Food & Drink

Eat Like a Local in Tallahassee

Pastry chef Sylvia Gould shares her favorite places to dine and drink in Florida’s capital

Some of Sylvia Gould's favorite bites in Tallahassee.

Last year, when the pastry chef Sylvia Gould learned she was a James Beard semifinalist, she was stunned. Not only was it her first time receiving such an honor, but it was the first time anyone in her adopted hometown of Tallahassee had been up for the award. But if you ask Gould, she certainly won’t be the last. 

“The Tallahassee food scene has grown significantly over the last twenty years that I’ve lived here,” says Gould, who moved to the city for college and never left. “It’s eclectic and broad—big enough you can find what you are looking for with a Southern hospitality vibe.” 

Kool Beanz Cafe, where Gould oversees the pastry program, was on the forefront of that revitalization when owner Keith Baxter opened it in 1996. Gould joined the team first as a server, and then as a self-taught baker, pulling from her Vietnamese and German American heritage and love of experimentation to create a constantly rotating pastry menu that keeps customers on their toes. “I adore changing the menu to introduce spicy, salty, earthy flavor combinations with the sweet,” she says. “Some of my favorites are the Latin and Asian-inspired desserts such as sticky coconut cassava cake with brûléed bananas, pandan ice cream, Thai basil panna cotta with satsuma-habanero sorbet, and salt and pepper cashew brittle. I also just love making anything I can torch.” 

That type of innovation she displays on her dessert menu is spreading throughout Tallahassee. “Just in the past five to seven years, it seems local restaurants, microbreweries, and food trucks are popping up everywhere,” Gould says. “To see all the love and support of these new restaurants is really wonderful, especially through this pandemic.” 

If she’s not eating at home (she and her partner are both chefs, after all) or Kool Beanz (where she recommends the lamb shank, whole pompano, or pork belly appetizer), find her at one of her favorite spots in Tallahassee.

La Tiendita Mexican Restaurant
1840 N. Monroe Street 

“Nora and Sid Gertz took over La Tiendita in 2017 and are wonderful and passionate. They serve food inspired by Mexico and Brazil, their native countries, and the restaurant is really intimate. I get their cow cheek tacos, gorditas, posole, and tacos de birria. I sometimes order their house-made sangria to drink. They grind their own chiles and spices and make their own tortillas. They put a lot of love in their food.”

Birria tacos at La Tiendita.

Vertigo Burgers and Fries 
1395 E. Lafayette Street 

“I love their Vertigo burger with the soft fried egg, bacon, and jalapenos with a side of onion rings.” 

photo: Courtesy of Vertigo Burger
The Vertigo burger.

Bada Bean
2500 Apalachee Parkway #B

“This is a wonderful, homey, cozy breakfast and lunch spot. They have a lot on their menu, but I’m boring. I always get the traditional eggs benedict.”

photo: Courtesy of Bada Bean
Eggs benedict and home fries at Bada Bean.

Sakura Japanese Sushi and Grill
1318 N. Monroe Street 

“I love their sashimi, especially the yuzu yellowtail with jalapenos and the spicy tuna hand rolls.”

photo: Courtesy of Sakura
Sushi at Sakura.

El Cocinero and Liberty Bar
1303 Thomasville Road and 1307 N. Monroe Street 

“El Cocinero has wonderful mezcal cocktails. My favorites are the spicy paloma and the old Mexico old fashioned. The same people own Liberty Bar, which has a creative bar program with wonderful wines as well and great tapas.”;

photo: Courtesy of Liberty Bar
The Berry Blue Jeans cocktail at Liberty Bar.