If you’re looking for the best places to eat in Tallahassee, then look no further than these locally owned restaurants.
One of the benefits of being a resident is the abundance of great restaurants in Tallahassee. Particularly locally owned and operated restaurants. Below we’ve compiled some lists of some of Tallahassee’s top restaurants. And the best part is, every single one of them is locally owned. From Italian to Mexican, brunch spots to outdoor dining, the capital city’s food scene is bursting with flavor.
In fact, Tallahassee also is host to many amazing food festivals and events that occur throughout the year including the Greek Food Festival, the Jewish Food Festival and Brewfest. For more information about Tallahassee’s festival scene, visit our festivals & events page.
Top 5 Locally Owned Italian Restaurants in Tallahassee
Skip the Pizza Hut, Tallahassee! For locals in the mood for authentic pizza or pasta, any of these Italian eateries will hit the spot.
- Z. Bardhi’s Italian Cusine: Tucked away off Thomasville Rd in northeast Tallahassee you’ll find an Italian stucco building with a large, shady outdoor patio that’s surrounded by a garden of fresh herbs. Stepping into the establishment is akin to strolling through the streets of Tuscany…and the food is equally as delicious. With melt-in-your mouth meatballs and a wide variety of fresh seafood (the crab stuffed grouper is a local favorite), you’ll be sure to be back to this family-owned-and-operated restaurant time and again.
- Decent Pizza: With its grungy Seattle vibe, it’s no wonder Decent pizza is a favorite among the college crowd. Expect to hear Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins or Imagine Dragons playing over the speakers as you walk in. You can grab a seat at the bar, enjoy a beer on tap (try the Mango Wit if you want something local) and watch the pie-makers at work, or grab a booth with friends. While they sell whole pizzas, what they’re known for is their pizza by the slice – it’s HUGE! But you’ll just have to check it out in person because you don’t need a website when your pizza is better than decent.
- Tour of Italy: Do not let the strip-mall exterior fool you! Local residents, particularly those living in the northwest, love the Tour of Italy. As one of Tallahassee’s newest restaurants, when it hit the scene it exploded in the best possible way. Fresh ingredients, impeccable service, and almost too-good-to-be-true prices. Pro tip: don’t get the same thing twice because everything is delicious. Start with the Stuffed Shells Trio (or the eggplant parmesan for vegetarians) and work your way down the menu from there. It’ll be tough, but save room for dessert because the chocolate mousse cake is to die for.
- Riccardo’s Restaurant: This Italian restaurant has been a midtown Tallahassee favorite for more than 20 years, and while it’s their secret bread recipe that foodies love, it’s their customer service that keeps locals coming back for more. In fact, the owner’s mother, Tina, has even been known to walk babies up and down the restaurant so parents could get a few bites in!
- Bella Bella: When it’s time to celebrate, locals look for Tallahassee restaurants with private rooms, and the staff at Bella Bella knows how to throw a party in theirs. Most nights, you’ll see Amy Schwartz running the front of the house, while her brother and owner, Marc, makes magic happen in the kitchen. Enjoy the funky ambiance while chowing down on some of their famous bubble bread – it’s so addictive, you’ll have to come back a second time.
The Best Mexican Restaurants in Tallahassee
While Mexican-fusion joints are all the rage right now (check out Rankin Tacos) sometimes you just can’t beat the original thing. Here’s a list of Tallahassee’s top 3 locally owned Mexican restaurants.
- San Miguel Mexican Restaurant: With its unique roofline and bright yellow exterior, you can’t miss San Miguel. It’s located caddy-corner to Lake Ella off of North Monroe Street. Felipe Reynosa wanted to bring a taste of his hometown of Coahuila Mexico to Tallahassee so in 1995, he started the restaurant with his wife and 3 kids and he hasn’t looked back. The cozy “ranchero” style of the inside and the brightly colored tile tables that adorn the outdoor patio make a fun dining experience for locals and visitors alike. While there’s plenty of delicious items on the menu, the fish ceviche ranks supreme.
- La Fiesta Mexican Restaurant: Family-owned & operated since 1989, daily drink specials and weekly live music – what more can you want from a restaurant? La Fiesta is located on Apalachee Parkway, which is easy to access from all sides of town, making it the perfect place to meet for happy hour or celebrate a birthday. With a large outdoor patio and multiple private dining rooms, locals love to celebrate at La Fiesta.
- Cabos Island Grill & Bar: If Jimmy Buffet wasn’t hanging out in Key West, he’d be in Tallahassee, hanging out at Cabos. Offering an eclectic mix of Mexican dishes and fresh seafood in a surfer-style setting, you’ll feel like you’re on island time when you step inside. This laid-back vibe comes from the proprietors, Mike Ferrara and Bobby Staerker. Their motto is “Don’t think bucks, think people”. The philosophy has certainly paid off. Cabo’s has grown from a tiny taco spot in 1987 to a booming business that grossed over a million dollars last year. But regardless of size or profits, the food remains as delicious as the first day they opened. Go big and get the Ultimate Wet Supreme Burrito.
3 Local Seafood Restaurants In Tallahassee
The Gulf of Mexico is located just 22 miles from Tallahassee, which means there’s plenty of fresh seafood available year-round. Many local restaurants serve grouper, shrimp, and oysters, but 3 of the top seafood restaurants in Tallahassee that locals love are listed below:
- Shell Oyster Bar: tucked away just off of Monroe Street on the south side of town is a little gray building your eyes would miss if you weren’t looking for it. But local residents know to look because Shell Oyster Bar serves the best oysters around. Established in 1945, the establishment has served mayors, governors and well-known politicians. But no matter who you are, you’ve got pay in cash because they’re too busy focusing on cooking up amazing seafood to deal with credit card machines.
- Bird’s Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack: The humor doesn’t stop with the name at Bird’s Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack! This local “dive” has been serving up raw oysters, fresh grilled grouper sandwiches and lots of laughs over the years, thanks to their stand up comedy nights. The menu is filled with little quips in between the items. It’s the perfect place if you have a non-seafood eater in the group because their burgers are as delicious as they are large.
- Leola’s Crab Shack: For a true southern seafood experience, locals head to Leola’s. For over a decade this family owned and operated restaurant has been serving up crab legs, shrimp, fried grouper and mullet with all the sides you’d expect in the south. You can get most items fried, but they’re known for their signature garlic butter sauce – perfect for dipping crabs, corn and hushpuppies. And if you can’t make it to their brick and mortar location you’re in luck! Leola’s food truck can be found at many of the festivals and events that occur around the city.
Top Tallahassee Restaurants for Brunch
If you’re looking for the best places to eat in Tallahassee, then look no further than these locally-owned restaurants. From cozy little eateries to funky restaurants with outdoor seating, there’s plenty of delicious brunch options in the capital city.
Go casual in a traditional diner-style atmosphere, enjoy the freshness of a farm-to-table meal or enjoy an ever-changing menu from the capital city’s creative chefs.
No matter what your breafast fancy is, there’s one thing for sure, no matter where you go, you’ll be sure to love every bite!
- Backwoods Crossing: For a fresh, farm-to-table breakfast, look no further than Backwoods Crossing. Started by 2 brothers who grew up on a farm in rural northwest Florida, it’s no wonder they take such pride in their plates. The Tallahassee community loves to support locally owned establishments, so this restaurant is a win-win, since they source all their fruits, vegetables, meats, and seafood from local farmers. Try the Seafood Heaven platter: blackened gulf shrimp, cream cheese stuffed crab balls with Bradley’s sausage, and cheddar grits.
- Liberty Bar: The 7 Hills Hospitality Group has a number of restaurants throughout town, each with its own distinct style and flavors. But what makes Liberty Bar, located in the hip, midtown Tallahassee area unique is that caters to two crowds. Head there after work for happy hour or visit on the weekend for a delicious brunch. You’ll love the upscale southern classics like chicken & waffles or shrimp and grits. With food this good, expect a wait. It’s easy to manage with a freshly made mimosa in hand.
- Madison Social: Originally known as a popular college kid hangout, Madison Social’s reach has extended beyond the 21-year-old crowd and into an establishment that people of all ages enjoy. The reason is simple: the menu. Owner Matt Thompson is constantly changing up the offerings and they just get better with every rendition. Their funfetti pancakes are a fav of instagrammers and eaters alike. And speaking of Instagram, this is a restaurant you definitely want to follow on social media – as much for their food pics as their witty clap backs.
- Grove Market Cafe: Another fresh local favorite for brunch is the Grove Market Cafe. Enjoy items like the Avocado Smash or the Greens, Eggs & Ham bowl. They are as instagrammable as they are appetizing.
- Country Kitchen: Country Kitchen is the quintessential local diner. And although it has the same name as a popular chain, once you try the food you’ll taste the difference. Enjoy hearty portions of pancakes, oversized grilled biscuits, and omelettes as big as your face. While they don’t have a website (yet!), their 600+ Google reviews from satisfied customers should be enough motivation to check them out.
Best Tallahassee Restaurants with Outdoor Seating
One of the things that makes Tallahassee unique compared to the rest of the state is, due to its location, there are 4 distinct seasons. With a long, cool fall and a breezy spring season, residents appreciate all of the outdoor dining options available throughout the city. Here are our top 4:
- Kool Beanz: With more than 35 years in the restaurant industry, 20 of which have been spent running Kool Beanz, Chef Keith Baxter knows how to whip up a good meal. His interesting sauce & spice combinations has Tallahassee residents coming back for more. Kool Beanz is a popular lunch spot, and thanks to its large, cooled outdoor patio, the wait is rarely more than a few minutes. The restaurant recently opened a private dining room, which is perfect for engagement parties or business dinners.
- Jeri’s Midtown Cafe: Jeri’s motto is “Love on a Plate” and that’s what you get when you dine here. The quaint courtyard is filled with eclectic furniture, giant umbrellas and lush, shady plants. You’ll often find Jeri herself walking among the tables, greeting guests with a smile. When you go, save room for dessert. The nutella bread pudding is too good to pass up.
- Bumpa’s: Having opened in 2018, Bumpa’s is relatively new to the Tallahassee restaurant scene. A sports bar interior with glass garage doors that open to a spacious, covered patio, make it the perfect place to grab a bite with friends over the weekend or grab a drink after work. Upscale bar food is what locals have come to expect. There’s a number of appetizers that are perfect for sharing. Try the beer cheese pretzel or the wagyu beef sliders. Wash it down with a Funky Buddha Floridian. Yum!
- Mo Betta BBQ: Mo-Betta BBQ, which has been serving smoked spare ribs, chopped pork, beef brisket and chicken for 12 years, tantalizes customers with ‘cue so good it will “Break Yo Mouth.” That’s the slogan touted by Billy “Mo” Hollaway, who owns and operates the barbecue business with his wife, Nicole. They operate out of a food truck, so enjoy BBQ in the breeze.
Tallahassee's Dog Friendly Restaurants
With more than 600 miles of trails and 88 city parks, it’s no wonder that locals love to bring their furry friends along on their daily activities. Of course, this includes everyone’s favorite activity – eating! Tallahassee has many options when it comes to dog-friendly dining. Check out a few of the local favorites below.
- Wells Brothers Midtown Caboose: Brothers Matthew and Adam Wells dreamed up Midtown Caboose, which became a reality in 2014 and since then, a staple in Midtown Tallahassee. While known for their unique mix-up of ingredients (ever heard of a PB&J burger?) the other thing that locals love is the giant dog friendly deck. It’s covered, so you and Fido will stay cool during the hot summer months.
- Canopy Road Cafe: Canopy Road Cafe is the only chain you’ll find on this page. The reason it’s included is because their flagship restaurant was right here in Tallahassee. Canopy has 3 locations around town for locals and they’ve also expanded into Tampa and Jacksonville as well. They pride themselves on their delicious, diner style breakfasts – you will NOT leave here hungry. Canopy Road is also pet friendly, so if the pancake stack is larger than you expected, you can toss one over to your furry friend.
- Milano Pizzaria: If you thought the days of a $5 lunch was gone, think again. Head to Milano’s for lunch, where you can get 2 slices of pizza and a drink for $4.95. And on most evenings, you can sit outside on their patio and enjoy live music, with your pup by your side. Now that’s a treat.
- Uptown Cafe & Catering: Fred and Beth Tedio have ran Uptown since 1983, where they serve healthy, homemade meals to a diverse clientele base. Being located next to the hospital, plenty of folks from the medical field pop in regularly. It’s also a favorite for the midtown, hipster crowd thanks in part to its large, dog friendly patio. When you go, you must try the apricot glazed smoked salmon omelette – it’s a fav among humans and dogs alike.