Cole Couture Boutique
Carrie McNeill's alluring place is like your stylish friend's oversize closet. Her rural-chic shop offers BCBG, Michael Stars, and Ella Moss frocks, as well as the largest selection of denim in the city with seven designer blues brands (including J Brand and 7 for All Mankind), from $64 to $188. The clothes are joined by furniture and works from area designers. (We love Janelle Napier's reworked vintage jewelry.) "I wanted a place that invited everyone to come in and play dress-up," Carrie says.
1240 Thomasville Road; colecouture.com or 850/553-3327
Midtown Filling Station
This gastro pub/music venue features hearty lunchtime creations such as Drunken Taters (hash browns covered with three different cheeses, bacon bits, and scallions, $6), and a wonderful Crawfish Mac-and-Cheese ($10). The Station is also a great place to fill up come dinnertime, especially because the cozy eatery features burgers and wings, weekly games of trivia, and local bands and deejays.
1122 Thomasville Road; midtownfillingstation.com
The Grey Fox
The walls at this boutique are lined with Vera Bradley handbags, luggage, and stationery, mixed in with some Lilly Pulitzer and Pandora. But, unlike other places that carry the popular designer's items, the co-owner isn't just a Vera Bradley fan—she's Vera's daughter, Kathryn Bradley Wilson.
206 East Sixth Avenue; thegreyfoxonline.com or 850/894-8372
This nonprofit coffee shop relies on a few employees and a group of volunteers to whip up your steaming fair-trade latte or café au lait (coffee with milk)—both awesome for warming up on a cool spring morning.
1122-7 Thomasville Road; re3eye.com or 850/425-5701
Lucy & Leo's Cupcakery, Textures, Handmade Market, and Kanvas Beauty
Located in a building across the street from Midtown Filling Station, these three businesses offer goodies, gifts, and great beauty products. Lucy & Leo's specializes in made-from-scratch cupcakes ($2.25). In addition to traditional flavors such as Red Velvet and German Chocolate, the veterans of the Food Network's Cupcake Wars show also whip up an eye-opening Margarita cupcake. Walk through the bakery and you reach Textures Handmade Market, filled with unique gifts, including handmade pillows and ribbon necklaces, all made by Florida artists. Next door, Kanvas Beauty carries more than 40 hard-to-find brands (such as Darphin and T. LeClerc) and also offers a small on-site spa.
1123 Thomasville Road; lucyandleoscupcakery.com or 850/765-0374; textureshandmademarket.com or 850/765-0378; kanvasbeauty.com or 850/224-7467
Kool Beanz Cafe
This neighborhood staple of 16 years (open long before Midtown was cool) serves a rotating menu of area-sourced entrées such as duck with pear chutney and fried kale ($21) and peppered flank steak with Gorgonzola butter ($18). The limited but well-selected wine list is printed on old bottles at each table. Sitting down for dinner, we recognized several folks we met throughout the day and realized this is the spot where Midtowners feel right at home.
921 Thomasville Road; kool-beanz.com or 850/224-2466