This is the 2nd in a 3 part series about the breweries, restaurants, and things to do in Seminole County / Orlando North. For more info see Part 1: Beercation? Take a look at Orlando North/ Seminole County, FL – Within a stone’s throw of theme parks Don’t forget about the upcoming (soon!) Sanford Beer Week (an entire week of events!) November 15-22, 2016.
Food, glorious Food!
I don’t know about you but in today’s lean economic times, I’m more careful about my discretionary spending – especially when it comes to eating out at a new restaurant in a new locale.
Before I get in the car, I do research (internet, Facebook foodies groups, Better Business Bureau, plus online reviews (lots!), advice from friends and family.) It’s time-consuming, but I remind myself that it increases the odds of a good meal. Given the myriad of factors happening behind the scenes at a restaurant (servers, ingredients, kitchen staff, day of the week, time, etc.) having a great meal sometimes seems to be more luck, than science.
UNTIL NOW… When I was invited to a 3 day FAM trip in September (tourist jargon for FAMiliarization trip…) courtesy of DoOrlandoNorth.com/Seminole County Tourism, and Paradiseadv.com (thank you to Roseangela Santiago for Orlando North, Seminole County Tourism and Mary Jane Kolassa, Public Relations for setting it up!) I discovered Food Worth Going out For! Without exception, I had some of the BEST FOOD ever in Seminole County… and I’m thrilled to share my finds with you!
What’s so Special about Seminole County for foodies and families?
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Seminole County is a combination of upscale, active, fun places with a down-home-authentic-FL-vibe (think “tropical suburbia”) and similar to a northeast U.S. village/ suburb with better climate and more affordable prices!
Sanford and the other villages I visited reminded me of New Haven, CT (with old-fashioned-country style downtown areas housing modern boutiques, restaurants and bars within walking distance of each other.) The area is ideally suited for couples, families, and business visitors who want relaxation combined with great food, glorious sunsets and Florida charm.
Where it’s worth going out… in Seminole County
Restaurants are like movies – every one has a story and a unique angle and the restaurants and bars listed here shared one thing in common: passion for the overall dining experience from customer service to fresh ingredients to unique presentations. (Warning, food pics ahead!)
Here a few of the best in Seminole County:
Tennessee Truffle – BREAKFAST AND LUNCH
Address: 125 W 1st St, Sanford, FL 32771
Phone: (407) 942-3977
Hours: Tues-Sat 7:30 am – 2 pm
My quote: “EVERYTHING I SAMPLED HERE WAS INCREDIBLE!”
Much like its namesake vegetable (the first bulb to pop-up in springtime,) newcomer restaurant Tennessee Truffle, started out as a pop-up restaurant experience for which demand quickly outgrew the occasions. Now that owner and executive chef, Nate Russell, has signed a 6-year lease, Tennessee Truffle has found a permanent home as a brick and mortar kitchen and restaurant.
There were so many interesting dishes on the menu (it would have been tough to choose only one!) so it was heaven when Nate proposed sample sizes of a few signature dishes (some pictured below) and ended with Buttered popcorn ice cream (made on site) and the Chocolate Gravy biscuit.
My personal favorite was the Florida citrus cured salmon – refreshing, fresh and slightly tart (everything I tried was delicious!) Most menu items allow for sampling (Cream corn & grits $4.50, The next time I’m in Sanford, I’ll definitely make this a stop!
Notable notes about Tennessee Truffle: Decor is unpretentious, clean and homey; restaurant is family friendly (with a special kids menu); staff is approachable (patient with questions!); and there are fun touches (you can draw on the tables with chalk – provided!) You can even buy their specialty coffee and pickled ramp to take home. Beer (local FL craft and domestics) and wine are also available.
Crepevine – BREAKFAST, LUNCH, DINNER
Address: 249 FL-436, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714
Phone: (321) 972-8999
Hours: Sun-Thurs 7:30 am – 9 pm ; Fri/Sat 7:30 am-10 pm
My quote: “BEST PLACE FOR MADE-TO-ORDER CREPES AT GREAT PRICES.”
Crepevine lives up to its slogan “fast, fresh, friendly” with fresh, as-you-wait crepes ranging from savory to sweet – with an innovative selection of flavor combinations – or – you can choose your own. It reminded me of similar restaurants I’ve only seen in London (UK) and Scandinavia where freshness and natural ingredients are prized.
Breakfast crepes (11 special ones) are served until 11am M-F and until 2pm on weekends, but the variety of crepes filling options available all day (5 fruits, 5 cheeses, 7 protein/meats, 10 veggies, and 11 sauces) plus an array of sweet crepes (such as kloob nika: banana, fresh straw berries, kiwi, whipped cream and nutella for $7.29) and even salads (all reasonably prices at 6.99.) — the combinations give an almost endless array of possibilities.
Prices range from $4.99 for a full sized custom veggie + egg or protein + egg breakfast crepe to $12.29 for the “annihilator” (chicken x2, bacon x2, turkey, cheese x2, mushroom, green pepper, onion, spinach, lettuce, and topped with trifecta sauce!) There’s also a children’s crepe menu (turkey or grilled cheese or PB&J or ham and cheese) priced at $3.29.
Bottled beer (yes, craft!) and wine are available (mimosas and crepes, yumm!) The kitchen and the entire restaurant was pristine clean (I love that) and the staff all seemed happy to be working there (unusual in FL!) Outdoor, dog-friendly seating (a staff member even took a dog dish out to patrons!) is also available. Don’t miss this one!
Notable notes about Crepevine: Dog-friendly patio, Gluten free crepes upon request, Friday night special (buy 2 savory crepes, get a free nutella crepe after 4pm on Fridays), take out orders available, children’s menu, beer/wine/champagne.
Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe – LUNCH, DINNER
Address: 205 E 1st Street, Sanford, FL 32771
Phone: (407) 321-2204
Hours: Sun-Thurs 11 am – 9 pm; Fri/Sat 11 am-10 pm
Magnolia Square Market (A True German Deli) – Sun-Thurs 10 am-7 pm, Fri-Sat 10 am-8 pm
My quote: “YOU WON’T FIND MORE AUTHENTIC GERMAN FOOD ANYWHERE.”
Proprietor and chef Theo Hollerbach started the restaurant and bar 15 years ago (15 year anniversary Aug 1, 2016) and continues his German family tradition as a 5th generation butcher and chef.
The food was varied (see the slide show for a few of the traditional dishes Theo serves up), tasty and absolutely authentic (he knows his stuff!) German pride is evident in the food, decor, beer (both bottled and on tap,) ciders, Schnapps (a wide variety!) and traditions including the Schunkelabend nightly live entertainment Thurs-Sun.
Theo remarked that his restaurant packs in regulars ranging in age from 5 to 95 – with a cadre of regulars who frequent the restaurant for the food as much as the entertainment and German brews. If you’re looking for authentic (and delicious) German fare with a side of fun, Hollerbach’s is a great choice.
Notable notes about Hollerbach’s: It’s a family affair with Theo’s wife and daughter working at the restaurant. The beer list (that’s my forte) is impressive and features both draught and bottle choices. The outdoor seating expands the restaurant by approximately 40% and the venue is suitable for large family, team or corporate events. Down-home German cooking! (And if you’re here during October, be sure to stop in for the two day annual Sanford Oktoberfest at Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe.)
The Magnolia Square Market (literally around the corner from the restaurant) is one of the area’s largest and most extensive German markets with fresh sausage, cheeses, and desserts made on premise, as well as non-perishable delicacies from overseas. If you’re looking for direct-from-Germany food items, you’re likely to find it here.
The Town House Restaurant – BREAKFAST, LUNCH, AND DINNER
Address: 139 N Central Avenue, Oviedo, FL 32765
Phone: (407) 365-5151
Hours: Monday – Thursday 6:00 am – 10:00 pm
Friday – Saturday 6:00 am – 11:00 pm
Sunday 7:00 am – 10:00 pm
My quote: “THE BEST LITTLE (WITH LOTS OF SEATING) DINER IN FL ”
Owner Leigh Ann’s obsession with chickens is just part of the local charm and down home goodness of The Town House Restaurant. It’s no wonder this place is a favorite with locals and tourists alike. Leigh Ann mentioned that their regulars are as close as family – especially the ones who eat every meal there (and staff will drive by their home if they don’t show up for dinner, just to make sure they are okay!)
The family atmosphere extends to the staff – their names are on the tables they serve, and the restaurant is a close-knit part of the community. I dined at breakfast and had one of the best Florentine Benedict’s I’ve ever tasted. It was large, fresh, and the hollandaise was pure heaven. Unusual for a diner, Town House has several craft beers on tap (who doesn’t like beer for breakfast!) I’d definitely come back to try their lunch or dinner specials based on the atmosphere (everyone in local government and the community dines here!)
Notable notes: Bar stools at the counter create a cordial atmosphere for singles, and the place is open, airy and suitable for families and groups. No outdoor dining but the large windows overlooking the bike and nature trail give a great outlook regardless of the weather.
Lonnie’s Fusion Cuisine – LUNCH AND DINNER
Address: 124 N. Fourth St., Lake Mary, FL 32746
Phone: (407) 878-5804
Hours: Mon – Sat 11:00 am – 9:00 pm, Closed Sundays
My quote: “BEST CHOICE FOR A DATE NIGHT OUTING OR SPECIAL OCCASION”
While typically the term “fusion” implies Asian inspired dishes, owner and chef, Lonnie, describes his Fusion Cuisine as being “Caribbean French with sauces.” The result is a menu of innovative dishes with the freshest ingredients available anywhere. For example, Lonnie sources his seafood from the local fish market across the street daily and creates his menu based on availability of the fresh catch. His buttered spinach was incredible (worth the visit itself!) as was the Grouper on Black Eyed Pea Cake with Citrus and Poblano Peppers. My mouth waters just thinking of it.
The restaurant features mostly affordable (yet unique) wines, as well as half a dozen local craft beers on tap. Other group members remarked favorably on their pork and other meat dishes, which all paired well with Lonnie’s featured wine (see pics below.) Lonnie’s is ideal for a romantic date night or a small group (it’s not a large place) with indoor and sidewalk patio seating. It’s a nice refuge for a quiet dinner, with a sports bar next door if diners are meeting up with a group or favoring a touch of sports to accompany a post dinner nightcap.
Notable Notes: Freshest ingredients, with innovative and flavorful taste combinations. Great date night venue (upscale yet affordable) with comfortable outdoor seating.
Smiling Bison Restaurant – DINNER
Address: 107 S Magnolia Ave, Sanford, FL 32771
Phone: (407) 915-6086
Hours: Tue – Sat: 5 pm to 10 pm with Happy Hours: Tue – Sat 5 pm to 6 pm
My quote: “SMILING BISON WILL HAVE YOU SMILING EAR-TO-EAR WITH A SATISFIED BELLY”
The farm-to-table reputation of Smiling Bison carries through to its rustic decor – chic yet reserved with lots of natural wood. The food and menu carry through with fresh vegetables and high quality meats. Portion sizes are large and shareable, savory (delish) and innovative.
The general atmosphere was friendly and reminded me of rustic, open plains, Colorado style restaurants – and the Bison Steak was incredible: rare, lean, tender, and so so good! We tasted many different appetizers and main course offerings and everything we tried was fresh, fresh, fresh!
Notable Notes: Craft beer and wine are available to pair with the food. While there is no outdoor seating (at least in front), the restaurant is open and airy with high ceilings. Food is fresh and tasty – and a definite stop before heading out for an evening of bar hopping or brewery visiting in Sanford!
Vinzo’s Italian Grill and Pizzeria – LUNCH AND DINNER
Address: 1006 State Road 436, Casselberry, FL 32707
Phone: (407) 331-9090
Hours: Mon-Sun 11 am – 10 pm
My quote: “UNPRETENTIOUS ITALIAN WITH AUTHENTICITY”
If I lived in Casselberry, I’d be a regular at Vinzo’s both because of the food and the approachability and passion of the namesake owner. Staying true to a solid gourmet lineup of Sicilian family recipes (Lobster Ravioli, Eggplant Parmigiana, Chicken Cacciatore, among many others!), Vinzo’s outdoes itself in presentation and taste.
Just seeing the pics and remembering the savory and rich tastes (I especially love the heartiness of fresh mushrooms in Italian dishes!) makes me hungry even if I’ve just finished a meal. Located in a strip mall next to Bowigen’s Beer Company (a favorite and featured in my last post) – I know I’d be spending time and expanding my waistline (willingly!) at Vinzo’s.
I can almost smell the aroma !
Notable Notes: Great for takeout and dining in – the wait staff are friendly and knowledgeable (and patient with questions on the menu,) and bottled beer and wine (wine is their specialty) are available. I would say, hands-down, this was the best Italian I’ve had in a long time (including my recent visit to Italy in May!) Worth a drive for a date or a family outing!
I don’t know if I could live in Seminole County without gaining weight because all of these restaurants would be on my list of favorite haunts!
Please let me know what YOUR experience is like when you visit. Happy fooding!