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Apr 6, 2008 01:25 PM

Hole in the Wall Southern food in North Florida

I moved to Gainesville a few years ago from Arizona, and have found it hard to connect with southern cooking. I'm looking for good mom and pop, family, hole in the wall southern food. In Gainesville, people have directed me to Juniors, which was fun. But the circles I run in don't seem to know much beyond that. "Go to <insert national chain here>" some people tell me.

So, people of North Florida, can you tell me where to find the food of the south? I have a few more years here, at least. I grew up on a lot of Mexican hole in the wall, but my Grandma was from Arkansas, so I had corn bread, pork chops, greens, biscuits, gravy, bacon, pecan pie, chocolate meringue pie, black eye peas, okra, red beans and rice through her, and I hope to find that again!

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  1. "...corn bread, pork chops, greens, biscuits, gravy, bacon, pecan pie, chocolate meringue pie, black eye peas, okra, red beans and rice..." are more likely to be found in other states. Red beans and rice is a traditional Louisiana dish, black eye peas, okra, collards, biscuits and gravy belong more to a Georgia/Alabama/Carolinas style of home cooking than what you will likely find in Florida. (though I don't know where chocolate meringue pie fits in your list!). 'Fraid you're going to have to travel out of state or go to Cracker Barrel!

    5 Replies
    1. re: janniecooks

      Travel out of state or go to Cracker Barrel?!?

      That's just plain wrong. Every small town in North Florida has a place just like that. There's one in my hometown (Jasper) and two in the next town over. And every other town just like it. I'm absolutely flummoxed as to how you could really believe there's no traditional southern food in Florida outside of Cracker Barrel. Thats like saying Pizza Hut has the best pie in New York, or that 7-11 makes the best hot dogs.

      In Orlando, I can think of four places off the top of my head that fit the bill.

      In Gainesville, there used to be a place called Firpo's on NW 6th st. I'm not sure if its still there, but it's right up the original poster's alley. Also a great place in Waldo, I used to take dates there for fried chicken and collards when I was at UF. The name escapes me.

      1. re: JayDubya


        Is the place in Jasper H&F Foods? I have been eating there for years whenever I'm up that way. What are the two restaurants in the next town over? I ate at a pretty good southern buffet in downtown White Springs a year or so ago and the old hotel downtown White Springs had a pretty good buffet also.

        1. re: EOutlaw


          The H&F is the place in Jasper I was talking about. The next town over was Live Oak.. where they've got Cheryl's, an awesome buffet heads and tails above the H&F, and the Dixie Grill, which is more of a diner. If you like the H&F, Cheryl's will blow you away.

          Cheryl's is on 90, about 4 blocks north of the 129 intersection. The Dixie Grill is a block south on 90 from the same intersection.

          1. re: JayDubya

            Thanks JayDubya,

            I'll definately be trying Cheryl's the next time I'm passing through.

      2. re: janniecooks

        I am a native of the Panhandle and grew up eating everything he mentioned in his first post if you sub lemon for chocolate meringue. Plus add to that every kind of fresh vegetable from the garden and wild game. I think Fl transplants often miss out on the "southern" people of Florida.

      3. You might like Harry's. It's more of a New Orleans-style, but I liked it the last time I went. On ESPN Saturday Night Football, commentator Todd Blackledge went to a place called "Ballyhoo Grill." It's really more "Florida-style" with fresh seafood and stuff. Other than a few places and holes-in-the-wall, Gainesville is pretty much a chain wasteland.

        1. What you're going to have to do to get the real thing is drive to Jacksonville for lunch.

          There's a little place on the Westside right off of US-17 on the corner of St.Johns Ave. and Hamilton St. named Arden's Kafe and Katering. This is strictly a lunch place, mind you - they serve a down home buffet Tuesday thru Thursday, and have most of the veggies, etc. available from the menu as well all week. I grew up here in Jax eating the cornbread and veggies you mention, and this is how people cook at home throughout this area - if you were raised here, that is. Lots of folks here are from somewhere else, you know.

          Try it - you'll like it. It's what you're looking for. Basically, it's dinner on the grounds without the sermon. If you know what I mean by that, you know what you're going to find.

          Arden's Kafe & Katering
          1650 Hamilton St, Jacksonville, FL

          1. Too bad you missed the Chuck Wagon, which closed towards the end of my time at UF. It was definitely a hole in the wall. Have you tried Conestoga's in Alachua? It's charming....I only had burgers there but I think you might find what you describe. The pies were excellent. There was also a place in High Springs that was very country and may fit your description.

            1. Have you ever checked out The Yearling in Cross Creek? It's more old Florida Cracker cuisine, but they have the biscuits, hush puppies, fried catfish, meatloaf, sweet potatoes, cheese grits, turnip greens, fried green tomatoes, etc. that you are looking for. It's been around since 1952, and looks it. It's been a few years since I've been there (I used to go when I lived in Ocala, but I am now in Tampa), but I used to enjoy it.