Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Gainesville Food: Top 5 Finds

Let me just preface this list by stating that I absolutely love my fare city as much as I love punning. I have now lived in Gainesville for over 10 years and in that time I've heard Gainesville called many things from "...the Berkley of the South" to "...just like Austin in the 70's". I disagree with these limiting descriptions, and consider that Gainesville is a little patch of green heaven filled with democratic, enterprising individuals not the least of which are our local restaurateurs.
 My family and I exclusively dine at locally owned and operated restaurants around town. It's just one small way we chose to give back to this fine city. I suggest that whether you're a native or a recent transplant you take my suggestions seriously..eat locally. It stands to benefit your town, your health and ultimately your wallet.  Okay, lecture over..here it goes..my top 5 local restaurants:

1. The Lunch Box: Right smack in the center of Bo Diddley Plaza. Open air, open seating and cute as a button. The outdoor eatery not only looks sweet, it can deliver the goods. From absolutely devine soups that any five star chef would envy, to most incredible home-made corn dog you've ever had the privilege of devouring - not that I would know:)

Favorite Menu Item: Ginger Curry Carrot Coconut Soup (Menu Special)
Price: around $4
Guilty Pleasure: Home-made Corn-Dog
Price: $2.75
For a complete menu check out thelunchboxdowntown.com

2. Civilization: Finally an attempt to make a formerly hipster infested hang-out into a very beautiful and progressive restaurant quite worthy of it's name. Civilization is primo! From the soups right down to the water buffalo burger(real free range buffalo from our little neighboring town of Archer).  The fries are even better than the burger which is nothing short of outstanding! Civilization has it down..a-mazing food, beautiful architecture, great lunch menu and lunch menu prices. Best of all this place is a restaurant co-op which means that your server is also part owner. You don't ever have to worry about having an aloof server here. Try to avoid dinner..too much of a mark-up there.

Favorite Menu Item: Free Range Water Buffalo Burger
Price: Under $10
Guilty Pleasure: Home Fries with dipping sauce
Price: comes with your $10 Buffalo Burger


3. Chopstix: What can I say about this place. Well, for starters, it should be listed as #1. Mr. Lee and his beautiful wife have been charming me back in here for years. Their menu is extensive, their food is NOT expensive, their portions are enormous and the staff..well, let's put it this way, I would gladly sell something dear to me before I tipped under 20% here. Staff is stupendous! They give great menu suggestions and are very precise about describing dishes(which must be hard to do with such an extensive menu to memorize) and their smiles are contagious. Good times are had by all at Chopstix!

Favorite Menu item: Lemon Grass Chicken
Price: $9
Guilty Pleasure: Salt and Pepper Squid
Price: Market Price(around $12)


4. Sabore :  If like me, you can appreciate art in culinary form...it will be a sincere pleasure to dine at Chef Willy Hernandez's fun, hot, and elegant Tioga restaurant. I've personally celebrated several birthdays and anniversaries there in the last few months. This place has a sizzling atmosphere, a diverse menu (which blends flavors from Japan, Italy, Spain, Peru etc) and impeccable service! I recommend Sabore whether you're having a casual lunch with friends or you want to make your out-of-town guests jealous. Important Note: Don't skip dessert here..I highly recommend the appropriately named "the funk"(chef special tiramisu / chocolate heath bar / blueberry sauce) and dulce de coco (a Dominican dessert made from shredded coconut, evaporated milk, vanilla, cinnamon - think coconut rice pudding without the rice!)


Favorite Menu Item: King Salmon
Price: $13
Guilty Pleasure: Dulce de Coco
Price: $8

For the complete menu, pictures of their culinary masterpieces and the best restaurant website I've seen in months check out www.saborerestaurant.com

5. Satchel's: A destination, not just a restaurant. If not for their ever so extensive and quite impressive beer collection, go for the art... Found art, hip mamas, and some seriously yummy Satchel's salad, not to mention Lightnin' Salvage is my favorite venue in town. Just behind the pizzeria is a cute little open-air seating area/music venue. You may just order a pizza and sit out at the Salvage with the kiddies taking in some great sights and sounds. Let them go for a romp in the playground while you're taking in the tunes or playing bocce ball with friends out back at Satchel's very own bocce court.

Favorite Menu Item: The Satch Salad
Price: $6.50 (feeds 2-4)
Guilty Pleasure:  The Major (a pizza with pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, green peppers, onions, and black olives)
Price:  $5.75/slice  $20.00/medium pie


Other Gainesville restaurants that make my inner fat-kid smile:

For Jazz, Most interesting bathroom and Mark's Famous Sunday Brunch: Leonardo's 706
For a Taste of the Town and to meet the coolest kids in town(cause they all work here): Leo's
For a Latin-Inspired weekend lunch with friends: Emiliano's
For celebrating your birthday(if your friend's are paying): Dragonfly
For the best hot sauce and Cuban sandwich in town: Fruitanga
For a great bar, amazing food, interesting art and mid-century modern furniture to boot: The Top
For the best pancakes, salmon eggs benedict, their very own chocolate cinnamon infused coffee roast you might be tempted to trade your roommate for: Ivy's Grill 


  1. Post your reviews below for a chance to win $25 to one of myfoodplans Top 5 Gainesville restaurants. The certificate will be awarded and a winner will be announced on November 5th!

  2. Teresa...what fun to read these choices...
    I have to add that one of the best things I had at Civilization this summer was the avocado gazpacho, and will mention that the server was really slow (my daughter and her friends pointed this out).
    My family went to the brunch on Sunday at Cafe C- really yummy (not all healthy choices..hehe)and satisfying for everyone. The place is beautifully eclectic from the dishes to the decor.

  3. Thought I'd take a shot at the $25, and if I win I promise to use it for good (future reviews) and not evil (craigslist).

    Harvest Thyme Cafe

    I'm a fan, and it's not a proximity infatuation either. Though it doesn't hurt that it's less than a mile from my front door. Harvest Thyme doesn't try to be anything more than it already is. A breakfast and lunch cafe offering sandwich's, soups and salads for those looking for a less complicated dining experience. When I look at their menu it's refreshing to not see words like "organic", "local", or "free-range". It's nice to not think about a chicken's upbringing before I eat it. Honestly, am I supposed to feel better if a chicken was allowed to roam freely before having it's head cut off and packaged for my consumption? Because I don't. Harvest Thyme doesn't force ANYTHING on you. Even their menu is unpresuming; so folksy and charming written in chalk on the back of the wall. I once asked the kid behind the counter if he could switch a couple sandwich ingredients and he said "sure, if we've got it here we can put it in for you or we can make you whatever you like." He wasn't offended by the fact that I didn't want exactly what he was offering. We shared a judgment-free, love for sandwich's moment. It was beautiful, and I'm man enough to admit I liked it. Now, down to brass tax as Teresa likes to say. The prices are good. A couple of Alexander Hamilton's will buy you lunch for two which includes a sandwich, a small pasta salad and a drink. The caribbean jerk chicken wrap is a staple of mine and the turkey hummus ain't too shabby either. My wife is quite fond of the lobster bisque soup, but it's a special so don't bitch at me if it's not on the chalkboard when (not if) you go. Being as they claim to be a cafe they're obligated to have some baked goods (i.e. muffins, scones, cookies and the like). I've never indulged in the baked goods, but I do like the sweetwater coffee on tap all day. Dine in, people watch on the front patio or take out. The staff doesn't care either way, they'll smile and feed you well regardless.

  4. Hey Teresa! I am totally loving the blog - it's amazing.


    This restaurant is fabulous, to say the least. Not only is the atmosphere fun and lively, but the service and food are unbelievable! Coming from Miami, I have been searching for a chic place that combines quality food with style...Sabore definitely fills this void. The trendy ambiance of the restaurant welcomes you the moment you walk through the doors. Each time I have gone to Sabore, I not only have had a delicious meal, but also an experience. The dinner menu is outstanding - there is a colorful variety of foods that anyone would enjoy (and I'm a picky eater!). Ranging from fresh seafood, to mouthwatering pastas, you feel as though ordering half the menu would not suffice (YOU WANT IT ALL!). Additionally, the lunch menu provides you with several options, with a selection that differs from the dinner menu, serving as the perfect complement. The salads are fantastic, as well as the chicken. My personal favorite is the chopped salad with a side of fries (which happen to be one of the BEST I have ever had). Any entree ordered with a fresh glass of wine is sure to make your afternoon or evening!

  5. Thank you to everyone who participated in the our food review for October. You are all great writers and critics. I look forward to posting another review this coming month and encourage you all to join in on the discussion.