Text and Photography by Remi Escudie
Backwoods Crossing Comes to Tallahassee
Okra, rainbow quinoa and scarlet kale grow in-house at Backwoods Crossing, the only “farm-and-table” restaurant of its kind in Florida. The traditional farm-to-table model targets customers that value locally grown ingredients in their food; to meet this demand, some restaurants assure their ingredients are grown by farmers in the local community. Backwoods Crossing, however, takes this model one step further.
“We have three acres total and about two acres are farm,” said Tyler Rice, co-owner and co-creator of Backwoods Crossing. “We have a grow room in the front -it’s a nursery basically. We start all our seedlings in there, and once their ready to go outside, we transplant them into the greenhouse out back. After that, we put them in the ground and farm them on site.”
Backwoods Crossing also buys produce from the farmers in the Tallahassee community; this enables the staff to utilize their own farm to grow specialty ingredients that would be hard to find elsewhere.
“Farmers stop by to tell us what they have and offer us their crop. If we think we can use it, we’ll buy it and serve it,” said Rice. “We try to focus on vegetables, fruit and produce that you can’t just go to the grocery store and buy — dragon carrots would be an example. They’re little purple heirloom carrots and they have a completely different flavor and texture than you would expect from a carrot. We like to showcase stuff like that. It’s different; it’s new; it’s exciting.”
The owners, Tyler and Jesse Rice, started their business as Backwoods Bistro in Sopchoppy, Florida before moving the project to Tallahassee. After seeing the success of Backwoods Bistro, the brothers created Backwoods Crossing. Tyler, who has recently returned from a five years stay in Qatar, manages Backwoods Crossing while Jesse leads the culinary creativity. What originally started out as an aesthetic garden turned into an opportunity to enter the organic market. The fresh produce grown on the farm allows for unique dishes and spontaneity in the kitchen.
“We have an item called Taste the Garden. The customer will challenge the chef to come up with six brand new creations on the fly,” said Rice. “The chef will come out to talk to the table and ask them if they have any food allergies. He then picks fresh fruits and vegetables from the garden and creates an assortment of improvised dishes.
Aside from the main menu, Backwoods Crossing has a garden creations menu with weekly specials that change on the type of crops available. It’s about 10 items that are completely locally sourced from farms in the area and the garden.
“It’s a southern spin on fine dining,” said Rice. “You won’t find anything else like it in Florida. Come check us out!”
With a family friendly atmosphere, southern flair and outside seating surrounded by flowers, southern customers will feel right at home. For those that value fresh produce, locally sourced ingredients and home-style favorites like blackened shrimp and grits with cream cheese stuffed crab balls, Backwoods Crossing is definitely a spot to visit.
Remi Escudie is a journalist and senior at Florida State University. He seeks to promote environmental awareness and conservation through writing and photojournalism.