Jill Bird Salad at Jeri's Midtown Cafe, Tallahassee, Florida

Jeri’s Midtown Café in Tallahassee, Florida

We found Jeri’s Midtown Cafe on a Saturday afternoon while sightseeing in Florida’s capital city.  Jeri will tell you she serves love on a plate and “has the warmest waitstaff this side of the equator.”  I believe she is right. We were greeted with a “Hi ya’ll, how are you doing today,” or a “Hi ya’ll, are you having a great day?” by every staff member we encountered.

This lunch, brunch and private event restaurant boasts high quality, local farm to table freshness, but compliments what is available locally with special items like brie from France and baguettes from New York. 

Location:   1123 Thomasville Road, Tallahassee, Florida

Menu: The menu has a traditional, predictable format for lunch of Entrees, Pressed Sandwiches, Soups & Sides and Salads.  But, dig deeper and you will find cleverly named menu items with an ingredient or two designed to surprise.

The Gouda Grits and Shrimp adds a hint of interest by using a smoked gouda in this traditionally southern dish.  The Kenny Benny is a cousin to a traditional eggs benedict but combines smoked Smithfield bacon, fresh Roma tomatoes, and poached eggs served on Sister Schubert rolls and house-made hollandaise sauce.

Smoky and the Grits combines the signature smoked gouda grits with collard greens, smoked sausage, and seasonal peas.  How’s that for a southern combination? Petite blueberry corn muffins and apple butter compliment the dish.

The Jill Bird sandwich blends tarragon, Duke’s chicken salad, Genoa salami, Grey Poupon mustard, toasted almonds and . . . wait for it. . . Blackberry Patch muscadine preserves.  Not a combo I would come up with on my own, but I will bite.  After all, isn’t that one of the reasons we dine out?  To try things we wouldn’t make at home?  There is also a Jill Bird salad on the menu if you want to skip the bread.

The “TAB”- Turkey, apple butter and brie, is the house favorite sandwich.  I think it speaks for itself.

The Kenz is a cookie butter, bacon and banana sandwich served on thick-cut Challah bread.  Is it true,  this is what Elvis ate?

Hoppin John is another deep south dish updated as a salad with black-eyed peas, Roma tomatoes, red onion, jalapeno, parsley and red bell pepper in a red wine vinaigrette.

Five different salads on the menu blend unique combinations of lettuce, vegetables, berries, and nuts.  Shrimp or chicken can be added to any salad to make it a hearty meal.

Lobster Bisque, Tomato Bisque, and Vegan Vegetable soups are served in either a cup or bowl.  Chef Sarah creates weekly specials, and there is always a weekly frittata, made with whatever fresh ingredients are available at the moment. 

Jeri has a beer and wine license, but not a hard liquor license.  Not to worry, she makes a sassy Sake Mary with Tozai Typhoon mild sake and a Charleston brand all-natural Fresh Veggie mixer.  She swears you can’t tell the difference between the sake cocktail and one made with vodka.

Other sake cocktails include a Sake Sunrise, Tipsy Lemonade, and a Southern Front Porch Sipper. Perhaps this is a lower proof way to enjoy a brunch cocktail for those who are trying to cut back on their alcohol consumption.

The beer menu is continuously growing as the restaurant curates relationships with local brewers.  Ask what is on offer and let them know what you like for your next visit. 

A house-made sangria is available.  It is refreshing on a hot day and is starting to become rare, now that so many bottled sangrias are on the market.

Even though it is Florida, orange juice isn’t the only Mimosa mixer for sparkling wine.  Jeri suggests trying pineapple strawberry lemonade or a mixed berry lemonade with your bubbly. 

Thoughts: It’s hard to believe a restaurant can make it serving just one meal each day.  But Jeri and her loving crew get it done from 11 am-2 pm Monday-Friday, and 10 am-2 pm on Saturday and Sunday.  She will bring lunch to your office if you have a party of 10 or more, and the restaurant is always available in the evenings for private events. 

The staff wears T-shirts with sayings like, “The Secret Ingredient is Me” and “Kindness is so Gangster.”  Happiness is contagious.

Repurposed old doors serve as the facing of the bar.  Painted wrought iron chairs give the restaurant a cozy, vintage feeling.  Adorable artwork of dogs hangs all over the walls.

Due to the heat and humidity on a hot summer day, we chose to sit inside, although the intimate patio setting is a delightful place to eat on a cooler day.

The front room is mostly for tables of 2, and the backroom has a few tables for larger parties.  This is a great place to meet a friend.  My husband and I enjoyed it as a relaxing way to spend some time together over a long weekend.

I am a huge supporter of local chefs who stretch the boundaries of creativity and can surprise me with something I’ve never tried, or a combination that is new to me.  I like the emphasis on supporting local farmers, but the honesty of knowing that food is regional, and sometimes there are items better sourced from outside the local area that nicely complement the local fare. 

Would I go back?  Heck, yes!  There are too many interesting things to try to taste it all in one trip. And, who can resist all that sweet southern love? With a focus on local farmers and Chef’s Specials, Jeri’s Midtown Cafe leaves room for lots of new and interesting surprises for patrons to enjoy on future visits.

Price Range: Entrees $13-$18. Sandwiches $14-$17. Salads $12-$15. Cocktails $9-$10.

Victoria Hart

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