A Sanford Foodie Guide

Fortunately for us Sanfordites, Sanford has a great variety of locally owned restaurants in and near the downtown area. There is literally something for everyone within a few blocks. No excuse to go away hungry! But it all depends on what you are looking for. You can check various online services, blogs, web sites, etc., and search for restaurants by various categories, or you can read on and really get to know all that downtown Sanford has to offer by our unique categories.

Ever-Changing, Always Fresh and Up-to-Date: If you want a new surprise nearly every time you visit, coupled with excellent taste and presentation in a funky and fun atmosphere, then you need to head over to The Smiling Bison. Chef Josh Oakley constantly changes the menu, depending on what fresh ingredients are available—and on his inspiration of the day. Chef loves his smoker, so you’re liable to find something with good smoke flavor, maybe it’ll be the smoked fish dip or his homemade pepperoni on a pizza. But whenever you go and whatever you order, you know it will be fresh, unique, made to order, and fantastic.

Party Time, Polka Time, Pork Schnitzel Time, and Prosit Time: The Willow Tree Café was made just for you. The best German restaurant outside of Germany excels at bringing you the whole Gasthaus experience, highlighted with Gemütlichkeit. Warmth, friendliness, good cheer, great food and cold German beer is found at the Willow Tree. Celebrating 15 years, they’ve been around for a long time for a reason.

Opa! Greek and Italian: Yes, Sanford has it, and it’s the best. The Greek and Italian food offerings at Zorba’s Greek Restaurant have something for everyone. From the hearty meat-eater to the vegan, they always delight. They claim they have a “famous lasagna,” and it is indeed that good. Do you like Dolmathes? Me neither—until I tried them at Zorba’s—they are outstanding. The variety of their menu means you will always find something that trips your trigger.

Fine Southern Cuisine: The Tennessee Truffle excels at bringing the finest of southern cuisine. Be it the morning’s southern biscuits with sausage gravy (truly outstanding) or the evening’s latest creation, Chef Nat Russell’s menu is ever morphing, using the freshest of local ingredients. His pickled shrimp put all others to shame and his take on shrimp and grits is truly memorable. Though you may never know what his latest creation will be, you can be sure of one thing—it’ll be delicious!

Gourmet Comfort Food and Drink: You must try The District. Fresh Mahi? You bet. Fantastic braised short-ribs? Yum! What about a truly awesome filet? Of course, and cooked exactly as you want. They also have a great happy hour Tuesday through Friday in the bar, with some outstanding small plate specials, often my evening meal. It is well worth a visit.

Slice and a Sandwich, Philly-style: The newest addition to downtown is Mr. Z’s, serving true Philadelphia-style cheesesteaks (on a genuine Amoroso roll). The pizza (by the slice or create your own whole pie) is a traditional New York-style pizza (yes, you can fold it). Calzone, Stromboli, you name it, you’ll find it here. And as a bonus, they are open late 7 days a week.

Shooting the Breeze: It’s easy to do at The Breezeway. While their indoor seating is limited, their outdoor breezeway is the place to be. Often featuring live local music, they have a fantastic menu. The sandwiches are my favorite. Ask for the “Sanford,” but be prepared to eat. Or try the “First Street” which is my favorite.

More and More to Munch On: Want a true Diner Experience? Try the Colonial Room, always top notch and easy on the wallet. Need a quick bite and a fantastic dessert? Mattie’s Cupcakes has it all for you, as well as fantastic cupcakes and other desserts. Is a quick pizza in the cards for you? Better head over to Christos. What about a soup, salad and sandwich? Corner Café is calling you. How about some real smoked BBQ? You can fuel up at Fuel BBQ. They have the best brisket ever! All their meats are smoked right out back, so you know it’s fresh and delicious. In the mood for some Jamaican? Give Negril Spice a try. Where else in Sanford can you get Oxtail that is extremely tasty? And if you just need a quick bite, try Magnolia Market or Taste of Thyme—both are sure to please your palate.

Just a Few Blocks Away: Within a few blocks you can find more great food. On Marina Isle, you can try Riverwalk Pizza, featuring all their great pizzas. And if a river view is important to you, try St. John’s River Steak and Seafood—arguably the best view in town, right on the St. John’s River. Head the other way a bit, down Sanford Avenue, and El Zocalo gives you great authentic Mexican flavors.

Bar Food: As if the above were not enough choices, we have a number of local bars that also server great food, not just your ordinary run-of-the-mill bar food. Buster’s Bistro is the king, but you’ll find scrumptious food also at the Sandford Brewing Company and Wops Hops. Other traditional bar food can be found at West End, Celery City, and Stranded Sailor. Don’t forget to have a nightcap at The Imperial or Bitters & Brass, you’ll be glad you did.
Whatever your taste, whatever your desire, whatever food you are longing for, downtown Sanford has it. You could eat three meals a day, every day, for a week and not have sampled all the good food that downtown Sanford has to offer. Why not get started today?


Leon is a local Central Florida foodie and food blogger who’s been writing about Sanford And Seminole County area “good eats” restaurants for the past 7 years. He’s big into eating at local mom ‘n’ pop shops (small businesses) where high quality ingredients, love, and a dose of home cooking make all the difference. While he occasionally (rarely) eats at the big chains, he claims it’s only to remind him where a real quality dining experience lurks—in the small restaurants which are the heart and
soul of every neighborhood and community.

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