Savory Bites on the Sanford Food Tour

Just about a month ago, rainy season in Orlando began with a vengeance. It poured for days, the sun was nowhere to be seen, and I felt a twinge of seasonal depression as I looked out my window and saw nothing but doom and gloom.

Coincidentally, this was the same week I’d booked my ticket for the Sanford Food Tour, an experience I’d been looking forward to for a few weeks.

Miraculously, the day of the food tour arrived, the skies parted, and it was absolutely beautiful. I barely broke a sweat traipsing around Sanford for the three-hour duration of the tour (a miracle, considering it was June in Florida). It would seem the food gods were smiling on me that day, and for that, I’m eternally thankful.

Like Orlando’s popular Main Street Districts, Sanford has a distinct vibe and culinary scene of its own. Local businesses have set up shop on every corner, fun events occur monthly, and there’s an impressive culinary scene just begging to be explored. Yet even from Orlando, it’s a bit of a drive to get there. Instead of making the journey for just one restaurant, get much more bang for your buck on the Sanford Food Tour.

The tour visits several of Sanford’s top restaurants, including The Tennessee Truffle, The Smiling Bison, and Wondermade. The other restaurants on the tour were ones I hadn’t heard of before and both turned out to be very pleasant surprises.

In addition to the food, our tour guide Steve (who is also the owner), shared his extensive knowledge of Sanford — both historically and culturally.

When the three-hour tour was up, a few things really stuck with me about the experience:

1. The owners and chefs came to our table to talk to us at almost every single restaurant.
This doesn’t always happen on food tours, but it makes such a difference when it does. I loved meeting the faces behind each restaurant, hearing the bite-sized version of their “how we got here” story, and getting that extra experience you may not get during a regular restaurant visit. To all the owners and chefs who took the time to come chat with us, thank you!

Hanging out with chef Nat Russell at The Tennessee Truffle

2. The food was all phenomenal.
Yes, this should be expected since it’s a food tour, but the food wasn’t just good. It was above and beyond. We savored house-made biscuits and gravy and chatted with Chef Nat Russell at The Tennessee Truffle, then visited Fuel for burnt ends (which the owners have affectionately nicknamed “meat candy” for good reason), cornbread and baked beans. That meal was good old fashioned BBQ at its finest. My friend Brooke told me the mac n’ cheese is incredible, so I’ll be back.

Other eats included a bite-sized tasting of Carolina-style pulled pork (the recipe tied for first place in a local BBQ competition) on a tartine with mayo and raw onion, accompanied by a refreshing Bison watermelon margarita (not on the tour, but worth ordering) at The Smiling Bison.

The competition-winning Carolina style pulled pork from The Smiling Bison
While not included in the food tour, I opted to sip on a Bison watermelon margarita made with house-infused jalapeno and cilantro tequila, house sour, and watermelon

Then there was the visit to Magnolia Square Market, a traditional German marketplace. We got VIP access to the kitchen where Chef Patrick cooked up a German pasta dish. The kitchen is connected to Hollerbach’s Willowtree Cafe, a spot that’s on my bucket list to return to for a meal.

Lastly, as luck would have it (thank you again food gods), we wound up at Wondermade on the exact day they were celebrating their grand reopening/renovation. We roasted marshmallows and made s’mores, met Nathan who owns the shop with his wife, and I doubled up on dessert by ordering the s’mores popsicle, one of their newest treats.

Strawberry marshmallows from Wondermade change the s’mores game!

3. The history and culture were fascinating.
I-4 ghost stories, a huge bank vault that’s on the National Register of Historic Places, art galleries that double as artist studios, quirky shops, and haunted buildings…it’s all touched upon during the tour. And don’t forget to look for some painted Sanford Rocks! Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable about the area.

Overall, the tour was a fantastic experience I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to anyone, especially fellow foodies. The $49 ticket price is an amazing value for the food, history, and crazy fun time you’ll have. Go eat!

Burnt ends aka “meat candy”, cornbread, and baked beans at Fuel BBQ

A few tidbits…

I took the SunRail to get to Sanford and highly recommend it if you’re able to do the food tour on a Friday. It’s a fun, convenient, and cheap way to travel and the train was way nicer than I expected. There’s even a bathroom! To make things even more convenient, there’s a free shuttle that runs from the SunRail station to downtown Sanford, just steps from where the food tour starts.

The beautiful interior of The Smiling Bison

Don’t eat before the tour. I had a moment of weakness halfway through where I got super full and thought I wouldn’t be able to go on, but thankfully I got my second wind. There’s a ton of food on the tour and you’re going to want to taste it all.

Speaking of eating, do eat AFTER the tour. Whatever you have to do to work up a bit of an appetite, do it. Then walk yourself over to Wops Hops, get a beer, and order a wopsicle. It’s a magical meatball on a stick. That’s all you need to know.

Wopsicle at Wops Hops Brewing in Sanford
If you still have room after the food tour, head over to Wops Hops for a wopsicle — you won’t be sorry

Stay for the day after your tour. There’s so much to see and do in Sanford, and if you’re going to make the journey there you might as well stay for the day. Do some shopping, visit craft breweries and bars, grab some coffee, go to the zoo, or just wander.

Also go: Limo Cycle Craft Beer Tour

Sanford has an incredible food scene worthy of exploring, but several passionate craft brewers have laid down roots here with more on the way. The Limo Cycle craft beer tour is the perfect way to sip your way through the brewery scene. Instead of walking to each brewery, you pedal the limo cycle, which is basically a giant human-powered bicycle. It’s a pretty goofy looking “vehicle” but a fun way to get around.

On the tour, you’ll visit three craft beer hot spots, each with their own vibe. A beer flight is served at each stop, and you get face time with head brewers, owners, and fellow beer enthusiasts. Several of the breweries are on the Central Florida Ale Trail too, so you can get your stamps! I checked out the craft beer tour for an article in Lake Mary Life Magazine, so check that out HERE if you’d like more info. The tour is run by the same people who own Sanford Food Tours.


2016: As Told Through the Food I Ate

I began 2016 with little to no direction, having recently left my full-time job.

Naturally, I turned to the Internet for solace. Search results for my situation resulted in three main narratives: do nothing, travel the world, or cry. (I did all three.)

Some days I expanded my comfort zone by exposing myself to new people, places, and experiences. Others I pushed myself to try new foods, or find comfort in the familiar. And on all the other days, there were cookies. A lot of cookies.

Great food is one of the many joys of my everyday life. So while I could easily have written a reflective and introspective recap of 2016, it somehow feels more appropriate to unveil the story through food. Here goes… Continue reading “2016: As Told Through the Food I Ate”

Orlando Eats and Treats Worth the Hype: Part Two

Think Orlando has nothing but theme parks? So did I before moving here, but after almost five years (!) living in a tourist town, I’ve come to understand Orlando as so much more than a theme park mecca. Case in point: Orlando was recently voted as the top foodie city in the USA.

Food is something our city definitely does right.

While I can’t visit every eatery in the City Beautiful (#goals), there are some that create so much buzz I just have to go investigate. So here’s my latest recap of what I like to call “blog research” – give one of these Orlando eats a try and let me know your personal favorites. Continue reading “Orlando Eats and Treats Worth the Hype: Part Two”

Steph’s Taco Blog: Bartaco in Dr. Phillips

It’s Taco Tuesday and you know what that means…time for another edition of Steph’s Taco Blog! Today is a little special because it’s the week of Thanksgiving, so I’d like to do a special Thanksgiving gratitude edition.

This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for tacos. 

I discovered Bartaco the way I discover most delicious food these days: stalking food accounts on Instagram. I kept seeing these beautiful trays stuffed with 7+ tacos and thinking to myself, “wow…that’s a lot of tacos for one person. Are they just really hungry? Maybe they’re sharing with a friend?” Obviously I needed to investigate.

From the outside, Bartaco looks like an oasis. And luckily, this oasis is one of the taco variety. The outdoor seating area is bright and cozy with cushioned booths, white tables, plenty of foliage, and string lights. I imagine it’s gorgeous to eat here at night time (will go back to confirm). If you like obsessively photographing your food (guilty) you’ll be right at home in this super-cool space. Continue reading “Steph’s Taco Blog: Bartaco in Dr. Phillips”

Steph’s Taco Blog: Pepe’s Cantina in Winter Park

Ah, Winter Park. While I still have certain reservations about the area (everything is expensive, the vibe can be a little snooty) I have to admit it’s growing on me. And when you step off Park Ave. there are some real gems to be found in this foodie-friendly neighborhood north of Orlando.

One of those gems, Pepe’s Cantina, was recommended to me by my friend Arlene (who is also an Orlando blogger – check her site out) after she saw I was starting up a taco series. We decided to meet up there for lunch and, you know, “research.” Tacos: the great connectors. Continue reading “Steph’s Taco Blog: Pepe’s Cantina in Winter Park”