Savoring the Restaurant Scene in Historic Downtown Sanford

Savoring The Restaurant Scene in Historic Downtown Sanford

Some of the best dining options in Central Florida are all within walking distance of each other in Historic Downtown Sanford. Each of the city’s unique restaurants offer original flavors and ambiance. After a few bites you’ll understand why Sanford was named “the region’s hottest food scene” by the Orlando Sentinel.

Es ist wunderbar!

Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe is pretty much a rite of passage for any visitor or resident of Sanford. If you haven’t been for a birthday party, anniversary, or just to celebrate living your best life, then you don’t know what you’re missing. The schnitzel, the strudel, das boot, the live polka . . . you’re immediately transported to Germany when walking through their doors. Over time, the Willow Tree has expanded to triple its original size, but there is absolutely no loss of gemütlichkeit (warmth and friendliness) here.

Just around the corner from “The Tree,” as we locals call it, is Magnolia Square Market, Hollerbach’s German market and deli. Pick up a roast beef sandwich on a pretzel roll and get a party platter to go. And don’t forget the rum balls!


Eat around the world in just a few short blocks in Downtown Sanford. Get a taste of the Mediterranean at Zorba’s Greek Food. Order up some Jamaican flavors at Negril Spice. Margaritas, Mexican tacos, and mariachi are ready for you at El Zocalo Mexican Restaurant. And don’t let the name of Best Fish and Chicken Wings confuse you – their Korean menu is absolutely amazing! Bring it back around through the Pacific with Da Kine Poke’s super fresh bowls of ahi tuna. Belgian waffles, frites, and inventive daily specials pair well with mighty Belgian beers at Buster’s Bistro. And you never have to wait until St. Patrick’s Day for bangers and mash at The Sullivan, a full-service, classic version of the Irish pub. Wind down your around-the-world feast with burnt ends at Fuel BBQ. It’s really all so much less expensive than a plane ticket.

Oh so very local

Get a true taste of the Southern region at The Tennessee Truffle. Chef Nat Russell sources from local farmers and growers to create unforgettable twists on Southern dishes. For lunch we highly recommend the Southern Panzanella with Olde Hearth Bread Company pumpernickel dust, arugula, heirloom tomatoes, fresh peaches, Humboldt Fog chèvre panna cotta, garden mint, frisée, and sherry dressing. Make a dinner reservation for a date with the Bell & Evans Airline Chicken and/or the Maple Leaf Duck Breast, and save room for the buttered popcorn ice cream. The menu changes frequently, and particularly when Chef Nat is in a creative mood so fans return regularly.

Herd on over to The Smiling Bison (pun intended), where a farm to table experience awaits. Quality and ethical sourcing of ingredients are of utmost importance to Chef Josh Oakley. The seasons, creativity, and community influence the menu with the Steak Frites, Duck Lovers Pizza, and the Crispy Yellowtail Snapper being among the favorites. Be sure to pair your dinner with a craft cocktail from the bar too. But if weekend brunch is more up your alley, visit for a Croque Madame and Mimosa. Like The Tennessee Truffle, the Bison’s menu is always changing which is very attractive for adventurous palates.

The District Eatery, Tap & Barrel is also on our list of fresh American fare. The industrial, farmhouse-style interior complements the comforting dishes like gnocchi or shrimp and grits. This is one of our personal favorites for happy hour too! You can’t beat the fish tacos, burger, or chicken dip along with a refreshing craft beer or cocktail.

For one of Sanford’s most unique dining experiences, make reservations for The Old Jailhouse. Built in 1890, the former Seminole County Jail has been transformed into a unique dining venue where you will not hesitate to be put behind bars to sample their “seasonal sunbelt inspired menu.”

Old Favorites

If you’re looking for something a bit more classic and American, the Colonial Room Restaurant is the perfect place for a family-style meal – breakfast, lunch or dinner. You’ll feel right at home in Downtown Sanford’s old school diner. Choose outdoor seating on a Saturday morning for the best downtown, people-watching opportunities.

We dare you to make it past the dessert case at The Original Christo’s without drooling. But first, choose from the salads, sandwiches, pizza, and pastas. Christo’s balks at the trendy health food cafes and serves good, family style meals for all.

Seafood for days

St. Johns River Steak & Seafood has one of the most enviable locations in all of Sanford. Situated on the waterfront of Lake Monroe, we enjoy having a cocktail and a shareable seafood platter on the outdoor patio. Make reservations for the best seating.

For another unique locale, head over to The Breezeway Restaurant & Bar. Literally set in a breezeway (best for warm, summer evenings), The Breezeway offers surf and turf with live music. Order “The Big Fish” and weave your own fish story, for you won’t see a bigger fish sandwich this side of the Mississippi.

Lunch break

Soups, salads, and sandwiches are on the menus at The Corner Cafe and Taste of Thyme Cafe. Enjoy the lighter fare so you won’t feel weighed down for your afternoon of #Sanfording. Or do as many locals do and order a pizza or steak sub from Mr. Z’s to enjoy at the local brewery just next door.

Make it a food excursion

If you’re having some trouble deciding where to eat, make an appointment with Sanford Food Tours. Knowledgeable guides will lead a tour through our historic town, stopping at five hot spots for food and drink. Along the way you’ll learn about Sanford’s history and culture. This is one of the best intros to Sanford around!

It’s really impossible to expand on all of Downtown Sanford’s eateries in one article and I could go on and on about the variety. But you know the best way to learn more about all of Sanford’s fun flavors? Visit us soon!

Christina Grace Beverly

Christina is a graphic designer and writer, and has been a Downtown Sanford resident since 2006. Married to a Sanford native, they both enjoy promoting Sanford through their latest creative adventure, Drink Sanford, sharing all things beverage related in the city and their travels near and far. Find them at or on Instagram @DrinkSanford.