Sanford is a historical and quaint central Florida city with an old-world appeal, its brick-paved streets, and footpaths lined with 19th-century Victorian homes and fancy boutique stores shaded by ancient oak trees.
Sanford’s proximity to both Orlando’s famous theme parks and Daytona Beach’s stunning coast makes it the perfect pitstop between the beach and Disneyworld.
Just because Sanford isn’t on the coast, it doesn’t mean there aren’t a wealth of gorgeous natural attractions. You can hike through the Little Big Econ State Forest or canoe through its two rivers.
If your interests tend towards cultural attractions, you can explore downtown Sanford’s vast and entertaining dining scene. Sanford may be a small town, but it has award-winning restaurants, craft breweries, and bars.
During my most recent trip to Sanford, I spent my time eating and drinking to find the best restaurants in Sanford.
- Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Café German Restaurant
- Sanford Brewing Company
- Chianti’s Pizza & Pasta
- The Breezeway Restaurant & Bar
- St. Johns River Steak & Seafood
- The Tennessee Truffle
- Buster’s Bistro
- The District Eatery Tap & Barrel
- Mellow Mushroom Sanford
- Cracker Barrel Old Country Store
I have compiled an eclectic list of breweries, steakhouses, cafes, and bistros that run the gamut of cuisines and dining experiences.
Founded in 1981 by married couple Linda and Theo Hollerbach, Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Café and German Restaurant has grown from a humble 70-seat German kitchen to a massive 665-seat dining hall and Biergarten.
Located in downtown Sanford a few blocks from Lake Monroe, Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Café has live jazz and polka music, BINGO on Tuesdays, an art gallery, and a clothes store.
They serve authentic German food, with a massive lunch and dinner menu consisting of everything from massive Bavarian baked pretzels and cheese spread to schnitzels.
They have six different German sausages on the menu, which you can sample on one of their combination platters that come with your choice of sides like potato salad and sauerkraut.
400 Sanford Ave, Sanford, FL 32771
Sanford Brewing Company is a large 100-seat taproom and gastropub offering a rotating menu of craft brews, ciders, and sodas brewed at their onsite brewery.
Located in downtown Sanford, a quick drive from Centennial Park, Sanford Brewing Company has a great outdoor patio, live music from local musicians, and Southern comfort bar fare.
They offer 21 beers on tap, about ¼ of the selection coming from their own brewery. There are also over 40 bottles of imported beer, mead, cider, and hard seltzers.
Their impressive menu has sandwiches, burgers, wings, beer cheese pretzels, quesadillas, and six different kinds of Mac n Cheese.
685 Towne Center Blvd, Sanford, FL 32771
Teetering between St. Mary and Sanford, Chianti’s Pizza and Pasta is a family-friendly neighborhood Italian restaurant with an elegant, old-world tavern appeal.
They serve authentic Italian dishes as well as Italian American favorites with a selection of wines and beers for a refined yet affordable lunch or dinner.
The menu features a variety of small plates, salads, soups, entrees, pasta, Italian sandwiches, and brick oven thin-crust pizzas.
They make a delicious Italian Club sandwich with genoa salami, pepperoni, ham, provolone, red onion, lettuce, and tomato with basil-infused mayo. If you want a pasta dish, try the decadent lobster ravioli with a sherry cream sauce.
112 E 1st St, Sanford, FL 32771
The Breezeway Restaurant and Bar is a lively Southern-comfort seafood restaurant and cocktail bar with a stunning outdoor patio in Historic Downtown Sanford a few blocks from the riverwalk at Monroe Harbour Marina.
The nautical-chic interior has a wood-finished bar, textured ceiling, and blown glass light fixtures, opening onto a massive brick-lined patio with a fountain and lush tropical greenery.
Their expert bartenders make perfectly mixed cocktails to accompany a multi-course meal of Southern-inspire dishes.
I started with the fried green tomatoes with house remoulade sauce, followed by the blackened Mahi smothered in sweet chili butter sauce over Cajun-style dirty rice.
550 N Palmetto Ave, Sanford, FL 32771
Located right on Lake Monroe in the outcropping of Monroe Harbour Marina, St.Johns River Steak and Seafood is one of Sanford’s most picturesque restaurants, with a giant outdoor deck lined with palapa-covered tables.
They are a casual, family-friendly steakhouse and seafood restaurant with a robust menu of fresh seafood, steaks, pasta, burgers, and sandwiches, encompassing a global flavor profile.
Their authentic New Orleans Gumbo was a great dish to sample all their fresh local seafood and imported NOLA sausage.
Their signature seafood dish is the crabmeat stuffed grouper over dirty rice with sauteed shrimp and Thai chili sauce.
125 W 1st St, Sanford, FL 32771
Run by Memphis-native Chef Nat Russell, The Tennessee Truffle is a fine-dining Southern fusion bistro in the heart of downtown Sanford.
Chef Nat sources his fresh produce, fish, and meat from small farmers, creating innovative plates that combine Southern dishes with modern twists.
The Tennessee Truffle has received accolades from Orlando Weekly, Sanford 365, and Edible Orlando, to name a few.
The small yet perfectly curated multi-course menu features scratch-made meals, displaying the small farms that provided each ingredient in the menu description. I recommend starting with the Berkshire pork with candied jalapenos and toasted peanuts.
The buttermilk fried chicken with Pommes pure, roasted horseradish chicken jus, corn cream, and grits was incredible. Save room for a true southern comfort dessert, like cornmeal pie!
300 Sanford Ave, Sanford, FL 32771
Featured in Sanford 365 and the Orlando Sentinel, Buster’s Bistro is an authentic Belgian beer bar and bistro with a dining experience that runs the gamut from a sports bar to a romantic dinner in the garden.
Located in Historic Downtown Sanford and a block from the Sanford Brewing Company, Buster’s Bistro has a unique offering of artisanal Belgian beer on tap along with the most authentic Belgian food.
They have TVs to enjoy your favorite games, an old-school arcade for an entertaining happy hour, and a romantic outdoor patio for a romantic meal. Their classic, twice-fried Belgian Frites are a must-try.
112 W 2nd St, Sanford, FL 32771
The District Eatery Tap & Barrel is a refined, contemporary American cuisine eatery in downtown Sanford that strives to support locals in every aspect of their service.
The rustic meets industrial chic dining space displays local artworks while maintaining the integrity of the historic downtown architecture. The New American cuisine and bar menu features locally sourced beers and ingredients.
The market-driven menu is seasonally rotating along with a rotating selection of local craft beers, American wines, and artisanal cocktails.
I started with their incredible mussels in a chardonnay cream and butter sauce. My favorite main course was the braised short ribs with wild mushroom risotto.
1831 Rinehart Rd, Sanford, FL 32771
Originating in Atlanta in 1974, Mellow Mushroom is a funky, artsy pizza restaurant that has since expanded to include nearly 50 locations along the east coast and deep south, all locally-owned to uphold a sense of native creativity. Mellow Mushroom’s Sanford location is in downtown Sanford right off its main artery of First Street.
Mellow Mushroom offers a thin-crust pizza using unique, healthful ingredients, an abundance of sauces, and an eclectic array of specialty pies.
I enjoyed the Kosmic Karma pie with red sauce, sheep’s milk feta, mozzarella, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, and Roma tomatoes with a pesto swirl.
200 Hickman Dr, Sanford, FL 32771
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store is a roadhouse, country diner, and country store all in one large, family-friendly dining space full of kitschy roadhouse knickknacks.
Home-style meals served in hearty portions at reasonable prices have been a constant at this nationally loved chain for decades.
They’re always located along a major highway, and Sanford’s location is no exception, lying along Interstate 4.
Breakfast is served all day, but there’s also an extensive lunch and dinner menu. I recommend their Country Fried Breakfast, with two farm-fresh eggs, grits, and hashbrown casserole with a giant piece of chicken-fried steak smothered in house-made gravy.
Whether you’re looking for fresh seafood with a view or a hearty country-fried breakfast, my list of the best restaurants in Sanford has everything you need to fill your stomachs and tantalize your taste buds.
My list of bistros, bars, pizza joints, and eateries offers welcoming atmospheres, picturesque outdoor patios, and friendly southern hospitality. Did we leave a restaurant out of this list? Make sure you leave us a comment and we’ll check it out!
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