We were passing through Tallahassee and were in hopes of finding an interesting place for lunch. Frankly, our experience with local cuisine was a hit and miss so far, but we remained optimistic.
A full parking lot is a pretty certain sign of popularity. Local license plates of the cars parked added to our expectations. The tinted windows made it difficult to look inside and the exterior restaurant sign fully reflected the fun character of the place waiting inside. The wordmark itself was colorful and crazy.
We found ourselves playing with the unique wine and beer menus slapped on the bottles with "kool" suggestions. Local wines were not recommended by our waitress and she was quite upfront about it. Kool Beanz did not even bother making the local varieties a part of their list to choose from.
When it came to the food menu, it was dense with text with a little sun icon next to some dishes - to indicate those made with local ingredients.
Our choice number one was the pecan flavored rainbow trout with satsuma-cashew-cilantro pesto, green beans, and citrus risotto for $14. Second was the blackened mahi with Tabasco chile bearnaise, red beans, cornmeal fried okra and dirty rice for $15. We asked the waitress to recommend us US wines to go with our dishes and she suggested Concannon Crimson & Clover from the Livermore Valley in California. The second wine was a bit more pricey Merryvale Reserve from Carneros. While waiting for our items to arrive, we glanced around. There was plenty of colourful art pieces all over the walls, mostly pet related. The walls themselves were red, some bright green and blue. We were also entertained by the open kitchen area, which served as bar area for those wanting to eat and look at how the food is prepared. The chef was using a couple of original cast iron pan sitting on a steep angle over the open fire.
The Concannon wine was berry, oaky, medium bodied, smooth, not much of an aftertaste. It was a blend of four or five varieties, although the waitress was not able yo tell us what these were. As for Merryvale Reserve, it had a mineral aftertaste, overall light bodied, with a floral nose. This was a more enjoyable option with our meals. As we sipped on them, we noticed that the place could benefit from sharing platters to nibble on and enjoy the wine. The mani dish was served with an interesting spice. An easy going meal to eat, it had blackened skin, slightly spiced smokey beans and crusty okra. The trout dish was thinly fried, oily but flavorful. It came with a side of intense citrus risotto, beans with not much of a flavor but fresh and juicy - a good balance. There was some Asian influence here - cilantro, cashew and some tangerine topping the fish. The skin was crispy and flavorful with a bit of fat. An interesting balance for a slightly oaky and citrus notes Chardonnay.
Kool Beanz is an experimental place, appearing to be praised by local residents (full parking lot and wait list). It is friendly and upbeat, maybe a bit pricy for the general crowd. Quite a few people were dressed up - well paid professionals or people going out for a date.
If we are around again, we'll come back!