Another Saturday night, another debate. Yet again, the desire to go dancing at Universal Citywalk enticed me. My husband, however, had to work the next morning and preferred a more low-key evening. And so, we ventured to Sanford, Florida.
Certainly, there are parts of Sanford that I would not send my worst enemy to, but it would be a shame to not visit the historic shops, bed and breakfasts, and restaurants or to spend an afternoon along the beautiful St. Johns River (one of the few Northern flowing rivers). The best place to visit in Sanford is 1st Street. It is easily accessed by I-4 East, Toll road 417 or 17-92. 1st Street is home to countless small businesses and that’s why I love it. Antique shops, book shops, art galleries, cafes, restaurants, delis,… all independently owned and operated. There is a fantastic farmer’s market on Saturdays (which I will be doing future posts about). When my husband and I planned our wedding, we decided we wanted something small and unique. We wanted to showcase both of our backgrounds, mine being Florida, his being California. My mother suggested a beautiful, small historic building in Sanford: the Bettye D. Smith Cultural Arts Center. Anyone looking for a small venue with great character should consider this venue. Here are some pictures of the venue on our wedding day below. The Sanford Flower Shop did an amazing job and we worked with Sitting Pretty for our linens.
It was so much fun working with local businesses in Sanford during the planning process. I have very fond memories of weekends spent on wedding planning errands. One day in particular was very fruitful and enjoyable. I found the perfect tiara in an antique shop for $20 and planned the reception menu with Chef Rich at Stone’s Throw Bistro.
The opportunity to revisit the venues in which our wedding took place, is a welcomed opportunity that we seize from time to time. This Saturday was one of those opportunities. Chef Rich of Stone’s Throw Bistro, decided to go back to his Italian roots and transform Stone’s Throw into Marco Dino’s Ristorante. We had not visited since the transformation. The moment we stepped into Marco Dino’s a wave of romantic reminiscing washed over me. Chef Rich and his team added new light fixtures and scaled down the art collection. The historic charm, however, was not lost.
We decided to sit at the bar and we browsed the new menu which is an Italian food lover’s dream. There are martinis and handcrafted cocktails to delight guests. I decided to try a sidecar (a classic cocktail I have always wanted to try). My husband went with an old stand-by: sweet, whipped cream vodka with orange juice.
We dined on mushroom risotto and eggplant rolitini, which came with a side of pasta. Everything was rich, hearty, and satisfying. Chef Rich is certainly in his element. We found ourselves a bit warm, however, the summer heat is not easy on the air conditioning inside Sanford’s historic buildings. We enjoyed the live music provided by Fred, who also played California themed songs on his guitar during our wedding reception. I think Chef Rich will enjoy much success with Marco Dino’s, and I encourage you to visit sometime. It is perfect food for the cooler temperatures in Fall or Winter.
After filling ourselves we decided to head down the block to Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe. The Willow Tree cafe is my favorite German restaurant in Central Florida. Who needs to spend $35 per person at Biergarten in Epcot, when you can visit a restaurant run by a friendly man from Germany who greets his guests and cheers them on as they chug beer from a glass boot?
We were delightfully full and had no room for any more food, so we stopped in to enjoy the festive live music and have a nightcap. Because Chef Hollerbach is from Germany he maintains great friendship and business relationships back in Germany. This means patrons get to enjoy the best in German beer and wine, which we took advantage of. We will definitely return, it is a must that I visit during the Fall for Oktoberfest and again during Christmastime (my German heritage means that Christmastime is not Christmastime without German food).
I highly recommend for Florida visitors and Florida residents, a trip to the historic 1st street of Sanford. It is one of Central Florida’s historic treasures and home to charming small businesses. Add in a walk along the St. Johns River or a venture through the nearby Central Florida Zoo, and you’ve got yourself one heck of a day trip.