Anywhere you turn and any place you decide to dine in beautiful, historic, downtown Sanford, you are eating at a local gem.

It is not challenging to find a good place to eat in Sanford, but it is very hard to decide where to go, there are so many choices. As a matter of fact, there is nowhere in Downtown Sanford that I don’t like to eat, there’s a place for every taste, every time of day, and every reason to eat out.

The anchor of downtown restaurants is Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Café which just celebrated its 15th year. With live entertainment on the weekends and a large outdoor seating area, the Gemütlichkeit is Slowing freely, along with the German beer, dancing, and singing. The food and service is top notch, but in the evening, you’d better have a reservation or be prepared to wait, though even the wait is worth it. As you travel around downtown Sanford, you’ll hear the “zicke zacke, zicke zacke, hoi” chant, a signal that it’s time to drink up at Hollerbach’s.

Diagonally across the street, also with a large outdoor seating area, is the Breezeway. From sandwiches to fish and steak, there is something for everyone on their menu, with live music of one sort or another (including Karaoke at times) nearly every night of the week. Who doesn’t enjoy al fesco dining in Florida where you can do it year-round with such good food?

The Smiling Bison, just down Magnolia Square, is a recent gastro- addition to the Sanford dining scene. They have brought local-sourced, seasonal ingredients to their ever changing menu. Some staples remain, but each time you go, you can expect something new as well. “The Bison” (as locals call it) has excellent service as well as craft cocktails to go along with their top-notch food.

Down the block on First Street you’ll find the breakfast/lunch “pop-up” restaurant that decided to stick around, The Tennessee Truffle. When locals talk about a great breakfast, “the Truffle” is almost always in the equation. The Truffle does locally sourced, fresh, seasonal ingredients and holds true to southern style food. Where else can you find ramps (aka a Tennessee truffle) used in a dish? The food is cooked to order and every dish shows great attention to detail. Their sausage gravy on a biscuit is truly “to die for,” along with other great menu selections.

Do you have a taste for Greek and/or Italian food? Well, you’re in luck because Zorba’s has both. The pizza is great and the lasagna is even better. But dolmades (stuffed grape leaves)? I never cared for dolmades until I had them at Zorba’s, now I could eat a dozen, they are delicious. Zorba’s also has one of the most Vegan- friendly menus in Sanford. Their portions are large and we’ve never left there anything but happy and full, often with take-out boxesThyme has a great selection of to-go items, and a few seats inside as well. You can’t go wrong with either. Corner Café also does wonderful special dinners upon request/ reservation.

Looking for variety? Head over to the Christo’s, a downtown staple for many years. There you can try a large assortment of dishes including burgers, pizza/calzone/stromboli, sandwiches, pasta, dinners, and a whole lot more. I challenge you to walk by their pastry/dessert case without wanting some! What about BBQ? Of course.

The best brisket I ever had was at Fuel BBQ, an old gas station that’s been converted into a premier Sanford BBQ joint and is attached to a popular local watering hole. All of their meats are smoked right out back, so you’ll smell the BBQ before you even get close, and it tastes as great as it smells.

How about some good ole diner food? Colonial Room has got you covered! Are you looking for a simple breakfast of eggs, sausage/bacon, home fries, and toast? This is the place to go, and a great value to boot. The have wonderful omelets and superb lunch/sandwich menus along with diner favorites like meatloaf and turkey.

You cannot go wrong here if you’re in the mood for diner food for breakfast or lunch. Have a taste for some good Mexican food? You should try the newly opened El Zocalo, at the western end of the First Street dining/shopping district. Though only open a few months, I’ve enjoyed my meals here and hear great things from other locals as they discover this “new kid on the block.”

Finally, at the other end of the First Street dining/shopping area and just around the corner down Sanford Avenue, is Negril Spice. If you want authentic Jamaican food, this is the place for you, you’ll think you’re in Kingston or Montego Bay. The décor is plain but the food is exceptional.

Sanford truly has a dining problem, for those who cannot make a decision. But anywhere you turn and any place you decide to dine in beautiful, historic, downtown Sanford, you are eating at a local gem. Shh! Don’t tell anyone. It’s our little local secret!

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