Are you someone who loves great food? And by love, we mean the planning-entire-trips-around-awesome-restaurants type of love? If so, this list of the top foodie picks in Downtown Sanford is right up your alley. Let the craving and trip planning commence!
The Milkshake Cake
Mrs. Lacy’s Magnolia House is a delightful spot that specializes in serving tea, lunch and fine southern hospitality. Housed in a quaint Victorian-style home, this tearoom offers visitors a leisurely dining experience with standout dishes crafted by owner Faye Schulz. Although just about every dessert on the menu is worth bragging about, The Milkshake Cake snags the prize for foodie obsession. Its layers of moist chocolate cake, creme filling and chocolate icing are simply divine!
Big Bird Soup
Kathy’s Java Express serves up true comfort with its Big Bird Soup – a soothing combination of creamy chicken soup, rice, and carrots. Legend has it that this soup even predates the shop itself, having migrated over from a previous beloved eatery: W.B. Joyces. Regardless of its origin, this dish is a star at Kathy’s – a casual coffee shop and restaurant, with a nostalgic, yet modern atmosphere. Come in and enjoy a wide range of drinks, unmatched service and other tasty bites.
If you’re looking for a cozy atmosphere, comfortable ambiance and meals prepared over an open flame, then The Flame Steakhouse fits the bill perfectly. While the restaurant comfortably excels in whipping up typical steakhouse fare, the go-to choice for dinner is the Beef Tips. These tenderly grilled morsels marinated to perfection and paired with a zippy horseradish sauce are an honest-to-goodness home run.
The burger of your dreams is real thanks to Fairview Dairy Bar. Stop by this neighborhood diner sporting a 50s vibe and serving up a variety of nostalgic American eats like Pokey’s Favorite. Whether it’s a five or eight oz. patty, this burger comes stacked on a potato bun with sautéed onions, mushrooms, and melted Swiss and American cheeses. Add a side of fries and one of Fairview Dairy’s famous old-fashioned milkshakes for a truly unforgettable lunch or dinner.
The Cafe Choice Sandwich or Salad
As delicatessens go, Fresh Choice Cafe is squarely in the stripped-down, no-frills category. That’s fine given that the sandwiches, salads, wraps and desserts are where the true spectacle lies. Case in point: the Cafe Choice Sandwich or Salad. This is a true marvel of turkey, Havarti cheese, Granny Smith apples, dried cranberry, sunflowers seeds and raspberry dressing. Enjoy it on a bed of greens or a bread/wrap of your choosing. Best of all, everything in the dish is fresh and made from scratch.
Country Ham & Biscuit
Head on over to Big T’s Restaurant, pick up a country ham and biscuit for breakfast and get your day started the right way. At first glance, it may seem like there’s nothing to this breakfast sandwich. Take a bite, however, and lose yourself in a delightful mix of salty ham and flaky buttery biscuit. Known for having the best biscuits, burgers and dogs in town, Big T’s has been firing on all cylinders since 1986. And with a legion of regulars beating down the door, you can be sure this is a spot that locals truly adore.
Billed as Downtown Sanford’s hotdog stand, Scoops Hotdogs is simply that – a small white building on the side of the road. Opened for more than 30 years, Scoops has and continues to do one thing superbly well. Walk or drive up for the friendliest service and the best dogs you’ve ever tasted. Come and dress your Carolina Red Hots any way you like choosing from a limited assortment of toppings. For our money, a dog covered in melty cheese is the only way to go.
Hey Buddy Golden Ale
Can a beer be your best friend? Hugger Mugger Brewing certainly thinks so and we wholeheartedly agree! Cruise on over to their craft brewery and taproom for a Hey Buddy Golden Ale. Light-bodied with just enough hops to finish crisp, the Hey Buddy will quickly become your go-to, downtown brew. Beer lovers will also want to discover Hugger Mugger’s 17 other beers on draft as well as their two ciders.
Chocolate Glazed Donut
Dessert lovers have flocked to Sandra’s Bakery ever since it opened in 1999. Nestled in a historic building, this tiny store has churned out a range of mind-blowing sweets from homemade cinnamon rolls, muffins and donuts to bread pudding, brownie bites and made-to-order cakes. For now, let’s focus on their donuts, especially the Chocolate Glazed Donut. Many folks intend to savor this fluffy wheel of fried dough coated in chocolate icing but usually end up devouring it way too quickly. We suggest you get more than one.
The Kitchen Sink Cookies
Millie’s Mamma Bakes is a tiny cookie shop logging hours infusing love into an impressive array of homemade and handcrafted cookies. While flavors and types of cookies rotate weekly here, you can’t go wrong selecting the Kitchen Sink variety. They’re delectable nibbles that pack almost everything you could ask for in one single cookie. From pretzel and salted caramel to chocolate chips and assorted nuts. Stop by and pick up one or a dozen. No judgment here.
Carnitas Tacos & Collard Greens
Serving slow-cooked smoked meats, NC craft beer and bourbon all in one place, Smoke and Barrel is a good time with even greater food. Any of the tasty dishes on the menu will do, but true foodies are in for a real treat with their juicy pulled pork tacos. Piled high with juicy pulled pork and onion-cilantro ceviche, these tacos come with a heap of braised collards. It’s a true lip-smacking experience that defines Sanford’s version of “Cheers.”
Salty Egg Pizza
Local Joes Tap & Grill has been a familiar downtown Sanford institution for over 20 years. Visitors and residents regularly come for the cold drinks and the hot bar food. On the pizza front, Joe’s delivers a variety of flavors to dive into. For our money, it’s the Salty Egg Pizza all the way. This pie comes off a bit unconventional as it’s topped with prosciutto ham, garlic, mozzarella pesto marinara, and an egg cooked to your liking. The flavor, however, is completely out of this world!
The California Roll
As a cornerstone of the Sanford community, Ichiban Bistro offers a modern interpretation of classic dishes with a steadfast commitment to high-quality and fresh ingredients. Head on over to their quaint dining room for outstanding sushi cuisine and excellent service. Might we suggest experiencing just how well Ichiban elevates the humble California Roll? This well-known staple of crab, avocado, and cucumber is simple, but oh, so good.
Steak Sandwich or Bowl
La Dolce Vita Pizzeria specializes in authentic Italian pizza that embodies true Italian taste. While the pizza here is really awesome and worthy of high praise, there’s another dish that shines bright as well. It’s nothing short of magic what this family restaurant does with thinly sliced steak, fresh mushrooms, onions and chipotle mayo. Whether it’s stuffed inside freshly baked focaccia bread or sitting atop a bed of fresh greens, this is the dish for you.
Wee Heavy Scotch Ale
Sanford has a growing micro-brewery scene that’s well worth getting to know. One scene-stealer, in particular, is Wild Dogs Brewing. Focusing on German and English-style beers, Wild Dogs is a cool and casual brewery complete with its own tasting room. Kick back and enjoy a drink like the Wee Heavy Scotch Ale – a malty, rich, and dominantly sweet brew that leaves a favorable impression. Pro tip: If it wasn’t readily apparent by the name, Wild Dogs is also Fido-friendly.
The Daily Special
For unpretentious home cooking from traditional breakfast offerings to sandwiches and daily lunch specials, it’s Mrs. Wenger’s Restaurant all the way. Stop by this quaint, family-owned establishment for southern country favorites made from recipes that have gone unchanged for years. At Mrs. Wenger’s, what you see is what you get, and what you get is pretty darn delicious. So much in fact, that the top foodie pick here is whatever they happen to have as their daily special.
Jalapimento Cheese w/ Homemade Chips
The primary goal at Cafe 121 is to serve high-quality and exquisite American food to satisfy a range of appetites and highlight any occasion. Swing by to dine on their spacious outdoor patio. Or, take advantage of their takeaway market to grab everything you need for a picnic. And you better believe that everything includes the spicy Jalapimento Cheese. No outdoor eating experience is complete without it.
Seasonal Signature Cocktails
Libations 139 takes the best ingredients each season has to offer and crafts truly memorable cocktails. Owned by the same folks behind Cafe 121, Libations not only features retail wine and 16 craft beers but also scratch-made, chef-created foods as well. Swing on through to try a rotation of fresh flavors infused into a variety of beverages fit for the most discerning adult.
Bon appétit, fellow food travelers!