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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.

                    Winesmoke.

                    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.