While downtown Sanford boasts a number of unique and wonderful restaurants, good eats are not limited only to downtown. And while there are a number of bars and other drinking establishments that also serve some very fine food, let’s talk about unique eats in restaurants in Sanford—eating establishments where food is their primary business.
Of all non-downtown Sanford restaurants, my far-and-away favorite is Chianti’s Pizza and Pasta, almost 5 miles straight west of downtown, near the Mall. Chianti’s has superior service, high quality of food, and is affordable. Their pizza is one of a kind and their evening Italian dinners are superb. Their $7.99 lunch special, 7 days a week, cannot be beat. I’ve taken several family and friends to Chianti’s and they all agree it’s a place they will surely visit again.
A second hidden gem, Jimotti’s Restaurant, located about 2 miles south of downtown, features authentic Japanese food including sushi, sashimi, and ramen. With uber-fresh ingredients including fish flown in directly from Japan, those who appreciate fine Japanese cuisine continue to rave about Jimotti’s, and rightly so. Located in an older structure, a former drive-in, Chef Junichi will tell you that this is the type of place you’d find in Japan and frequented by locals. It’s all about the fresh food, and Jimotti’s excels at that. While there’s not much to look at from the outside, just like an oyster, there is a special treat inside.
Newly reopened about 3 miles west of downtown is The Smokehouse at Route 46. The whole Route 46 entertainment complex is really something to see and this restaurant boasts delicious smoked meats and appetizers. You can smell the smoke when you arrive and whatever you order is sure to be tender, tasty and full of flavor. This is BBQ at its best, one of the greatest around. I’ve never been disappointed with anything I’ve tasted here.
Kind of hidden, but just a few blocks from downtown you might stumble upon Caffe Di Riverwalk. With a beautiful view of Lake Monroe, Caffe Di Riverwalk is a coffee and light breakfast/lunch spot that is quaint and charming. The coffee is fresh, as is the food, and made to order. It is frequented by locals and is never a disappointment. It’s a neat place to relax and enjoy the scenery.
Along the beautiful Riverwalk on Lake Monroe, St. John’s River Steak and Seafood is the perfect location to have a good meal and enjoy the view. I’d classify them as more of a supper club with a diverse menu, from burgers and sandwiches to steak and seafood. Try the buffalo shrimp appetizer if you like a bit of heat, or the mouthwatering alligator bites. Nothing beats a good view and an awesome experience!
Speaking of the River, there are two gems on the St. John’s River on either side of Lake Monroe. Located to the east of Lake Monroe is Gator’s Riverside Grill. Otters on the River is on the opposite side of Lake Monroe. Both are typical marina fare. You’ll find all sorts of boaters and people here along with excellent food, cold drinks, a wide-ranging menu, enjoyable music, and a guaranteed fun time!
Sanford also boasts a few local steakhouses—Cattle Ranch and Colorado’s Prime Steak are both favorites in the city. Colorado’s Prime Steak is well known for their smoked prime rib. Yes, it is as good as it sounds. Cattle Ranch will take you back to the 60’s with their décor, but don’t let that scare you! The food is top notch and you will leave full and satisfied. Not too far away and more than just a steakhouse, Nathaniel’s Steakhouse is a relatively new kid on the block, but provides great fare in a spacious dining room. Try the shrimp n grits, they are to die for!
Sanford is home to so many popular restaurants. Once you experience these places, it’s hard to stop talking about them. A few “honorable mentions” are worthy of just that: Ricky’s Chicken, Laspada’s Original Cheesesteaks (the genuine thing), Yabi Sushi, Riverwalk Pizzeria, Pacinos Pizza—just to name a few. If you’re looking for good eats in Sanford, you do not have to go far to find restaurants that are locally owned and staffed, use fresh ingredients, have friendly and welcoming staff, and offer great prices, no matter what you’re in the mood for. From steak and shrimp to BBQ or sushi, Sanford has something for everyone. One of the biggest challenges is having so many enjoyable restaurants to choose from. You certainly can’t go wrong with any choice you make!
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.