Posted by: Jamie Stamm | March 4, 2008

Where do you like to eat?

I got an e-mail last week from a gentleman in California who will be visiting Sanford this summer with his immediate family and his in-laws (his mother-in-law is a former Sanford resident). He was asking for advice on where they could eat while they’re in town, noting that Yarborough’s and what I’m guessing from his description is Bud’s Barbecue are already on his list based on past trips to the area. He doesn’t want to eat at chain restaurants and is looking for places that “the locals enjoy.”

For me, what’s so great about eating in Sanford (once you look past all the fast-food restaurants) is that there isn’t one restaurant that epitomizes the city. Sanford itself, like the restaurants within in its limits, is extremely diverse. And that’s lucky for all of us who like to enjoy a good meal out every once in a while.

I don’t live in Sanford, so I don’t eat dinner here often, but about once a week, I try to get out of the office for lunch. And these are my current favorite lunchtime haunts (in no particular order):

1. Julia’s Sandwich Shop, 1415 S. Horner Blvd. ( Julia’s signature sandwich is its Cuban (which is really good), but I’m an even bigger fan of the roast pork sandwich, loaded up with onions, garlic and lemon sauce. The restaurant offers authentic Cuban specials each Tuesday and Thursday – I had roasted pork with sides of black beans and rice and yucca a few days ago, and it was very tasty (plus the portion was huge). And Julia’s delivers during the lunch hour.

2. El Rancho Caribbean Restaurant, 103 Wicker St. ( El Rancho offers my favorite lunch buffet in Sanford. Each Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, owner Jose Correa puts out a spread featuring several meats, rice and beans, and various side dishes (make sure you try the goat – it is wonderful). And on days when there is no buffet, Correa offers $5 lunch plates. Plus, he and his staff always make sure you have a pleasant dining experience, including keeping your glass filled with El Rancho’s excellent homemade lemonade.

3. Thai House, 1834 S. Horner Blvd.: When I was pregnant with my son, my biggest craving was spring rolls from Thai House. They are outstanding – light and crisp on the outside with a perfect mix of veggies on the inside. I love Thai House’s curry, I love its sweet and sour chicken (the combination of peppers and pineapple is indescribable) … in fact, I’ve never had anything at this restaurant that I wouldn’t have gone back for a second time.

4. La Dolce Vita, 143 Charlotte Ave. ( Though I’m a fan of La Dolce Vita’s daily specials (I had a phenomenal wild mushroom ravioli there last week), most of the time, I opt for the soup and a half-sandwich special. The soups are always excellent, and you can’t go wrong with the fresh-baked focaccia sandwiches – my favorite is the Alberto (artichoke hearts, onions, roasted red peppers and cheese), followed closely by the cheese steak (the chipotle mayo really does it for me) and the portobello sandwich (although it’s so messy to eat).

5. Elizabeth’s Pizza, 1129 Spring Lane: Elizabeth’s has the pizza that most reminds me of home. It’s slightly greasy, with just the right amount of sauce and plenty of cheese. Topped with mushrooms, two slices make the perfect lunch. And Elizabeth’s cheese steaks are pretty good, too.

I also plan to recommend both Renalds and Mrs. Lacy’s Magnolia House, which I think are great restaurants for a nice sit-down lunch (unfortunately, I rarely have time to sit down and truly enjoy my meal- I am the queen of takeout), as well as Fresh Choice Cafe, in case the family is looking for a healthy alternative (I love the veggie burger there).

So now that I’ve offered up some of my favorite local restaurants, I would love to know some of yours, especially for dinner. I don’t want to steer our summer visitors wrong.



  1. To add to your list:
    Dairy Bar – Not the place you want to go to if you aren’t in the mood to be social…but the comfort food is sure to put you in a better mood if you do go!

    Java Express – Vidalia chicken salad sandwich with warmed baked potato salad and a frozen mocha! yum!

    Bella – Sadly, this is a place we have not eaten in quite a while, but it is a place I have loved since it opened.

    Local Joe’s – for awesome burgers with chili – must get onion rings

  2. Can’t believe I forgot Joe’s – great wings and French dips, too!

  3. Between you and Emily, you hit all my favorites!!! You might want to add Andy’s – yes, it’s a chain, but it’s a “fun” place to eat because of the decor and music and they really make you feel welcome!

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