, gorditas, quesadillas and fajitas. Find the most comprehensive selection of Brazilian fare on Friday night when diners can indulge in a Picanha steak or feijoada, the country’s hearty national dish.
Black Radish Bar and Restaurant
Diners have been raving about Black Radish since it opened in May 2022. Chef/co-owner Matthew Swezey takes a sophisticated approach to vegetable-focused small plates and housemade pasta. For those who prefer meat, there are a couple of large entrees like chicken roulade and rib-eye steak with sides. The menu changes seasonally, with ingredients from local farms whenever possible. Signature items include the crisp bubble potatoes with vegan smoked paprika aioli and chives, spinach tortelloni in a pesto cream sauce, and for dessert, the chocolate peanut butter icebox pie. The Black Radish bar features natural wines from vineyards using sustainable or biodynamic farming.
Gaines Street Pies (Multiple locations)
Gaines Street Pies is a top choice for a great pizza in Tallahassee. The business, started by two local guys who wanted to create a superior pizza, launched with a laid-back, comic book-themed establishment in a college town. Gaines Street Pies has grown to three pizzerias with the same fun menu choices, like the Freaks & Greeks pie with artichokes, Honey I Shrunk the Pigs Pizza with smoked andouille sausage, and the White Sword Pizza with chicken and pineapple in the Heroes and Villains section. Another option: Build a custom pie with more than two dozen regular toppings or 11 premium picks like roasted fig or truffle oil—appetizers, salads, sandwiches, and calzones round out the menu.
This inviting neighborhood bistro hits all the bases regarding its friendly atmosphere, stellar service, and flavorful fare, making it a prime spot for family visits. Executive chef and owner William Lawson prepares French, Italian, and Southern-inspired dishes in a white tablecloth setting that’s not stuffy. Diners often start with crisp artichoke hearts, charcuterie, or crab cakes, then move on to a seafood grill, braised short ribs, homemade pasta, or a Black Angus rib-eye. Lawson’s desserts include Grand Marnier cheesecake, French apple tart a la mode, and chocolate cherry tiramisu. The small bar is a local gathering spot, serving an international wine list, with 28 choices by the glass, craft beer, and sangria.
Kool Beanz Cafe
The slogan at Kool Beanz Cafe is “Eat, drink, and talk loud. You’re among friends.” The cafe’s convivial atmosphere is just one of the reasons the Midtown destination remains a local favorite. Originally from London, owner Keith Baxter opened Kool Beanz 27 years ago, creating eclectic menus which change daily. The primary influences are Central and South American and Asian. Popular dishes include black bean cakes; linguine with shrimp, mushrooms, and tasso ham; sesame-seared tuna steak; and mojo chicken. A full English breakfast, shrimp and grits, and crab cake Benedict are stars of Sunday brunch. Don’t miss desserts, especially the baked Alaska, created by talented pastry chef Sylvia Gould, a James Beard semifinalist.
Bird's Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack
Given its name, oysters naturally have a starring role at Bird’s, whether raw, steamed, or baked, but this local institution also serves one of the best burgers in Tallahassee. Other huge hits are the grouper, chicken, pulled pork sandwiches, and must-have onion rings. Bird’s is near the Florida State University campus and downtown, drawing both the Capitol and college crowds. Decorated with vintage music and movie posters, the place has a retro vibe, with a small stage reserved for karaoke, comedy, or live music. For a quieter vibe, grab a picnic table on the covered patio.
A lavish dinner at the upscale restaurant may be reserved for a parental visit, but the Huntsman offers early happy hour and late-night menus more suitable for a student’s budget. The menus change often but look for small bites like a beast (game) slider, charcuterie board, antelope ham grilled cheese, discounted cocktails, wine, and beer. On its dinner menu, the Huntsman serves game, steaks, fish, and vegetarian choices, but the specialty is the five-course meat or vegan tasting menu. The setting is classy yet casual, with bold paintings, a stylish, separate bar area, and soothing blue-green tiles.
This intimate restaurant and bar is housed in the historic Walker Library in downtown Tallahassee and was recently revitalized by the Seven Hills Hospitality Group. In its newest chapter, the beautifully preserved space is known for its book-size cocktail menu honoring mixology over 160 years. Drinks range from the Prescription Julep, and Sazerac concocted in the pre-1880s to current picks like a White Negroni or Trinidad Sour. Patrons also flock here for small plates like burrata antipasto, charcuterie, a frequently changing grilled cheese sandwich, and London Fog bread pudding for dessert. There’s only room for 36 diners, so it’s first come, first served.
A gleaming destination for fine dining, the Italian steakhouse anchors the first floor of a six-story building with tall windows overlooking the downtown Chain of Parks. Often the scene of graduation parties, as well as legislative power dinners, Il Lusso is known for its dry-aged steaks and chops, which can be topped with a lobster tail or salt-cured foie gras, seafood and Italian entrees like veal osso bucco. Housemade pasta can be ordered in less expensive half portions or a whole serving. Grazing options include fried octopus, Caesar salad, or the daily soup special. Creative desserts and an award-winning wine list help make for a memorable dining experience.
Chef Joseph Richardson and partner Lara Hooper are the hands-on owners of this cozy nook, a hidden gem serving standout comfort food with Creole and Southern accents. Lucilla’s packs in so many winning dishes diners find it hard to choose. Still, favorites include the fried oysters with a Big Easy-style cocktail sauce and champagne mignonette, pimento cheese fritters, grouper St. Charles with ribbons of crisp, sweet potatoes, and blackened chicken pasta. Add its thoughtful wine list, homemade desserts (the salted butterscotch pots de creme is a delight), its warm, welcoming atmosphere, and no doubt Lucilla’s is a keeper.
Aaru's Multicuisine Restaurant
Aaru’s serves one of the most intriguing menus in Tallahassee, delving into intensely flavorful Indo-Chinese and South Indian cuisine. Order a Thali feast at lunch, an array of Indian dishes served in small bowls that add up to a whole meal. The vast, regular menu includes varied dosas, Thai and Indian curries, and vegan and gluten-free options. Tandoori momo (stuffed dumplings), butter chicken, and a vegan platter are a few of the most popular items on the menu. Aaru’s dining room has a contemporary decor, but there’s also dining on the outdoor decks.
This vegan/vegetarian cafe is a haven for students, but diners of all ages fill the tables in this funky setting, decorated with fanciful murals and twinkly lights. Most of all, the appeal is the inexpensive, from-scratch menu and homemade bread. The banh mi sandwich, oyster mushroom po’ boy, well-sourced bowls, and Saturday and Sunday brunch items are favorites, along with quirky cocktails like Nick’s Scary Water and Strange Weather. Located near the Railroad Square Art District, the Bark picks up the pace after 9 p.m., with entertainment ranging from punk music to comedy.
Down-home soul food, gospel music, and a heaping dose of nostalgia are on the menu of this iconic spot across the street from Florida A&M University. Olean and her husband, Johnny McCaskill, have been serving their homey fare for 20 years in a no-frills dining room decorated with photos of family, FAMU students and athletes, Bible verses, and posters of Martin Luther King, Jr., and President Barack Obama. Customers line up to pick items from the breakfast and lunch buffet because who can resist the country-fried chicken, smothered pork chops, catfish, biscuits and gravy, and sides like black-eyed peas, greens, and mac ‘n cheese? You might leave with a big hug from Olean.