A Culinary Tour of Sanford, Florida

Sanford is becoming a hotspot on the Orlando culinary scene. We share some of our favorite stops.

Much like folks in other parts of the US, Orlando residents are rediscovering the charm and personality of their neighborhoods and surrounding small towns. And while being loyal to your own 'hood is great, you don't have to hail from a particular spot to appreciate all that it offers. And that’s definitely true for our neighbor, Sanford.

This small city lies just to the northeast of Orlando, with an historic downtown area that’s prettily situated on the banks of Lake Monroe. It’s that downtown area, with buildings built in the late 1800s and early 1900s, that has seen a recent renaissance of sorts.

Visitors looking to get a taste of the town before catching a flight out of Orlando Sanford International Airport or hopping onto the Amtrack Auto Train to ride the rails north will find lots of options in the historic district. Here, we offer our picks for a progressive dinner, with stops all within walking distance of one another.

The First Stop: Something to Drink

If you're looking to fuel up -- and we mean caffeine -- there are some great independent coffee stops in Sanford. Check out Rabbitfoot Coffee Co., currently serving coffee and breakfast out of The Stranded Sailor Pub on Sanford Avenue. Or stop by Palate Coffee Brewery for a whole host of caffeinated options. We love their cafe con leche the best, but in the heat of summer, do not miss their lavender cooler! Even more interesting though is that Palate is a coffee shop with a mission: it's staffed by volunteers, and all profits go to the fight against human trafficking.

Cafe Con Leche at Palate Coffee Brewery in Sanford, Florida
Cafe Con Leche at Palate Coffee Brewery (Courtesy Brooke Fehr)

If you’re looking for an adult beverage, Sanford offers two breweries with more on the way. Stop by Sanford Brewing Company or Wops Hops Brewing if you’re looking for a handcrafted cold one. But we also love Bitters & Brass, a cool bar with a vintage look and a hip vibe. You can’t go wrong here, especially on Tiki Thursdays, where classic tiki drinks takes center stage.

A Tiki Cocktail at Bitters and Brass in Sanford, Florida
Don't Miss Tiki Night at Bitters & Brass (Courtesy Stephanie Patterson)

The Second Stop: Brunch, Lunch, Dinner and More

Feeling peckish? There are plenty of terrific restaurants to choose from. Shantell’s Just Until serves up some killer soul food and Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe provides some of the most authentic German fare this side of the Atlantic. (Be sure to stop into the market to stock up on staples for home.)

Bienenstich Cake and a Glass of Riesling at Willow Tree Cafe in Sanford, Florida
Bienenstich Cake, Riesling, and People Watching in Downtown Sanford (Courtesy Brooke Fehr)

Tennessee Truffle is another favorite, located right on First Street. But if you happen to be in town on a Saturday morning, stop by The Smiling Bison for brunch. Utilizing a seasonal, market-driven menu, the staff make nearly everything from scratch, including baked good and charcuterie. It's normally a tough call deciding what to order, but we recommend that you always give the pizza and poutine a try.

Brunch at The Smiling Bison in Sanford, Florida
Breakfast Poutine and Family Time During Brunch at The Smiling Bison (Courtesy Brooke Fehr)

The Third Stop: A Sweet Treat

Finally, satisfy your sweet tooth with a visit to Wondermade, Sanford’s homegrown sweets shop. Stop by the brightly colored storefront for housemade ice cream in not-so-common flavors. Or sample their from scratch marshmallows in a s’more made on the spot. I give high marks to the dark chocolate and bourbon marshmallow sandwiched between homemade graham crackers.

Whether Sanford is just a stop on your journey, or it's you make a special trip to explore the town, one thing's for sure: if you leave hungry, it's probably your own fault.

Ice Cream and S'mores from Wondermade in Sanford, Florida
Ice Cream and a S'more (Courtesy Brooke Fehr)