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Day 220: Stroll over to Grazie’s for some pizza

26 Sep

I’m a quarter Italian but I like to think of myself as a full-blooded “giovane donna.” I could live off a pasta-only diet, I make a lot of wild hand gestures, and to my WASP-y husband I often find myself exasperatingly saying “I’m not yelling. I’m Italian!” So I was thrilled when a Italian pizza and pasta shop called Grazie’s opened up a half-mile from my house. I made the ten-minute walk the second day it was open to sample the carmelized onion and goat cheese pizza. I really dug the way the shop embraced the Italy concept. Everything was in red, green and white, from the menu to the Grazie’s sign. They had a pizza oven, but also quite a few pastas, salads and sandwiches available. Grazie’s also has a small bar area with Italian wines and beer to sip. Seating options were a bit limited – a few tables inside and outside. I ordered my pizza to-go and it came quickly and was delicious. (Though not quite as good as my top three – Decent, Rummy’s and Riccardo’s.) There are a few cons, too. It can get smoky inside on a busy night, and the busier it gets the longer the wait. I went back a few nights later and ordered a different pizza. It wasn’t quite as good, which I chalked up to busy, distracted pizza boys on a Friday night. Try stopping by Grazie’s on a weeknight and definitely eat outside. It’s pretty kid-friendly, with a “bambinos” menu.

Address: 3196 Merchant’s Row Boulevard

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Day 218: Grab some grub at Food Truck Thursday

22 Feb

One of the things I miss most about Austin is the abundance of delicious food trucks that can be found, it seems, on every street corner. I was thrilled to learn that the food truck phenomenon had arrived in Tallahassee. Every Thursday a half-dozen food trucks squat in a tiny sliver of asphalt and grass between a Burger King and laundromat on Tharpe Street, across from the Lake Ella Publix. It’s not easy to find parking. I probably illegally parked behind the laundromat and my husband parked across the street and walked. The clientele was, for me, the highlight because of the entertaining people-watching. It was mostly college students, who lugged their BYOB wine and talked about such weighty topics such as who was having a party on that particular night. There were also some young families and kids running around. I got pizza from an impressive-looking truck with pizza cooked over a fire. I have to say, though, my pizza was not that great. The dough was thinner than a cracker. I wish instead I had gone to Street Chefs, where they have a grown-up grilled cheese that I heard is awesome. There was also a burgers/fries and Cuban food truck, a cupcake truck from Lucy and Leo’s, a chicken and waffles truck, and a Philippine-food truck. Overall, I’m just excited that Tallahassee is taking a step in the food truck direction. I’m hopeful they find a better location soon with picnic tables. Which brings me to my last point – bring chairs. Or else you will be sitting in a parking lot.

Address: Tharpe Street, near Monroe. Across from the Lake Ella Publix.

Day 212: Crack open a stone crab at St. Mark’s

6 Nov

Every year in October, the small town of St. Marks hosts the Stone Crab Festival. We have noted St. Mark’s popularity before as a place to eat fresh seafood and gaze at the St. Mark’s River. The Stone Crab Festival puts on display the rustic atmosphere and country charm that you can pretty much almost always find at this tiny hamlet. Most definitely, it features all the typical North Florida festival wares – tents filled with candles, soaps, knick-knacks and FSU memorabilia. But it’s really great for some very entertaining people watching. We saw long-haired Harley riders, young moms toting babies on their hips, and some folks wearing fashions that I thought had disappeared 20 years ago. Guess we were wrong. No matter what, if you love seafood, this is the festival for you. Besides stone crab, you can get blue crab, boiled shrimp, oysters and more. It seemed that most people chose to purchase buckets or plates of stone crab, and to my surprise, they spent a good bit of time whacking at the crabs with blocks of wood to crack open the tough shell. The activities produced quite a cacophony: hammer-like bangs that sounded like a house under construction. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much more to see or do beyond the stone crab. Our travel time there and back from Tallahassee was longer than our stay. I think if you had kids to entertain, you might stay longer given that there were stands with cotton candy, sno cones and other kid-friendly entertainment, such as moon bounces.

Address: Downtown St. Mark’s

Day 211: Eat and laugh at Bird’s Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack

22 Oct

This week was my first stop at Bird’s Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack, which sits in a rustic space near the Greyhound station in downtown Tallahassee. It was Wednesday night — Comedy Night! I chuckled, a few times. But frankly, the comedians weren’t quite ready for prime time and my table of friends was more interested in our own conversations than what the stand-up rookies had to say. We were a little rude, I’m sure. But I’ll be back – and probably again on a Wednesday night because the food was good, the price wasn’t bad, and the entertainment was worthy considering that there wasn’t a cover charge. I ordered a dozen steamed oysters, and they were pretty tasty and nicely sized. Still hungry later, I shamed myself and took in a burger. It’s a build-your-own burger-the-way-you-like-it kinda place. At request, mine came piled high with a plain treatment of lettuce, tomato, pickles and onion, along with some fries. The walls at Bird’s are covered in pictures, posters, album covers and signs, and the bar looked to be a restive place to hang out with a few TV screens nearby. Some nights there’s karaoke. Other nights they have bands. So don’t be fooled by the name, Bird’s is far more than an oyster shack. Beware that the menu is limited though it’s slightly broader than just seafood. And this isn’t a shack. There’s indoor and outdoor seating, and obviously on the right nights, a fun-filled group of patrons and friendly staff. –Mark Hollis

Address: 325 N. Bronough Street

Day 209: Order a slice at Three Guys From New York Pizzeria

29 Sep

Tennessee Street is the students’ playground, populated with cheap, moderately satisfying fare like Mr. Roboto and Momo’s. Three Guys From New York Pizzeria fits right in to this scene. The pizza joint is small, with just a few tables and an open kitchen where tattooed men sling pizzas in the air. The menu offers more than pizzas. They have salads, calzones, spaghetti, and all the usual suspects of a basic Italian restaurant. The greasy pizzas are pretty good – not the best in Tallahassee but certainly not the worst. I’m no expert, but I think it hits pretty close to the mark on being a New York-style pizza. You can order by the slice or a whole pizza, and they also deliver to a limited area. They are open to 11 p.m. most nights and also have gluten-free pizza.

Address: 1814 West Tennessee Street

Day 206: Eat the sweet potato pancakes at Canopy Road Cafe

28 Aug

At the suggestion of a reader of this blog, I ventured to Canopy Road Cafe for a Sunday brunch with my little sister. This simple cafe has two Tallahassee locations. I tried the Northeast location off Kerry Forest Parkway, tucked into a brown shopping center with a church and karate studio. The cafe is simply furnished and very kid-friendly. Canopy Road scored immediate points with me for the promise of “we serve breakfast all day.” The menu was a smorgasbord of breakfast delights, from regular pancakes to omelettes, waffles, french toast, and chicken fried steak. They are especially known for their sweet potato pancakes, which come dusted with pecans and cinnamon honey butter. The pancakes were very delicious indeed, with the sweet potato flavor adding a nice zest to the pancakes. The best part about the meal were the prices. Unlike other upscale brunch locales in town, our meal cost about $15, including the hot chocolates we ordered. They also serve sandwiches and salads, but if you ask me breakfast is where Canopy Road shines.

Address: 1913 North Monroe Street or 4500 Shannon Lakes Road

Day 204: Savor the European brunch at Liam’s

20 Aug

Liam’s is probably the best restaurant within a 100-mile radius from Tallahassee. From exquisite cheeses brought in from all over the world, to a sumptious pork tenderloin soaked in a tasty brown sauce, Liam’s knows food and cooks it very well. I’ve made the 45-minute trek to Liam’s for a dinner and brunch and both times walked away raving about the experience for weeks afterward. Example: I had a fettucine alfredo that was literally the best pasta I’ve had in my life and the chef whipped it up for me at the spur of the moment because I’m a vegetarian. But I’d like to highlight their brunch because it is very unusual and delicious. Liam’s offers a European brunch on Saturday mornings. Unlike your American-style brunches, the European brunch doesn’t have pancakes and toast. Instead, they offer items like “croque madame,” which is ham and gruyere cheese, dipped in egg and sauteed in butter, topped with a fried egg and mornay sauce. You get a salad or fresh fruit with almost all of their breakfast items. They also have beignets which I have no doubt are amazing. You can also try their cheese plates at breakfast or dinner, which were truly incredible. Mark had what he called “the best cheese I’ve ever had” on this $13-plate of cheeses from France, Italy and the United States. It was worth every penny. One thing worth noting is Liam’s wait staff is top notch. Both times our waitress knew the types of cheeses inside and out, where they came from, how it would taste, and what to pair it with. She also knew the wine and craft beer list inside and out, and when they were out of the beer Mark requested, she suggested a similar, but still tasty, replacement. I can’t say enough good things about Liam’s. It is perfect for a special occasion because it is a little pricey. Definitely make reservations on a weekend.

Address: 113 E. Jackson Street, Thomasville, Georgia