Southern Fiction Author, Infrequent Blogger & Retired Clown

Tallahassee Love, Part Two: Food

In case you missed it, Tallahasee Love, Part One: Football is available here.

Spend a few years in any city and you will quickly identify your favorite eating establishments. Some might be local and unique, others not, but they all hold a special place in your heart (and more importantly, your stomach).

Months before my college roommates and I returned to our beloved Tallahassee for some Seminole football, we started putting together a food schedule to ensure that we would be able to hit all of our favorite establishments in two and a half days. The food schedule was revised through  multiple emails until we finally reached the perfect balance.

I now present to you, the perfect weekend of food, Tallahassee style:

1. Backyard Burger: BYB makes a delicious bacon cheeseburger (with cheddar, as it should be, American is for rubes) and a side of waffle fries that beat out all other fast food burger restaurants (fast food in this case being defined as “has a drive-thru window” and therefore excluding Five Guys). We loved BYB so much that even though Tallahassee’s franchise closed before we left town, we knew we had to start our trip with an 11:00 a.m. pit stop in Gainesville, the closest Backyard Burger (it should speak volumes that four Seminole fans willingly went to The Swamp just for a taste of BYB…incidentally if we’d had more time we would have gone to the restaurant The Swamp which makes an even more delicious burger…it hurts me to admit that Gainesville has anything good to offer to anyone ever).

2. One Fresh Stir Fry: Fresh ingredients, stir fried together with the sauce of your choice while you wait–could there be anything better? It saddens me that it took us three years to discover the joy of One, but we made the most of it during our remaining time in Tallahassee. Select all the vegetables you want, your choice of starch, some protein, sauce, plus a topper and you’re set! It’s a ton of food, great for leftovers and it’s DELICIOUS. My combo of choice: White rice, corn, tomatoes, carrots, teriyaki sauce and scallions–amazing!

3. Po’ Boys Creole Cafe: Tallahassee’s geographical location gives it a fantastic mix of flavors including Southern comfort, Gulf seafood and spicy creole flair — all of which are available at Po’ Boys. My favorite thing on the menu, without question, is the fried pickles. If you know anything about me you know that I have thing about fried pickles and therefore am qualified to tell you that Po’ Boys fried pickles are the best. Not too greasy, not too much batter, just right. Their shrimp po’ boy is also excellent, but it’s worth the stop just for the fried pickles. Trust me.

4. Guthries: I wouldn’t call myself a germophobe, but I would admit to being more cautious than the average person where sanitary issues are concerned. I am particularly leery of eating establishments that seem like they wouldn’t pass a health inspection in Tijuana, but I make one noted exception (provided that I only go through the drive-thru and never NEVER set foot inside or so much as peer in a window). Only after dark (and especially after a football game) can one fully appreciate the glory of Guthries. It is an establishment built to meet the needs of two demographics that frequently overlap: Southerners and drunks. This is not a drive-thru where difficult decisions must be made — your only option is to choose the quantity of chicken fingers you want to consume (a box or bucket). Guthries takes care of the rest.

A few quick facts about Guthries: You will be in line for a minimum of 30 minutes, you will not be able to wait until you get home to start eating and you will want to pay the extra 25 cents for additional sauce.

Bonus story: Two years ago my roommates and I made our first post-grad trip to Tally for a game and swung through Guthries around midnight after a football game. While waiting for our food, we turned and gawked at the car behind us in which the passenger was completely passed out hugging a giant teddy bear, a girl in the backseat was wearing an eyepatch, and the driver (THE DRIVER) was guzzling Grey Goose FROM THE BOTTLE while sitting behind the wheel in the drive-thru line. These are just the kinds of things that happen at Guthries.

5. Waffle House: On our final morning in Tallatacky we funneled into the Waffle House closest to our hotel and tried not to think about how close the building was to reaching fire code capacity. Remember how I said I make one exception to my sanitary standards for restaurants? I lied, I make two exceptions. Though I’m 97% certain you can contract dysentery (and cholera and other Oregon Trail type diseases) just from touching a Waffle House menu, the food undeniably contains the world’s greatest cure for hangovers. My favorite thing about Waffle House (aside from the waffles) is the practiced plate mathematics of true Waffle House patrons. Four people with four All-Star meals yields twelve plates on a tiny table, which is why my friends and I have our plate combinations down to a science, thus allowing the necessary space for quickly and efficiently devouring our food. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ve never been to Waffle House.

6. Publix Chinese Food: Our final stop on the Tallahassee Food Tour of 2011 was the most nostalgic on our list. Though still stuffed with waffles, scrambled eggs and bacon, we could not leave the homeland without picking up some Publix Chinese Food (PCF) for the road. Only a handful of Publix grocery stores are lucky enough to have a chinese food section in their deli, and the Club Pub on Ocala Road happens to be one of them. Their bourbon chicken is the single best Chinese food entree ever made (make sure you ask them to pour extra sauce on the chicken and fried rice). Best of all for the college kid’s budget, a box will easily make two meals and even reheated (or inhaled cold while driving down I-10 toward home when you can’t resist the tantalizing smell anymore) this Chinese food is still spectacular.

I can’t wait to return to Tallahassee again. Maybe for a weekend…maybe for forever. The trip has left me with some lingering questions about my future, but more on that another time…

Later days,

– Shannon


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