Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Great Restaurants of Historic Downtown Sanford

Sanford, Florida has a beautiful historic downtown area that is blessed to have several great restaurants located in and around it. I've eaten in all of them, and most, numerous time. Here are the best of them, in alphabetic order:

The Breezeway Restaurant & Bar  on Urbanspoon
The Breezeway Restaurant and Bar has about the best patio I know of, a wonderful outdoor seating area that vibrant and, when filled with people a lot of fun. But the food is good too, best described as "American"--that is, a mix of items sure to appeal to most. They pride themselves as the "home of the big fish sandwich" and it is indeed big and good. But give the pork tenderloin sandwich a try as well. As you can see from the pictures in my original review of this place, it's huge. Since I wrote that, I've discovered their Firecracker Shrimp appetizer. So good that I've gone there just for that! Really good food in a fun atmosphere, what more can you ask for?
Hollerbach's Willow Tree Café on Urbanspoon
Hollerbach's Willow Tree Cafe is a real German restaurant, transplanted to historic Sanford. Well, it's about as German as you can get outside of Germany and has won many national awards for it's food and atmosphere. Chef/owner Theo Hollerbach is certainly the life of the party here, and can often be found mingling with his guests and enjoying some of that famous German brew. But don't let that fool you, the service and food here is top notch. I have been back there since I wrote my original review and know I'll be back again and again and again. The place is always packed and they have live German (Polka) music on the weekends. It's truly a great place to have fun and good food. 

La Sirena Gorda Cabaña on Urbanspoon
La Sirena Gorda Cabana is the newest restaurant in historic Sanford and also has a nice patio, though open-air for the most part. This is a beautifully-decorated space and has a true Mexican feel. And guess what, they serve Mexican food--and it's very good. I've had the Naughty Nachos more times than I want to count--they are excellent. As you can see from the pictures in my original review, the food looks great. But even more so, it tastes fantastic. On top of that, they have a wonderful bar and late night crowd, serving tapas until the wee hours of the morning. It's a great place to hang out with friend--or to make new friends--we have! 
Marco Dino's Ristorante on Urbanspoon
Marco Dino's Ristorante is right on Magnolia Square in another historic building. Hint: look up at the ceiling! We've eaten there a number of times, and occasionally go there for just two particular items, the Fried Mozzarella and the Tomato Basil Soup. I wrote about the soup in my original review, and I've been back specifically just for that, but everything I've eaten there has been very good and very Italian. Chef Rich Lendino is quite talented and it shows in the food he prepares. This is probably more of a romantic dining place, but certainly fit for the whole family. I'll keep going back, time after time.

Besides the above, there are a number of other smaller, but equally good establishments right in historic downtown Sanford, and I recommend all of them:

  • Angel's Soulfood and BBQ may seem to be a "hole in the wall" type of place, but it has about the best soul food you'll ever find, with huge portions and a great price. This is the place to eat if you really want genuine soul food done right! I've eaten here and loved it as you can read in my original review!
  • The Corner Cafe Restaurant is the home of some great soups and sandwiches, and on the weekends they do great dinners. We've been there for both a number of times and keep going back. Chef Michael and his staff do a great job and make you feel like part of the family. And if you read my original review (written when it was named Gourmet 2 Go), I've loved it and so have my friends. 
  • The Original Christo's is another great place, a mix of Italian, Pizza, and American food. A great place for some pizza, or to sit on the sidewalk on a nice evening and enjoy good food and friendly service. Since I wrote my original review, I've been back a number of times and always impressed with the food and service.
Historic Downtown Sanford is a great and fun place to visit, and has some wonderful places to eat and hang out. I heartily recommend any and all of the above. Chances are, you might run into me here at one of these places. 



  1. If you're planning on eating at The Corner Cafe, please be aware that the cook there has rules you must follow. For those who don't know the rules, here goes:
    1. Approach the counter upon entering. Do NOT seat yourself.
    2. Depending on the cook's rule of the day (actual quote from the cook "what I say goes!") Either your order is taken (see rules on this below), Or you are seated.
    3. Do not attempt to use the restroom at any time before ordering.
    4. Do not ask the cook any questions as he takes that as a challenge to his superior culinarily knowledge and ESP abilities.
    5. Do not ask for water (see rule number 4) as you will be chastised and shunned for the rest of your visit.
    6. Proceed to the table as directed.
    7. Remain quietly in your seat until your food is microwaved and brought to your table.
    8. Upon receiving your tab, do not check it for accuracy. The cook never makes mistakes. It's your fault you were charged double.
    9. After paying, file out of the restaurant in single file.
    10. Eye contact with the cook is not permitted.

  2. These are all kind of true. We were shunned from his restaurant when we failed to show up for a reservation due to illness.