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7 Local Tally Spots for When You’re Over Your Meal Plan

I’ve lived in Tallahassee since I was four years old. Say what you will about how we measure up to other cities, but when it comes to places to eat, we have something for everyone if you look hard enough. Whether you’re a senior looking for somewhere new or a freshman looking to escape Suwannee’s clutches for the day, this is your one-stop guide to off-campus eating. 

The Tried and True 

When I think of Tallahassee restaurants–especially those near downtown–these are the ones that come to every local’s mind. If you’re wondering where to start your off-campus restaurant tour, this is it. And if you’ve lived here as long as I have but need a refresher on classic spots, this is for you too. 

Coosh’s

Full disclosure—I’ve never actually been to the Coosh’s in Collegetown. But I’ve been going to their Northside location for as long as I can remember and their greatest hits are offered at both restaurants. From po’boys to crawfish, Coosh’s will make you feel like you’ve stepped into New Orleans for the night. It’s where I learned the difference between jambalaya and gumbo, and that I love both! With expansive outdoor seating and TVs to bring in college football season, Collegetown Coosh’s has a menu and ambiance fit for the Florida State student.  

Author’s Choice: BBQ Pork Po’boy 

Dining Options: Dine-in, Takeout, Delivery 

Gordos

Filled with vibrant colors, a tiki-style counter and graffiti-style lettering, everything about Gordos exudes life. You can’t go wrong with my go-to order: a Cuban sandwich, rice and beans. But while it’s the best Cuban sandwich I will probably ever find, that is barely scratching the surface of the Cuban staples that fill out Gordos’ menu. Outside seating and superb music choices blend with their affordable menu to make Gordos the classic hit that it is. 

Author’s Choice: Cuban Sandwich with a side of rice and beans 

Dining Options: Dine-in, Takeout, Delivery 

Hidden Gems 

These are your hole in the wall, side of the road and incomparable food and personality restaurants. Whether you’re looking to trade “southern charm” for a more indie disposition or explore Tallahassee’s tastiest secrets, these are the places for you. 

Voodoo Dog

You don’t have to say it—I know it looks like an oversized garden shed. But when you step inside, Voodoo Dog looks anything but small. Purple string lights and classic rock posters line the ceiling, while movie posters and (working!) arcade games like Miss Pacman line the walls. With 16 hot dogs and 9 hamburgers to choose from, Voodoo Dog has an extensive menu. But even more vast is the restaurant’s deep dive into 80s culture, making you feel like a Stranger Things character with the background music to prove it. Hot dogs ranging from about $3-5 and burgers all under $10 make Voodoo Dog a cultural and financial godsend. 

Author’s Choice: The Wake ‘n’ Bake Dog – a bacon dog, with melted cheddar cheese and a fried egg on top. 

Dining Options: Dine-in, Curbside, Delivery 

Midtown Caboose

midtown caboose restaurant

 

Midtown Caboose pushes you to rethink your definition of a burger. Does it need a bun? The “Oh Canada” begs to differ, offering pancakes or waffles instead. While I haven’t been so brave as to try the “PB&J” or “S’more Than Words” burgers, I do know Midtown Caboose is absolutely one of a kind. You’re also supporting a small business by going there—founding brothers Matthew and Adam Wells have been working together for 20 years in the restaurant business. You might have to save your money for this one—burgers, wraps and sandwiches start at $13—but the originality is well worth it. 

Author’s Choice: The Mac Daddy – a burger topped with mac-n-cheese, bacon, fried pickles and barbecue sauce. 

Dining Options: Delivery, Takeout 

El Cocinero

Inside, El Cocinero doesn’t look like much. Essentially one big open room, with American music playing through the speakers, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this taco spot. But everything fades away when you take a bite of their homemade tortillas and freshly made guac. With 14 tacos all under $5, you can come again and again and still be knee-deep in choices. And with current safety concerns, El Cocinero has outdone themselves in providing their customers with no-contact curbside and delivery options. You can read more about their safety protocols here.

Author’s Choice: Al Pastor with a corn tortilla – marinated grilled pork, grilled pineapple, fresh onion and cilantro. 

Dining Options: Curbside, No-Contact Delivery 

Local Legends 

If you’re looking to give back to the community by supporting small businesses, why not give back to the businesses supporting the community? Vegan options, farm-to-table, local artistry… These local legends are both delicious and an important part of the Tallahassee urban ecosystem.  

Sweet Pea Café

Sweet Pea Cafe exterior

I didn’t realize Sweet Pea Café existed until my roommate took me there last week. We went with a mutual and vegan friend, who was greeted with an exclusively vegan menu. Between black bean burgers, tofu sandwiches and daily vegan baked goods, Sweet Pea Café will become any vegan’s safe-haven. And they don’t stop at veganism when it comes to sustainability! Sweet Pea prides themselves on being farm-to-table, sharing on their website the local farms that supply them. They’ve also adapted to pandemic restrictions with ease, replacing indoor seating with an outside order area complete with twinkle lights, benches and an abundance of safety. 

Author’s Choice: Black Bean Burger with a side of Sweet Potato Fries 

Dining Options: Takeout 

Kool Beanz 

Kool Beanz Cafe exterior and parking lot

Though Kool Beanz is technically more midtown than downtown, it encapsulates the spirit of city living. They’ve covered their walls with bright orange and green paint, highlighting the eclectic talent of local artists by hanging their work everywhere possible. The menu changes daily, as a testament to Kool Beanz’s maximalist lifestyle: Eat, Drink and Talk Loud —You’re Among Friends! is their fitting maxim. Another motto they’ve taken to heart is the “Think Globally, Eat Locally” campaign, supporting local charities, farmers and food vendors. Their dishes are a bit on the expensive side, but don’t forget: by paying for a meal, you’re paying to support your community. 

Author’s Choice: The daily menu gives me a new favorite every time I go, but I’d look out for their new Sunday Brunch menu. Check out their sample menus here.

Dining Options: Dine-in, Takeout (Re-opening September 17th!) 

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