Super Perros

photo 1According to their website , Super Perros was started by two Colombians selling hotdogs and hamburgers out of a street cart. Though they’ve stayed true to those roots, they also serve up some genuine Colombian cuisine. Their menu (make sure to have your volume all the way up for maximum enjoyment) is extensive, offering a full line of hamburgers and hotdogs, as well as ceviche, parilladas, churrasco and vegetarian options.

photo 2I don’t think any restaurant has a better location than Super Perros. At the corner of W. Tennessee and Ocala, it has better visibility than Doak-Campbell. Flanked by two heavily shaded patios, the inside can best be described as garage sale chic meets latino cafe. They’ve got a couple monitors rotating through different menu options, as well as a TV playing what I assume was Colombian soccer. The cooler has beer and a full line of South American soft drinks.

Bandeja paisa

Bandeja paisa

I ordered the bandeja paisa, which must mean “meat plate” in Spanish. Get a look at it. Chorizo sausage, thin-sliced rib eye, deep fried pork belly (chicharon), egg over easy, iceberg salad, fried plantains, rice and beans. Our server said it was the most authentic Colombian dish, but that was probably by virtue of it having the most Colombian food in a single plate.

Arepa with cheese and beans.

Arepa with cheese and beans.

Sara ordered a spinach empanada to start. She also got an arepa, which is some kind of ground corn flat bread. We finished our meal with a breaded, fried cheese stick filled with guava nectar.

We’ll be headed back to Super Perros in the future, definitely for some food and probably some cheap beers ($4.00 for a pitcher of Miller Light) on the patio.

Super Perros on Urbanspoon

Tienda Mexicana

photo 2

I’ve always had great experiences at restaurants operating out of abandoned gas stations.

We haven’t been able to find any taqueria-style mexican eateries since coming to Tallahassee. That changed today.  Tienda Mexicana has been serving lunch at the corner of Blountstown Highway and Capital Circle SW for about three months. It’s probably one of the best kept secrets in town, known only to latinos, construction workers on the Cap, and a growing cadre of hungry college students. 

Don't be afraid.

Don’t be afraid.

To say the building is nondescript isn’t doing the word justice. The woman running the place, Eva, said they’ve been working to get signage up but it’s been raining too much lately. Neon sign holdovers in the windows allude to a convenience mart, but don’t be fooled: they serve food! The menu is fantastic. The corn tortilla shells are hand made as are the tamales, which is no small feat.

Always trust a restaurant when their menu is on a white board.

The Friday menu.

Tacos with rice and beans.

Tacos with rice and beans.

I got the 3 Tacos Special. Taqueria style tacos generally include just onion and cilantro with lime on the side, but Tienda Mexicana also offered tomato and lettuce for gringos. Besides chorizo and al pastor, I got tongue on one of the three tacos. All three were delicious. On a not-so-hot day, I would have gone for menudo or caldo de rez, two traditional Mexican soups. Eva said they make tamales fresh on Saturday and another weekday. She said they always run out, which you’ll know to be true if you’ve ever had homemade tamales that only cost $1.50.

Las cocineras

Las cocineras

The cooks were happy to see I licked my plate clean. Eva and the girls are definitely working an under-served market. I believe they are just open for lunch but she said they were considering a breakfast buffet Saturday mornings. They’re on Yelp! and Urbanspoon, so make sure to write a review when you go!

Tienda Mexicana and Taqueria on Urbanspoon

Spring Creek Restaurant

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The outside of the restaurant. If you have trouble finding it, you won’t be the first or last.

Nestled deep in southern Wakulla county is a little gem called Spring Creek Restaurant. Our food comrades Chuck and Bill suggested checking it out this past weekend. They said it was reminiscent of the southern country dining they grew up on (Bill actually grew up in New Jersey, but let’s not let the truth get in the way of a good story). In fact, going there IS like going back in time.

Murals never go out of style.

Murals never go out of style.

Though actually part of Crawfordville, Spring Creek is a gulf town just north of Oyster Bay. It has maybe ten streets and twice as many houses. According to their menu, Spring Creek Restaurant has been doing business since 1977. The place has a huge limestone fireplace, wood paneled walls, and an all-around country motif . On each table sits a jar of croutons, imitation bacon bits, and ranch salad dressing in a wine bottle. The words “modern” or “fashionable” will not come to mind, but therein lies its charm.

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Tomato pie with grilled shrimp and a baked potato.

Shrimp, mullet, oysters, soft shell crab, and even Florida stone crab claws were all available when we went (check out the menu here). For starters, we got a salad that came out as half of a head of lettuce with whole vegetables in a stainless steel bowl that you get to prepare yourself. Don’t like green onions? No worries, just don’t put them in. Sara ordered the tomato pie and shrimp. If you’ve never had tomato pie, it’s a real treat. Imagine pie crust filled with the ripest tomato,  fresh basil, onion and cheese that’s baked ’til piping hot. Without a doubt, it was the highlight of our meal. I ordered the All You Can Eat Quail or Catfish, because why not? The idea of unlimited quail and catfish struck me as very funny since neither is particularly easy to come by. They brought me two. Of each. To start.

Sunset in Spring Creek.

Sunset in Spring Creek.

After dinner, we took a leisurely walk around the town. Near what was possibly a general store we found a boat launch that we walked down to catch sunset by the water. Chickens, dogs and cats all approached to greet us. A dog licked a cat on the head. It’s that kind of place.

Spring Creek Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sweet Grass Dairy Cheese Shop, aka heaven

This past weekend we (Abe and I, and our friends Chuck and Bill) made our not often enough pilgrimage to Thomasville, GA to have dinner at Liams.  While we were planning our trip, we decided to also stop at the Sweet Grass Dairy Cheese Shop for a cheese board and some wine before dinner.  Sweet Grass Dairy (SGD) is a local cheese-making-family-run farm which makes award winning, and very importantly, super tasty cheeses.  The SGD family decided somewhat recently to open up a very comfortable and welcoming store and restaurant, selling and serving some foodie delights.

Go in. Trust me.

The Cheese Shop is a neat mix of store and restaurant, with an eclectic mix of seating options from square and round tables to large tables for communal dining and a bar, all around displays of food, wine and cheese.

There are hanging chalk board menus with up-to-the-moment availability of wine, beer and cheese, as well as a paper menu of sandwiches and such.  We were there a little late on a Saturday night, and as such there had clearly been a run on alcohol before us limiting us just a little, but the options available earlier were varied and  interesting.  Good American craft beers and international wines.

I really want to go back and try a sandwich or three

All the cheese platters looked interesting, but we really want to stick with SGD cheeses so we picked the Taste of Thomasville with some additions (see all the cheeses they sell here).  We ended up having the Thomasville Tomme (which a burning question of how that is properly said was finally answered.  Like tome, not tom which is what I had been calling it), the Lil Moo (buttery spreadable cheese, amazing with preserves), Black Swan (beer washed gouda varietal), Clayburne (a winter cheddar), and Pimento Cheese (which is my cheese obsession right now).

The board! From the top left around, Tomme, Pimento, Black Swan, Clayburne, Lil Moo

Our cheese board came out on a piece of slate with a good helping of salted crackers and local pecans with honey (cue the north vs. south argument about how to properly pronounce this nut).  I really enjoyed all the cheeses, but given my obsession, the pimento cheese was probably my favourite.  I can’t even properly describe the flavour now that I think about it, as I attacked it in some sort of zealous haze.  Oops. The pecans paired exceptionally well with the Black Swan, which had a great Gouda flavour but I admit I didn’t pick up the beer like I maybe should have.  The cheddar had a slight aged bite, but was overall an easy to eat and like cheddar. The Lil Moo was really good (I like me some spreadable cheese), but keep in mind if you are serving it you will want to pair it with a preserve of some kind, it is more buttery than flavourful on it’s own.  And finally, the Tomme is always wonderful, and FYI, it’s available at both Earth Fare and New Leaf (and others I bet) here in Tallahassee, so try it if you haven’t!

Our server was very knowledgeable and friendly, and quick to get us fresh wine ;).  Thomasville is well worth the trip from Tallahassee, and I really recommend ending your shopping day at the Cheese Shop for a beverage and some cheese, or one of the amazing looking sandwiches for a hardier meal.  Or frankly, I loved the place enough to go to Thomasville just for it.

Sweet Grass Dairy Cheese Shop on Urbanspoon

Birds Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack

Someone is excited to eat!

A great debate had been brewing about where the best burger in town was. I had thrown my weight behind Birds Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack, partly because they had great burgers but also because it’s one of the few if only places near campus you can get raw oysters too. Coincidentally, our friend Julia (@BookishJulia) had been going on about how good the grouper sandwich was. We decided to head over on a Friday and see if, in the immortal words of former Arizona Cardinals head coach Dennis Green, they were who we thought they were.

Oysters anyone?

Birds ranks with some of the finest dives I’ve been too. At the corner of Tennessee and Bronough streets, it may look like a picnic table patio bar to the uninitiated. Things don’t get much better inside, where the aroma of stale beer and industrial-strength cleaner greet you. The floors are painted concrete and a beaded curtain serves as the entrance to the restroom area. On a positive note, the place is adorned with some cool, old memorabilia.

What Birds lacks in looks it makes up for with food. It’s more than a notch above typical bar fare. First off, did I mention they serve raw oysters? That’s no small undertaking for a place largely staffed with twenty-somethings (apologies to responsible twenty-something oyster shuckers) . We ordered a dozen straight away and made quick work of them. Due to the time of year, most oysters we had in recent weeks were a bit on the puny side; these were considerably larger.

The best, if only, grouper sandwich this side of Monroe.

Because the menu is not extensive, it has allowed Birds to hone their craft, which is why they get high marks for their sandwiches. It should be mentioned that birds only serves oysters and four different sandwiches (menu here). Where they get creative is with the toppings. Sara and Julia ordered grouper, both with blue cheese. I got a blackened hamburger with lettuce, tomato, onion and peanut butter.* The list of toppings and spices is substantial. Sara and I split the burger and grouper. Both were fantastic. I wouldn’t recommend blue cheese on the grouper as it is quite overpowering. The burger was really phenomenal. I still think it’s the best in Tallahassee (disclaimer: I haven’t been to Monks).

You don’t need to see the burger goodness to know it’s there. Just trust me.

Birds Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack is and will continue to be a Tallahassee landmark in my book. If you are a lover of oysters and burgers or grouper, then you’ll be in for a treat!

-Abe

*I didn’t get peanut butter on my burger, but I would if I didn’t have to share!

Bird's Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack on Urbanspoon

Tijuana Flats

Warning: interior design may cause seizures.

Not many Tex-Mex chain restaurants in Tallahassee are worthy of recognition. Tijuana Flats on Mahan is the exception. Knowing there are only so many ways to spin tortillas, cheese, beans, and meat, they put their energy into other areas that keep people coming back for more.

Hot sauce, compliments of the house.

We went to Tijuana Flats on a recent Tuesday with our newest food allies: Ashley, Mindy and Susan. Talk about VIPs. Not only did the whole wait staff know them by name but knew exactly what food to bring them at our table! It seemed as though everyone was a regular there. The waitresses scurry around like worker bees in a hive. Our waitress didn’t let two minutes pass before she would ask if we needed anything. As first time guests, we got a free basket of chips and two salsas. The manager stopped by to check on us. Upon hearing the salsa bar didn’t have Mindy’s favorite hot sauce, he ran to the back and got her a complimentary bottle. The staff and management get a ton of credit for making this place work so well.

Two tacos on Taco Tuesday

The highlight of the trip for me was definitely the hot sauce bar. They probably had just under 20 hot sauces available, some so incendiary that they carried a warning! The sauces’ heat range from “sissy sauces” to “death wish”. The hottest sauce I could find on the bar that night was one called Green Ghost, which was made from the renowned Naga Bhut Jolokia hot pepper. For you hot sauce aficionados,  it clocked in at an impressive 1.2 million scoville units (jalapeno pepper=5000 scoville units). Heat is definitely my thing, but for those of you with more sensitive palettes, they have some wonderfully sweet, tangy, tingly sauces. Though not all are available at the hot sauce bar, here is a list of the hot sauces they sell.

Tijuana Flats also does two theme nights a week: Taco Tuesday and Throwback Thursday. You can get two tacos, chips and a drink for $4.99 every Tuesday. For $5.99 you get a burrito, chips and a drink on Thursday. A word of caution: both the restaurant and website share a form of avant-garde comic book decor that is very un-Tex-Mex. Just go with it!

-Abe

Tijuana Flats on Urbanspoon

I have a new love. And it’s Shell Oyster Bar

I knew I would love this place.  I really did.  It had all the right possible ingredients I tend to like.  No.frills.local.oyster.bar.seafood.joint.  And boy, did I love it!

I’ve tried to go before.  It just has crazy hours (to this girl at least.  I have never lived in a city where places can actually afford to stay open only during lunch!!!).  Oh, and before I forget, it’s cash only!

As part of some restaurant homework that I *have* to do (more on that another time), I finally made it there during normal hours.  I was running between meetings across town, and I happened to catch Abe also running across town at a time where we both could grab lunch.  Shell is behind a Subway off of South Monroe (114 East Oakland Avenue), in a random back alley parking lot attached to a mechanic in a former gas station.  Don’t question it.  Just make a parking spot for yourself and get in there.

One part of the outside (don’t go in there, like I tried to)

And now I’m actually reading the hours on the handy menu they gave me when they heard it was my first time there.  And in fact it is not as restricted as I thought!  M-Tr: 11-6; Friday: 11-7; Saturday: 11-6.  So, there you go.  Lots of great seafood eating time!

The other half of the outside (the part you are supposed to go in)

Practically every person who walked into the restaurant was greeted by name, and everyone else was quickly hello-ed.  In general, this place dishes up incredible good ol’ southern charm service (see what I did there?).  The guys serving us genuinely wanted to make sure we were comfortable and had what we needed.

It’s me! At the bar

We sat at the bar, but there were tables to sit at as well.  I was immediately served up a dozen raw oysters on a tray with homemade cocktail sauce and the other normal items  to help one eat delicious, delicious oysters.  Oysters are just starting to come back into season (ish), so they are small right now across town.  But these ones were tasty and fresh :).  I’m used to getting Apalachicola oysters around these parts, but we were told these were from Spring Creek.  Abe swears that the oysters tasted less salty than ones we have had before.  Maybe it’s the location they came from.  Maybe it’s in his head.

Moving on, the cocktail sauce was a little more on the BBQ sauce side of flavour, rather than a ketchup flavour, with only very mild horseradish.  If you like the nasal kick, you will want to get extra horseradish.

I bet you thought I was kidding about the tray bit

We also ordered some steamed Cajun spiced shrimp. They were very fresh tasting, and the seasoning a touch spicy and finger licking tasty.

Shrimp-tastic

Finally, we got a lunch basket with fried oysters (my bad, I meant to say scallops, but I got confused while eating oysters and ordering at the same time).  The lunch basket came with the half and half tea I was drinking (score!), hush puppies, fries and coleslaw.  As a note, there were lots of other side options other than what we got, like beans, or cheesy grits, or macaroni salad, or you get the point.

Fried goodness

Now, I’m normally a pretty healthy, non-fried food eater, and I usually like my seafood not fried.  But I will always go to Shell’s if I have that hankering.  Because they did fried good y’all (did I use that right?).  The batter on the oysters was crispy, thin and flavourful.  Not oil soggy at all.  They must heat their oil nice and hot and keep it clean.  Or they have some other trick.  Because, damn.  The fries, certainly a frozen variety, also tasted awesome because of the same great oil treatment!  And the coleslaw was creamy, but not too mayo-ey (says Abe, that doesn’t exist to me, the lover of mayo), and of the type I always remember from my childhood of family treat nights of KFC.  The hush puppies were probably the most disappointing thing, they were okay and just typical.  No fun added flavours inside.

Overall, check it out folks!  It’s worth a drive for lunch, I think it’s the best seafood in town.  I want more now.  And the service was so friendly and welcoming, that doubly makes me want more now!  Just as a note, this was not a cheap *lunch*, but it was well priced seafood.  And we got a lot of seafood, and frankly seafood isn’t cheap anywhere.  But this will be fresh seafood, well worth the lunch treat!  I’ve had more expensive, and much worse.  Okay, I really want more now.

Shell Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon