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Gainesville recommendations?

  • z

Have a son starting school there soon and thus will be making several trips to the area. Any suggestions for some good restaurants would be greatly appreciated.

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  1. t
    Tandoori Girl

    This post is going to date me but if you can find out about this place, then it will surely be worth the give-away. When I attended the University of Florida in the mid-70s, there was a BBQ place that was nothing more than a little shack. It was called Pres' N' Eds, named after I suppose the two owners. The specialty of the house was BBQ goat. The take-out only restaurant was located on the other side of the University from downtown. I guess that would be on the east side of town.

    In general, the food around Gainesville has always been mediocre. I hope you have better luck than I've had on the few trips I've taken back to UF. It would be nice to know of some good grub in Gator land.

    15 Replies
    1. re: Tandoori Girl

      Unfortunately, Pres and Ed's went away years ago, as did Mama Lo's.
      You are so right about Gainesville being full of mediocre places. Demographically Gainesville is alledgedly perfect for the development of large chain concepts. So that's what we have. The mom and pop places are falling by the wayside, unable to compete with the purchasing power and advertising budgets of the chains. Chipotle opened on University avenue during spring semester and already a nearby independent looks like it's going to fail. We're totally saturated with restaurants currently. I can't understand why people open new places in Gainesville right now. How many pizza and sub places do we need?
      Students are not the most discriminating of eaters. A casual look at the restaurants the university has opened on campus show that they'll eat anything, no matter how bad. You'd think that with the population we have here now, we'd have better restaurants, especially ethnic places. But it's bad Chinese after bad Chinese, bad chain after bad chain. Why do people eat at TGIF?

      1. re: Janet

        Is El Indio still open on 13th? I really used to enjoy their grub. I practically survived by eating it. hearty, healthy and cheap.

          1. re: Rich

            El Indio! They had a rad fish taco!

          2. re: Janet

            Hi Janet: Is Hogan's Heros still around? We ate a ton of their subs during my one year in Hogtown ('91-92).

            Fortunately, a new edition of Roadfood came out that year, and I was able to make it to Mama Lo's -- and even got her to autograph my copy of Roadfood!!!

            1. re: Bob W.

              Hogans is still here but only in the original location next to Albertsons. They had opened 2 other locations (millhopper area and Archer Road), both of which eventually died. This town definitely has too many sub shops and the sub chains have a new presence. We now have Firehouse, Jimmy John's and Larry's. What's the little guy to do?? Wish the students/locals would support the independent places. If they don't, soon they'll have nothing but the chains from which to choose.

              1. re: Janet

                Well, we found the original location to be the best (the sub rolls were often a bit stale at Archer Rd.) so that's good news.

              2. re: Bob W.

                Hogan's had (has!?) an AWESOME draft beer selection. I was a regular consumer of Watney's ale there. Their bottled selection was awesome too

              3. re: Janet

                Pres and Ed's and Mama Lo's were both great places for college students on limited budgets. I ate at Mama Lo's dozens of times. Does anyone remember Dixie Cream on 16th Avenue? Their breakfasts--and in particular their biscuits--were awesome. Also, I loved the burgers at Snuffy's on University Avenue.

                1. re: Janet

                  You know I think it's a generational thing. My kids love the big box chains. They grew up with it. I was telling my wife how these days it really doesn't matter what city or state you are in. The scenery is different but the stores and restaurants are all the same.

                2. re: Tandoori Girl

                  Pres N Ed's was one of a kind. Probably some of the best ribs I ever tasted....cooked in a sauce that resulted in the meat falling off the bone.

                  I have yet to find anything comparable.

                  1. re: Tandoori Girl

                    Yeah Tandoori Girl, I was there too around the same time or maybe a little earlier. Food choices then were pretty dismal but now there are lots of choices but way too many chains. Zook, congrats on your son's acceptance to UF. Not an easy task these days. Weve been there a few times over the last two years with a son there too. Leonardos was almost as I remember. We've had good meals at Ballyhoos-3700 W University Ave. Mildreds Big City Food and the New Deal Cafe http://www.mildredsbigcityfood.com/pa... were pretty good finds off 34th St.

                    1. re: scubadoo97

                      I have on more than one occasion diverted my trip up 75 to hit up Leonardo's ...

                      1. re: maladrin

                        Leonardo's...home of the $1.09 slice of broccoli pizza. How many times was that my lunch between classes, and my vegetable allocation for the day LOL

                        1. re: Ralphie_in_Boston

                          I just tried Leonardo's on the way down to Brooksville on a business trip- the ahi tuna was really good. Thanks for the recommendations, guys!

                  2. Some recent enjoyable meals and settings in the last two years have been Mildred's - west of town....more of a fine dining place. My favorite is near the downtown square - Ameliano's or Emiliano's I believe, with tables on the outside sidewalk....a nice combination of Spanish and Puerto Rican flavors presented in modern-style. Another downtown stop would be the wine and cheese shop which does small courtyard lunches. I believe the latest fab place is about a block from Emiliano's called the Paramount Grill. A long-standing popular restaurant for some 30 years in Gainesville has been the Soverign, but I am not familiar with current ownership or reputation....

                    Maybe the other Mr. Zook in Gainesville can help you out, as well.


                    11 Replies
                    1. re: winesmoke

                      The Sovereign is very over rated. Same old boring menu year after year. Still owned by the same people. Have never understood the fascination with this place. Love Paramount Grill- Cliff has been cooking in town for years (Ivey's, Wolfgang's Saki Drops) and finally has his own place. Not inexpensive, but tasty. I think Emiliano's has gone downhill and stay away from Harry's next to it. Wine and Cheese still puts out good sandwiches and salads and their Friday night happy hour on the patio is the nicest in town. Still enjoy 706 and their Bistro next to the Slice. Love Tim's Thai- small menu but well prepared food. Best spring rolls around. Chop Stix is generally good. Good selection of pan-Asian stuff with lots of things for vegans and vegetarians. A big favorite of students.

                      1. re: winesmoke

                        Great to hear from some locals in Gainesville.

                        Emeliano's was my favorite lunch and twilight summer dinner spot when I lived in Gainesville 8 years ago. Nice outdoor dining.

                        A new Thai restaurant! Will have to try it out next time I pass through town.

                        A few months ago I posted here asking about Bahn Thai. Loved this place and the food. Is it still great? Since I moved away I have tried Thai in most every city in our travels (including Bangkok) and still put my memories of Bahn Thai near the top of my list.

                        1. re: Windsor

                          Tim's isn't new- it's been around for at least 15 years. The location isn't good- on NW 23rd Avenue between 6th and Main streets. Most students don't know it exists, but it's a favorite of the locals. Tim is the only cook and his wife Fe waits tables. Lovely people who know what they're doing.

                          1. re: Janet

                            Janet: another of my favorites was Steamers for loose-meat sandwiches. They've gotta still be there!

                            1. re: Bob W.

                              It's still there but I think it's changed owners a time or 2. Still a favorite, nonetheless.

                              1. re: Janet

                                The dude who used to own it, the vietnam vet...he was a good guy.

                            2. re: Janet

                              Tim's is by far the worst restaurant I've ever had the misfortune of trying. Not only was the food disgusting, they took over 10 minutes to give us our menus. Then they took another hour to bring out the appitizer. After another hour, we finally get our meal, which looked and tasted like it was thrown together in about 5 minutes. On top of that, the waiter never once apologized for the wait or even came to check up on us during the hour we were waiting for our food to come out. I would have been more understanding had the restaurant actually been filled to capacity, but it was not more than a quarter full! Eater beware!!

                            3. re: Windsor

                              Honestly... I though Bahn Thai was lousy. I staked out Bahn Thai on one of my days off to hit the lunch buffet right when it was freshest immediately after they opened. I was pretty excited about trying it based on comments on this site and from friends.

                              I love tempeh, but I thought theirs was just lumps o'tempeh around veggies. The meat on the buffet tasted reheated and the rest of the food was mostly just mediocre at best. I was extremely disappointed. I wound up filling up on soup (best part of the buffet I thought) and leaving.

                              1. re: Shannon

                                I have eaten Thai food all across the world. Ironically, I happen to be in Laos right now, going to Thailand tomorrow. Bahn Thai has made the best Thai food I've ever had.

                                There's a catch. Bahn Thai also makes lousy food. The buffet, though large, is a dubious choice. But if you order real Thai food and you like real Thai food, Bahn Thai is amazing. By real Thai food I mean intensely flavored and spicy (try ordering Thai hot). Their vegetarian dishes tend to be best. The freshness of the seafood is questionable. Tom yum soup is outstanding. #89, #90 great vegetarian noodle dishes. Try the curries (green and panang) and the krateum (garlicky dish).

                                1. re: aventinus

                                  One of my favorite dishes to this is day is their gaeng kua. I've worked for 10 years to try to figure it out to no avail ...

                            4. re: winesmoke

                              I have become partial to a place called the California Chicken Grill. Its in the 34th St Plaza off Archer Rd. It serves great tasting grilled or baked chicken, wings, and awesome smoothies. The portion size is great and I never leave less than stuffed.
                              There is an Applebee's hiding on 13th St and Leonardo's on 43rd is wonderful thick Deep Dish Pizza at it's finest--Get the garlic rolls!

                            5. i've had some wonderful pan-asian at Chopstix. nice view of a lake, good japanese, vietnamese, etc.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: andy huse

                                Chopstix is way overrated. Again the service was lousy and the food not terribly delicious. Merlion is way better and is beautiful inside. I would recommend Panda Express over Chopstix.

                              2. Chopstix is pretty good, but I'd stay away from the sushi with raw fish. I knew someone who worked there for a while, and said its often not the freshest stuff around. If you like Panasian, its great, but Dragonfly downtown is making the best sushi i think.

                                One of my favorite places of late is Satchel's Pizza waaay out on 23rd. Cash only, but the pizza is hands down some of the best I've had. Their salads are also excellent.
                                Generally speaking, there's alot around here depending on what you want to spend. Paramount Grill in downtown is one of the best places around, but a tad expensive. Go there for lunch and you can have an exquisite lunch for about $7.50 a person.
                                The Top downtown is also a cheap funky fun place that a good restaurant and also a bar. Its one of those places where my husband and I go there for the food at 7 and my colleagues hit it at 11:30 for the social atmosphere and both (restaurant/bar) actually work in the space.
                                I go to 43rd Street Deli alot for Saturday breakfast/lunch or Sunday (just breakfast). They're open until about 2pm daily and a solid place to grab just about anything to make people happy. I prefer the 13th street location (its in an old Shoneys so it had booths as opposed to picnic benches) but I highly recommend it for low key dining around here.

                                Newberry BBQ out in Newberry is about 20 minutes away, but the BBQ is worth the drive. Its the best stuff around. I like the ribs and chicken.

                                If you are looking for stuff close to campus, I'd recommend by all means necessary avoid the Dennys. I've been all around this country and eaten in all sorts of places, and that Dennys is by far the dirtiest and worst one I've ever been in. EVER.

                                Around campus, Leonardo's Pizza is a nice place for a slice and a decent salad. The Bistro is right next to it on University and they are pretty good too. That's the best place to get a upscale (but affordable) meal close to campus.

                                Ivey's Grill is also a pretty good place close to campus too. They have a very popular brunch and if you get there late, you often have a long wait. They make a decent hollandaise on their breakfast and if you go there for lunch, I like the BBQ salmon (i know, but it works) sandwich.

                                Celebrations Catering has recently opened a cafe over on Main that is great! The sweet potato chips are excellent and I have enjoyed their soups and sandwiches (its also a lunch place).

                                Steak and Pasta Works up on 13th is a good place to go with a family or a casual dinner. You can get just about anything, but I think they make the best burgers in town. The owners of Steak and Pasta also own the Copper Monkey, Northwest Seafood (up on 39th and about 53rd) and Grill Masters (over by the mall). Grill masters has probably a compilation of the best of their menus all together. I have taken my inlaws there when they visit Gainesville and they like it. I prefer Northwest Seafood. Their seafood is really very good, but last week I had some Portabello mushrooms stuffed with wild rice and pecans and topped with gorgonzola that were amazing.

                                One thing about burgers I've noticed in my 5 years here in Gainesville. Buns often show up untoasted (especially at the Copper Monkey and Swamp). If you are partial to having hamburger buns or sandwich rolls toasted or grilled, you have to remember to speak up!

                                I hope that helps with some stuff around here. If you are exhausted and just want quick food, just head to Archer Road. There are a bunch of chains where everyone can find something. If you want something off the national chain list, there's a nice middle eastern place next to Cici's Pizza and a solid pizza place called Tony and Pats in the shopping center on Archer next to Winn Dixie. Tony and Pats serves a buffet that's pretty good. The best part is they will ask you if you want anything specific, and then they will bring it by your table first before they put it up on the buffet. I'm partial to the white pizza.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Shannon

                                  Would definitely not eat sushi at ChopStix, although I know folks who do. Scary. But I like the cooked stuff a lot. Could be cleaner, but what restaurant couldn't?
                                  Haven't tried Satchel's yet, but I hear only good things about it. One of my employees also works there and he's enthusiastic about the food they're producing. My employees all like the Top too.
                                  Denny's really is revolting. Can't understand how anyone could eat anything out of that kitchen. If I remember correctly, the health department closed them down at one point in the last year or 2.
                                  Steak and Pasta has good burgers. I don't care for NW Grill- was there for the first time in ages a few weeks ago and I felt like everything was really ordinary. The wine list was awful. Just a real mediocre meal. Fish was fresh, but the preparation wasn't anything to write home about. I can do better at home.
                                  Haven't been to Tony and Pat's in years but they've been in Gainesville since I came here in 74 so they must be doing it right. There are too many restaurants in Gainesville for bad ones to be around for that long.

                                  1. re: Shannon

                                    I agree about Satchel's--great pizza! And Paramount Grill has great food. Independent restaurants rock!

                                  2. Paramount is by far the best fine dining restaurant. Can compete with the fabulous big city restaurants. I had a less than impressive experience at Steve's but I may try it again. Sovereign is horrible and expensive. Don't go there. Porters is good but ridiculously expensive for a town like gainesville. Northwest Grille is a great standby for seafood. Third Place in Haile plantation is decent as well. Mark's downtown in the sun center has great steaks, martinis and a great bar.

                                    1. A new place in Gainesville that would make any student happy is a Cuban restaurant called Virtually Cuban. Food is cheap, and _very_ good. Expect about $5.50 for a sandwich, and $7 for a dinner. It's on S 13th Street, and my wife and I try to get there about once a week. They may be a little unfamiliar, but go for one of the slow cooked steam table dishes, like Ropa Vieja or Garbonzo Frito. MMM!

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Josh Kelly

                                        24 replies and noone mentioned Burrito Bros? It is all about the sauce!
                                        And my husband and I LOVED Emiliano's when we were there ('90 - '94) Hate to hear they might have taken a turn down. Would still give it a shot. Wine and Cheese Gallery was good. And Amelia's for Italian downtown. Considering I left there after graduation and went to CIA, I definitely was paying attention. My husband actually bartended at Sovereign - very old school, very dark and cold.
                                        I remember El Indio, Hogans and Tony and Pat's fondly.
                                        But far and away if my hubby even hears of someone going to Gville he asks them to bring him home a Burrito Bros beef burrito/taco combo double wrapped - it travels well! (And buy the quart of sauce.)
                                        Gainesville is a great town - farmers markets a couple of days a week. Hope someday to be sending my 2 there!

                                      2. I left Gainesville almost 4 years ago but my friends and I still try to squeeze in as much eating as we can whenever we go to football games!

                                        Some good casual places to try: Cafe Gardens, behind the Swamp Restaurant, has a very good selection of burgers and chicken sandwiches. They also have these great sweet potato fries with a dill dip that is very tasty. It's a cute outdoor restaurant very close to campus. Also love Copper Monkey's buffalo chicken sandwich. There is a japanese restaurant in the same shopping center as Copper Monkey next to the Swamp, but I can't remember the name of it. Pretty popular with students.

                                        I also loved Tijuana Flats. This tex-mex mini-chain has some locations in central florida and Broward county. To this day I make the trip to Pompano Beach from South Miami sometimes to eat there! Great fresh burritos and don't miss their Sweet Chili Sauce. Also located across from Campus near the Swamp.

                                        I also second the Emiliano's recommendation. One of the few non-chain restaurants in downtown gainesville.

                                        Leonardo's pizza is great, but even better is the Pizza By the Slice window next to the old Purple Porpoise (now called Gator City, I believe). New York style slices. DELICIOUS crust and sauce. But it is only a takeout window, so eat it while you walk to the game or take it back home.

                                        Dragonfly - BEST sushi ever! Located in Downtown gainesville. Not to mention cheap! Don't miss their crab wontons and dragon roll. They also had a roll with thin slices of strawberry on top. Delicious.

                                        So those are my must-haves on my Food Trips to Gainesville!

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: jessicam29

                                          The Japanese place next to Copper Monkey is Kotobuki. It is very popular, and there is almost always a wait. I have a fond memory of taking a VERY HOT half-Asian girl there on a date and impressing her because I could eat with chopsticks. It isn't bad and the location is very convenient, but you're right about sushi -- Dragonfly is by far the best in town.

                                          I can also vouch for the pizza window next to the Porpoise/Gator City. We used to call it "Tough Guy Pizza," but I don't think that has ever been the name of the place. I liked it so much more than dealing with the snarky, snobby scene kids who work and congregate at Leonardo's, but the best pizza in town is at Satchel's, much more of a hike from campus (but well worth it).

                                          I used to love Chop Stix Cafe on SW 13th Street, even though someone else trashed it in this thread. Great Pan-Asian food, especially noodle dishes, with excellent prices and beautiful ambience... although I'll admit the service was often slow and inattentive. It's Gainesville, so good service is the exception, not the norm.

                                          To meginAB above, my brother and I lived in Stoneridge on 34th Street for a couple years, so we used to love Tony and Pat's all-you-can-eat pizza, baked ziti, and garlic rolls. Last I was there visiting (2005), it was still there!

                                          (I lived in Gainesville from 1996 to 2003, by the way.)

                                          1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                                            I totally forgot about tony and pats (was there 97-01). Loved their all you can eat too! Still go back to Hogan's whenever i"m in town, but I can't believe I forgot tony and pat's.

                                            Chop Stix was a favorite of mine and we went back recently and still enjoyed it.

                                            The Carribean Spice place near leonardo's was a favorite for a quick meal (I worked at the alligator as a freshman). Mildred's was a favorite for lunch, Ivey's for breakfast and Cafe Gardens for dinner (or lunch). burrito bros is a favorite, too - just ordered some online, but not the same in the "new" building. Emilianos for a nice dinner or for brunch on Sunday morning.

                                            1. re: alexajord

                                              All my years in town and I never went to Caribbean Spice, Ivey's, or Emilianos! But boy oh boy, did I get dragged to TGI Friday's on Archer Road a lot, for everyone's bloody 21st birthday celebrations!

                                              1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                                                I never made it to Caribbean Spice either. I was there 1996-2000. I did love Cafe Gardens, Burrito Bros, The Falafel King (which I think is gone,) Leonardos and the Hare Krishna lunch. I also enjoyed driving off-campus to Bono's BBQ (Newberry Rd. near I-75).

                                                I never understood the obsession with Fridays for ones 21st... I went to so many there. I did mine at the Swamp... of course, I live in Murphree Hall, so it only made sense.

                                                I'm going back to town for the UF-FSU game in November. I have to figure out where to drag my husband who's never been there.

                                              2. re: alexajord

                                                Oh no I forgot BB has a new building. I am disappointed by the thought alone. Oh well hopefully still get the experience for a game this year!

                                          2. Besides Bahn Thai, which I discussed above, I recommend:

                                            Burrito Brothers. Love it.
                                            Emiliano's. Good food, better setting.
                                            Gyro's Plus. Often incredibly delicious.
                                            Falafel King. Also worth a try for Lebanese

                                            1. There is a new (spring-07) Spanish restaurant called "Tapas and Tinis" which is quite good. It's in the Publix shopping center at Haile Plantation.

                                              I've had some good meals at Chopstix, and I love the pond location, but I've also had some really bad food and some very bad service there. But the time that we found long strands of black hair in the tempura was the last time we ever ate there! That was nasty. I went to Bahn Thai once and I thought it was really revolting. Maybe it was just a bad night. Merlion seems much better, cleaner, fresher food, ...

                                              The Top in downtown Gville is a lot of fun, very local, and not too expensive. Emiliano's downtown has good Cuban food, but the service can be really dreadful. And it seems that they are always out of plantains ...!

                                              Newberry Barbecue (in Newberry, of course) seems unknown to some Gville residents, but in our experience it is far better than any of the BBQ places we know in Gville proper.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Quicklime

                                                The Top had great sweet potato fries and lovely alterna-girls with dyed hair and sexy librarian glasses. I used to love hanging out there and having some fries and a few pints. I also miss going to shows at the Covered Dish, which didn't serve food but was conveniently right next door to Five Star Pizza.

                                              2. We have made trips to Gainesville from Los Angeles every year or two since the late seventies. Its interesting to see how the local scene has developed, and what stays and what folds. The one thing that you can get in Gainesville, that is absolutely unobtainable in California, and I suspect most other places, is good barbeque. Gainesville natives, I hope you cherish Newberry Barbeque, and David's, closer to town. Even the chain, Sonny's is better than anything I have found elsewhere. Looking forward to another visit to G'ville soon. Anything new we should try?

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: LAChow

                                                  if you want barbeque...forget Sonny's or David's or even Newberry Backhome barbeque! The best place is in the back of filling station/country store on 441 outside of Micanopy called Pearl's. I can't say much for the atmosphere.(but where else can you get a tank of gas and barbecue at the same time?) ..but the food is fantastic and worth the short drive. You can always get it take-out...which is what I do....and eat half of it crossing the Prairie back to G'ville.

                                                  Next door is Blue Highway and the home of the best veggie calzone ever...

                                                  My favorite place around here is Blue Water Bay in Melrose...great seafood...they even have French cuisine on Tuesday night...and they have a sour orange pie that will make you cry OMG!

                                                  1. re: gatorchemist

                                                    There is always Frog's BBQ in nearby Williston....30 minutes or so but great cue

                                                2. Ron, Ron Zook, is that you??

                                                  1. Not to derail your thread, but is there any place open for a nice Christmas Dinner in Gainesville??

                                                    1. It's now four years later and time to make plans for graduation weekend. Time flies! Dinner plans are set; but still need some place to take the relatives on Sunday for brunch/lunch where I can make a reservation (if it isn't already too late!). Any ideas?

                                                      1. The authentic Mexican place on South 13 Street is terrific.....real country mexican food. But I cant remember the name!!!!!

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: freddybjax

                                                          El Toro? Could that be it? Corner of SW 13th St and 16th Avenue, across from Steak 'n' Snake?

                                                          1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                                                            Add a little pizza place to the list of Gainesville (well, Newberry) great eats: Villagio's Pizza at 179 N. Main Street, Newberry, about 10 miles west of Gainesville and 5 blocks from the very popular (and often recommended here) Newberry's Backyard BBQ. Absolutely the best pizza I've had in 22 years in Florida!

                                                        2. I figured I'd add to my original thread now that it's four years later and we had our final meal in Gainesville for graduation dinner. Seven of us went to the Paramount Grill and had a very enjoyable night of dining. Our server was top notch and while there were other graduation celebrants there, the noise level was low which allowed for across the table conversation without raising our voices. Although the menu had only a half dozen or so choices for main courses, each was imaginative in design. The same with the salads and appetizers. I've attached the link to their restaurant so you can see the the type of food they serve; although our main courses were slightly different from that listed. For starters, we had the crab cakes, berry goat cheese salad, tomato mozzarella salad, and a special soup of the night spicy pepper soup. The portions were all large enough to share and all of them were enjoyed. For mains, we tried many of the menu items, the duck (which was a grilled breast atop a lemon risotto, pork (as prepared on the attached link but the sides were a baked potato stuffed with gorgonzola and sauteed onions), salmon (in an apple cider sauce with cheese polenta and grilled apples), and a blackened grouper (one had it plain grilled) with black bean cakes. Everyone (even my picky eater mother) enjoyed their meal leaving nothing behind. I was stuffed and couldn't face dessert; but the others were undaunted and had a slice of chocolate peanut butter cake, chocolate raspberry cheesecake, caramel tiramasu, banana caramel cheesecake, and a hot walnut tart with vanilla ice cream. Their wine list was well chosen and well priced. I would highly recommend this restaurant for anyone that is looking for an enjoyable dining experience with an imaginative menu. Now that my son is leaving G-ville behind, we will begin searching the "southern" boards for recommendations in Nashville to get us through the next three years! http://www.paramountgrill.com/

                                                          1. I drove to UF from N. Palm Beach today for an animal hospital visit. I will be back up there next Friday for lunch and possibly Saturday. I did not plan being there for lunch so I didn't check things out before I left. Had a gift cert to use at Bonefish Grill/Outback/Carrabba's but they are all closed for lunch. I drove around UF area looking for anything worthy and ended up at TGI Chilibee's. I haven't been there in over 4 years and I know why. I'm anti-chain but thought I'd play it safe. Wrong!

                                                            I didn't see any downtown area but maybe I drove right through it. So I gather from this thread that this Leonardo's is worthy? Or Emiliano's Cuban? I am a bbq fanatic and wonder if Newberry's or David's actually smokes their meats or is it just faux-Q? What about this El Toro and is it the standard order by number combination type Ameri-mex menu?

                                                            I will definitely be there for lunch and possibly dinner. Price is not a problem but am not looking to fine dine like Paramount. Dives are a specialty only if the food is worthy.

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: freakerdude

                                                              El Toro is standard psudo-Mex - large quantities of cheap, mediocre food. La Tienda is just a bit further south on the west side of the road and is MUCH better. I'd take it over El Toro any day.

                                                              1. re: freakerdude

                                                                freakerdude - my wife and I had a late lunch at Newberry's Backyard on our way to Lake City in November. She had the pork plate and I had the beef and both were moist and tasty with nice smoke. We thought it was well worth the detour and will stop again on our next trip up that way. I was a little disappointed that they don't serve collard greens, but that's just me.

                                                                Having read your other posts on bbq I'm pretty sure it won't knock your socks off but as you've noticed, it's hard to find great 'Q in Florida.

                                                                1. re: RickL

                                                                  I just returned from a long road trip. Newberry's Backyard BBQ was worth the 12 mile hike from G'ville. I had a combo rib and pork plate with beans and fries. Ribs were smoked and charcoaled, hence the name backyard bbq I guess. Pork was sliced and I asked for a bun to go with it instead of garlic bread. The pork was slightly smokey and if they had a "pulled" option, it would be that much better. Beans were better than average fare, kicked up with sauce and bits of pork or beef. Sauces were pretty much the average run, mustard, mild, and hot. All this place needs is a pulled pork option and a killer Brunswick stew. And don't let the tall pretty waitress behind the bar intimidate you, she's as gentle as they come ; )

                                                                2. re: freakerdude

                                                                  The drive from Gainesville to Newberry Back Yard is indeed worth it. As is the drive from Gainesville to Williston to Frog's BBQ Pad which no one ever seems to mention but me. Have ya'll tried it or not? It IS worth it. David's on the other hand is just mediocre on a good day.

                                                                3. As a former University of Florida student and alum I can attest to many of the great places to eat in Gainesville. Here are some of my favorites...

                                                                  - If you leave Gainesville without a love for Burrito Bros. you'll be doing yourself an injustice. Make sure you get extra red sauce.
                                                                  - Leonardo's By The Slice is a great place to get a couple of slices of pizza, especially if you live on campus since it's only walking distance from campus. Aside from the pizza, the ziti is good and super cheap, and the garlic butter rolls are fantastic. Don't let the "eclectic" staff scare you, they love to hire the pierced and tattooed up there.
                                                                  - Leonardo's 706 is just down the street and owned by the same people who own By The Slice...it's more pricey and it's a more in depth menu. My favorite caesar salad of all time is there, also the pizza's are great as is the pasta madagascar with grouper. Good place for a date.
                                                                  - Tony & Pat's...now this causes much debate in my house because I love it, despite being a total dive. All you can eat pizza buffet, all day everday. Pizza is very good and very thick. Don't fill up on salad or pasta, but the Turkey Minestrone is a mainstay. Also excellent rolls....when you go in special order a meatball and mushroom pizza for the buffet, you won't be disappointed - best meatballs in town bar none!
                                                                  - Hogan's Hero's - good sub place, but very ACR(you'll come to find out what that is soone enough if you don't know)
                                                                  - Copper Monkey has a good burger.
                                                                  - Almost forgot about Cafe Gardens...great lunch spot, especially sit back and chill out outside and have a good beer with a sandwich. Try the sweet potato fries with dill dipping sauce, it's great.
                                                                  - It's a chain, but I've always loved Mellow Mushroom - It's all about the spring water doe.....trivia night is fun too.

                                                                  There are sooooooooo many chains in Gainesville now its unimaginable, but put forth some effort and you will see that there are alot of great places to eat in that town not named Chili's or Moes Burritos or TGI Friday's. Have fun in gainesville and Go Gators!

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: JROCK001

                                                                    I just want to thank my fellow chowhounds. I'm eating a Burrito Bros. Burrito right now. I was debating BBs or Chiptole (they're right next door to each other, and both near my bus stop) b/c of you guys I chose BB. I DEFINITELY made the right choice! Why does anyone even go to Chipotle? It doesn't make sense, this thing is amazing!

                                                                    1. re: Lpflaum

                                                                      Chipotle is owned by the McDonald's coproration. I ate there once about 3 years ago and never went back. Moe's is even lower on the 'rito chain, except their meats are somewhat freshly made. "Welcome to Moe's" is how they used to greet everyone who walked in. That's enough to detour me.

                                                                  2. Tony & Pat's has been closed for several months now. For Italian food - pizzeria style Italian food - I second my own earlier recommendation of Villagio's Pizzeria, 10 miles west of I-75 Exit 387 in the town of Newberry (179 S Main Street). And if you want BBQ, Newberry's Backyard BBQ half a mile farther west, on Newberry Rd, is the real deal.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: Podie1956

                                                                      Tony and Pat's... closed? NOOOOOOOO! I used to love it, but that place got my brother through his entire degree at UF, back when he practically lived across the street at Aspen Ridge. He'll be crushed by this news. They had THE best garlic rolls!

                                                                    2. Newberry BBQ, as several others have mentioned, is a great choice. My son and I visited UF last year and when checking out colleges and took the advice of other Chowhound posters. The evening drive (not far, but rural) was pleasant and Newberry is a cute town. More importantly, Newberry BBQ was terrific -- the real thing without pretense, but not a dive, either, and the quality was high. Where we live -- Washington, D.C. -- it's hard to find that without going to a chain.

                                                                      6 Replies
                                                                      1. re: stevedc

                                                                        Thanks to everyone for all of the input. I have about 5 hours to burn while my Greyhound gets an MRI, so I will probably do some local shopping around G'ville and go to Newberry's BBQ. Any bbq in Fla. with even a hint of smoke is a plus in my book. Maybe hit Leo's 706 if I have to stay over.

                                                                        Mellow Mushroom has always been a fave of mine in ATL. A friend used to rave about Burrito Brothers, but I don't think I'm missing out on much from any 'rito chain. Moe's is the low end of the 'rito chain spectrum, which is another ATL conception as is MM.

                                                                        I doubt that any Mex resto in G'ville serves a mole' or al pastor. If this is not the case, let me know.

                                                                        1. re: freakerdude

                                                                          Although I know this post is old a lot of the information on here is outdated. And while Gainesville restaurants do tend to come and go there are a lot of good ones still around.

                                                                          First Hogans is still in business and has two open locations(34th and 13th)
                                                                          Dragonfly (good trendy sushi) http://www.menuwall.com/fl/gainesvill...
                                                                          Leonardos (no longer that cheap) http://www.menuwall.com/fl/gainesvill...
                                                                          Marks US Prime (superb but $$$
                                                                          )Manuels Vintage Room (classy italian with excellent wine selection and tastings) http://www.menuwall.com/fl/gainesvill...

                                                                          1. re: freakerdude

                                                                            Regarding Mexican
                                                                            for Tex Mex Las Margaritas http://www.menuwall.com/fl/gainesvill...
                                                                            for real Mex La Tienda is like stepping south of the border http://www.menuwall.com/fl/gainesvill...

                                                                            1. re: an1dr1ew

                                                                              Newberry's Backyard BBQ DOES have pulled pork now, and also Brunswick Stew as a special a few times per month. La Fiesta on NW 39th Ave and I-75 does have a mole on the menu, not sure about al pastor.

                                                                              As for the general area, I have tried Great Outdoors in High Springs five times now and have had five terrible to not bad at all meals. The service remains poor, however.

                                                                              1. re: Podie1956

                                                                                Oh, and Tony & Pat's closed when they tore down that whole shopping plaza to build a Kohl's. Now that Kohl's is complete, they will possibly add some restaurant space, which may inclue Tony & Pat's.

                                                                                1. re: Podie1956

                                                                                  That's interesting because we were there on the Friday of Labor Day weekend and our service was fantastic in the dining room. The service in the bar was also friendly. We loved our food.
                                                                                  Have you been to Ristorante Deneno on Main Street in Alachua? We had good service and food there and the menu was a bit different than the usual Italian.

                                                                          2. I have been coming to Gainesville every year for 12 years to visit my in-laws, and for the past few years I've checked for new recommendations on Chowhound every time. Today I was SHOCKED to discover the best Chinese food in town--among the best Chinese meals outside of China I have ever eaten--and no one on Chowhoud had ever said much about it. It's Mr. Han's, 6944 NW 10th Pl # 1 (near I-75): http://www.mrhanrestaurant.com/. It's pricey, sure, but worth every single dollar (and I'm a cheapskate). I spent the whole meal wondering aloud why no one had recommended it, and at the end of the meal my 4-year-old said to the proprietor: "Why are you not on Chowhound?" So my first task upon returning home is to recommend this as the best restaurant in Gainesville. I've always liked Emiliano's, and Ivey's is nice and casual, and we usually have a meal or two at Chop Stix, but this restaurant is in an entirely different category--super fresh ingredients, subtle and authentic flavors, EXCELLENT food.

                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                            1. re: clevi01

                                                                              I've been in Gainesville for an awful long time, wanted to plug a few of my favorite dishes for people who might be visiting...

                                                                              there's a grade-A dive on University, Reggae Shack, that has some outstanding Jamaican stuff, with a nice focus on vegetarian fare. However, the brown stew chicken is my favorite dish in town, period. would be real easy for someone going to a game to get to. Just hop on the #5 bound for downtown.

                                                                              Satchel's pizza is way out northeast, and it can be mighty hard to get a table on weekends, but the pizza is absolutely without peer in our part of the world. I've not had better in Florida, but I'm not well-traveled in South Florida either.

                                                                              South of campus, Chopstix is quite great at a narrow range of dishes -- the noodle bowls in particular, and twice-cooked meats like General Tso's. Sushi really is best avoided, and service really can be an issue, but the pad thai and pad kee mow (malaysian curry) bowls can be outrageously good. They have a second location, finally, up in the northwest. Food seems the same.

                                                                              BBQ is mixed fare, all over town. Nothing a Texan should bother with investigating. I like the ribs up at a strip mall joint up by Santa Fe College, Tori's, best. Pulled Pork at Chunky T's... best sides by far at David's, and everything's at least decent there. Newberry BBQ is great for gluttons but really not worth the trip in my book. Better to power on to Cedar Key and get some real sea food at Tony's.

                                                                              Emiliano's, downtown, does all right by some spanish cooking. Fritangas, on the north side of campus, does a great masa de puerco. Las Margaritas does the usual "Mexican" fare pretty well, makes a great margarita, and has a few more regional things on the menu (burrito campechana). Mr. Han's, I can't be as enthusiastic about as clevi01, but it's good food for Gainesville for sure. A Jamaican guy's kept in business for like two decades selling patties on University, great game-day food or campus-kid food, his place is called Caribbean Spice. Gyro Plus, nearby, is usually fine for gyros. The Top, downtown, has its moments (sweet potato fries), and is very good for the young-at-heart and hipster-in-recovery types. Brunch is a big thing in town, 43rd St Deli on 13th can handle all comers, but the better food is a northeast joint called 'The Jones' -- locavore, vegetarian oriented and great cooking. Finally, our local highbrow beer pub, Stubbies, has expanded to Stubbies and Steins, serving nice german food, and there's not a better place to drink in town. Great staff!

                                                                              Another thing about food in Gainesville: we have a local tempeh-maker, he's ace... as a result, there's just as much tempeh as tofu on menus around town. The dishes are often great -- typically some veggie-friendly person on kitchen staff has put it out there as a labor of love. And again: Reggae Shack. Brown Stew Chicken. Worth splurging on the aloe drinks too.

                                                                              1. re: leeh047

                                                                                You mentioned several of my favorite places, but here are a few more.

                                                                                If you haven't tried Mario's in Thornebrook, you must. It's a tiny European bistro with a limited but tasty menu that changes frequently and a great wine selection. The owner is German, so there is often a German-style offering or two. The meat and cheese platter is wonderful. By the way, Chopstix is opening a second location next door to Mario's, in the spot where Dinner used to be.

                                                                                Bistro 1245 near campus is excellent and very reasonably priced. Their roasted chicken sandwich is outstanding and the butternut squash bisque is yummy, as well.

                                                                                For fast and fresh sushi, try Rolls and Bowls over near the Archer & 34th intersection. It's owned by the folks from Dragonfly and has a similar but much less expensive menu.

                                                                                1. re: babysis

                                                                                  I'm quite fond of Mario's too, but after a few bad experiences with overwrought and unsatisfying specials of the day, I'll stick with the ample menu of wonderful snacks, salads, appetizers, tapas, etc., which appear reasonably priced. I always enjoy Mario's.

                                                                              2. re: clevi01

                                                                                Mr Hans has been around for a long time. They started as a hole in the wall on 13th street, before the move to the present location.

                                                                                Always terrific Chinese, though now it is deservedly pricey. They do take-out, but I don't know if they do "Gator Food".

                                                                                I just tried Satchels pizza after being able to break away from their calzones. Leonardos is still my favorite, though their quality has become catch as catch can (at the milhopper location) since the kitchen staff changed.

                                                                                If you want real bar-be-que in Gainesvill, try some of the local's mobile BBQ vans east of town.

                                                                                "Terrell's" is parked on the grass in front of the shopping center in 16th Ave NW at about 9th street thurs - sat, and there are others on Hawthorne Rd (E. University ave) generally around E 15th street. These are mostly open thurs - saturday or some such.

                                                                                Tried Chopstix for the first time recently - 'eh' . So So.

                                                                                For high end Italian I recommend "Allesandros" next to the Hollywood video on NW 16 Blvd and 43rd street.

                                                                                The owner was the chef at "Amelias" near the Hippodrome for a long time.

                                                                              3. Kickin’ Devil Café is a friendly and quirky new place in the middle of a little industrial ghetto between two Gainesville institutions: Satchel’s Pizza (and Junk Museum) and Sonny’s Bar-B-Q #1 (at 2017 NE 27th Ave.)

                                                                                Like Satchel’s the décor is fun and arty. The food is Cajun-inspired and prices are sympathetic to a sagging economy. I had a wonderful jambalaya, a side of sautéed green beans with aioli dipping sauce, and two Pabst Blue Ribbon tall boys for $14.00.

                                                                                1. book lover's cafe on 13th just about a mile north of the university on the right. tasty, homemade, and unique sandwiches, soups, salads, and desserts. great vegetarian options and lovely homey atmosphere. brouse used books while you wait and much

                                                                                  1. Manuel's on Main Street just south of University Avenue is one of my favorites--great Italian food, gnocchi like my grandmother makes. Good wine list, great specials, always friendly service. very small place but cozy.

                                                                                    The Top is always great. good burger too.

                                                                                    Chopstix opened a second branch into a Bistro out in Thornebrook Village next to Mario's. Was not too impressed with Mario's, it was okay.

                                                                                    Fan of Satchel's, the Jones, Northwest Grille (owned by Steak and Pasta Works people) is a good reliable place for seafood.

                                                                                    Paramount Grill is outstanding and Ti Amo is a very good place for small plates and tasty food (both downtown).