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Suggestions for Gainesville

I ran a search and majority of the posts from the other Gainesville threads looks dated, so I'd like to get some more recent input. I'm coming from Dallas for a business trip and I will have a car.

Dallas has a restaurant in a Hare Krishna temple that serves outstanding food, so I'm also very interested in checking out Gainesville's Hare Krishna lunch. Excited about possibly trying dishes I haven't seen before. Where can I find more details/info? I hope I can sneak away from my not-so-adventurous coworkers to do this!

Bahn Thai also sounded promising. I glanced at the menu online, but do they also have a Thai language menu? I ask because it sounds like a place that would have one with more authentic dishes. I'm not interested in ordering "safe" entrees like pad thai or panang curry, and I have no problems tolerating spicy foods.

I'm also open to other ethnic options (feel free to suggest anything) as well as good local mom n' pop joints. Looking forward to the recs.

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  1. Gainesville is not exactly a hotbed of culinary activity! That said ...
    Pizza - Satchel's or Blue Highway (Micanopy location)
    Mildreds and New Deal have good reps, but my experiences there have been spotty - last burger from New Deal was ordered med-rare, served unpleasantly charred on the outside, raw inside
    Have heard LOTS good about Manuel's downtown, but I haven't tried it yet, same with the Fat Tuscan.
    Thai - Bahn Thai or Tim's Thai are the two you hear about; neither is great, consistency seems to be an issue for both. I do like Chopstix (on SW 13th).
    I like Leonardo's 706, especially for dessert.

    1 Reply
    1. re: suemac

      Understood that it isn't a hotbed for food, I just thought, it is a college town so there has got to be some locally owned non-chain places that are outstanding. Just looking to make the best out of the trip and try the best of the local flavor.

      What differentiates the pizzas between Satchel's vs Blue Highway?

    2. The Hare Krishna lunch that you've heard about is on campus outside Library West in Plaza of the Americas. The Krishnas set up a few tables and you are served the lunch on a paper plate. I believe the price is a donation of whatever you want to give. I never tried it but people always lined up for spaghetti. I graduated in 2003 so you might want to do a google search to see if you come up with more information.

      1. Don't know if you are going to be there on a Sat. but this is from their website....Every Saturday evening from 6-9 pm a 5 course vegetarian feast is served at Krishna House for a donation of $5 for students and $7 for non-students.

        It's right behind Krispy Kreme...I second the Satchel's Recommendation, it is great. I love Sushi at Dragonfly it is always packed with Asian Students, which is always a good sign when eating Asian food.

        1. I second the Blue Highway nomination--excellent pizza. I also concur with the observation that New Deal Cafe can be very good, but is overall uneven. (Once my husband ordered a burger there, and we noticed the patty was not only about twice as large as normal, but kind of oblong; two ends of it stuck out of the bun. He took the top bun off to add condiments and saw the burger was roughly alligator-shaped! It was the day of first Gator game of the season, after all...l)

          Everyone in town raves about Chopstix, but I just don't get it. The setting is beautiful (it has a great lakeside view), and the service is pleasant, but the food doesn't do it for me. But then, I'm Chinese and having lived and eaten with the natives in California and Vancouver, I'm very spoiled!

          A nice mom-and-pop place is The Jones Eastside Eatery (NW corner of Main and NW 23rd street)--it emphasizes organic and locally grown foods and is both carnivore- and vegetarian-friendly. For ethnic stuff, Indian Cuisine (that's what it's called) on SW 34th Street serves, well, Indian cuisine. Very polished dishes, a bit pricey for the hole-in-the-wall ambiance, though. La Tienda on SW 13th is a total hole-in-the-wall, but serves the only authentic Mexican food in Gainesville. By Los Angeles/Tijuana standards, it's a solid, A-/B+; for north-central Florida, an A.

          Enjoy your trip!

          4 Replies
          1. re: Piglet

            Piglet, thank you so much for the suggestion of Jones Eastside Eatery as it sounds like a place run by folks who advocate philosophies like slow food and SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, ethical). I'm only going to be in town from a monday to the following friday so this will definitely be my first dinner!

            Please keep the suggestions flowing, really appreciate it. Actually I'd love a rec for a good seafood restaurant too.

            1. re: air

              Being so far inland, Gainesville doesn't have any <i>great</i> seafood places. It has at least one <i>good</i> one, though -- Harry's downtown. It's a small, Florida-based chain (although I've never seen any other locations) with a New Orleans theme. They have some very good N'awlins/Creole/Cajun food, as good as you're going to find in the area. And there's a great gelato place right around the corner from Harry's, but I forgot its name.

              I will second Chop Stix Cafe, Dragonfly for sushi, and Satchel's Pizza (which is far better than the overrated Leonardo's on University and 13th, unless you like being judged by surly alterna-hipsters).

              1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                I agree, Leo's is overrated, but I'm still addicted to the garlic rolls. I guess it's leftover from college days (along with the inability to pass by Krispy Kreme when the 'Hot Doughnuts' sign is lit lol.

            2. re: Piglet

              Edit to previous post: The Jones is on the SOUTHEAST corner of Main and NE 23rd. (Air, NW 23rd and NE 23rd are the same street; it simply changes to NE when you cross Main, as do all east-west streets in Gainesville.) Sorry about that!

            3. I highly recommend Manuel's Vintage Room downtown. It's on the pricey side, but worth every penny for the wonderful service and delicious Italian food. Manuel, the owner, is so charming, you will feel instantly at home. Definitely try the caprese salad (best I've ever had) and the gnocchi. You will not be sorry you visited.

              Manuel's Vintage Room
              6 S Main St, Gainesville, FL 32601

              1 Reply
              1. re: nannagins

                Had Manuel's for dinner tonight and the gnocchi recommendation was on point. What a spectacular dish, it's very hard to find properly prepared gnocchi as it usually turns out rubbery or gooey - not the case at Manuel's! They also kept bringing out the fresh baked bread, which was so hard to resist, very easy to get full on it.

                Would have loved to see what kind of desserts they had at Manuels as well but I felt like having a beer and ended up finding about a good place for craft beer through another site. Went to Alcove for a drink after dinner, which was about a block and a half down Main St. It's a cozy little pub with an outstanding beer selection, both on draft and in bottle. Great pours from the staff, who were also pretty knowledgable about beer. Noticed that the chalkboard listing the draft offerings was being updated, and considering there are 10 or so handles, I would guess these rotate quite frequently too.

              2. Here are some of my highly recommended lunch or quick-dinner spots, all near campus.

                Hare Krishna - All vegetarian. Served outside in plaza of america's (green space in front of library west) schooldays from 11 to 1:30, and right outside of their house (1 block west of krispy kreme) from 2 to 4pm. Dishes constantly evolving, but generally monday is lentil, tuesday is spiced veggies, wednesday is spaghetti, thursday is creme veggies, and friday is chili and potatoes. Meal includes rice, side dish, salad, wheat halva dessert, and flavored tea. All you can eat -- just go back up with your plate for free seconds. The $4 donation is (very heavily) encouraged. I, along with a few hundred students, eat there daily (my least favorite is tuesdays).

                Steamers - Across the street from campus and 1 block hidden by planet smoothie, they serve "american style" fried rice, curry, and sandwiches. Best friend rice and best coconut curry in town. If you want something new and exciting then try their tempeh burger. This vegetarian sandwich will amaze you. For dinner and weekend hours eat at their second shop, Buddah Belly.

                Burrito Brothers - THE local burrito shop, across from campus near chipotle and target copy, this is a hidden oasis that will change the way you think about burritos. Their burritos focus on taste and quality and not bulk.

                Fritanga Latin Grill - quick cuban food. Their dishes are very basic, except for their Pinion "lasagna". "Sweet plantains, ground beef, smothered in mozzarella." So delicious!

                Don't let the sketch set up that all of these great local restaurants have to offer, they really do serve great food and college students (myself) eat at these places very regularly.

                For menu's and lists of ALL local and chain eateries in gainesville check out chompmenus "search" and nosoupforyou (.com). They do a really good job at keep there information updated.

                1 Reply
                1. re: thech33se

                  Second the recommendation for Steamers - traditional college town dive with good food. Now I often prefer Buddah Belly - nicer place to sit and spend awhile. Massive quantities - the stir fries and curries are easily 2 meals.

                  Burrito Bros was THE first place I ever ate in G'ville and at the time it blew any competition out of the water. Now I would say they're still great, but not roll-your-eyes-back-in-your-head awesome. Some of the best guac I've had. El Indio right around the corner on 13th St. also has a good rep.

                2. Almost forgot to ask, any recommendations for craft beer - specifically, beer stores or beer bars?
                  Recs don't necessarily have to be local as I see that Bell's and Hoppin' Frog both distribute to Florida and I'd love to try any other impressive brews that I wouldn't have access to in Texas.

                  1. If you don't partake of the Dragonfly restaurant, you'll miss the best in northern Florida.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Chateau Thunder

                      Dragonfly is good, but the restaurant is way too noisy and crowded most of the time for me.

                      1. re: suemac

                        Peeked into Dragonfly as I was trying to find Harry's earlier tonight and it seems more friendly towards the crowd who sticks to ordering rolls, not so much sashimi/omakase type dining.

                        I'm definitely gonna try to hit as many of those places nearby campus as possible. Unfortunately I am working outside of Gainesville (but staying in the city) so the Krishna lunch won't be happening!

                    2. Caught up with an old friend over dinner at The Top Wednesday night. She mentioned it's one of those places that they enjoy showing to an out of towner, and it's easy to see why. The kitchy decor and eccentric art on the walls worked well with the dim lighting to permeate an eclectic, bohemian vibe throughout the restaurant. Indie music played loud enough to be heard, but a conversation was still easy to manage.

                      That was all before we'd even looked at the the menu. Numerous vegetarian options as tofu or tempeh would work as a protein substitute for just about every dish. The diverse menu has something for every palate, including seafood, pasta, burgers, and steaks. Our server was knowledgable about the beer selection and the menu. I was disappointed to hear they had just run out of Bell's Hopslam, but fortunately, there were many other good beer options available.

                      We started off with the corn nuggets. These reminded me of something I'd get from the State Fair of Texas (the capital of all things Deep Fried), but much easier on the grease. Good crisp on the batter played nicely with the creamy corn inside. An enjoyable appetizer to start.

                      I ordered the Grilled Atlantic Salmon. The fish and the asparagus were both nicely seasoned. The lemongrass and lime butter gave the salmon plenty of flavor, which was very beneficial as the fish was on the dry side. The wild rice was the major flaw in this dish, as it was very mushy and soupy. My companion ordered the bean cakes with blackened tofu in ancho sauce. Her dish also had the same asparagus. The tofu had an excellent charred texture outside yet the inside held itself together well, as it was properly cooked. The heavy ancho sauce had a subtle peanut flavor that complemented the tofu. Unfortunately I did not get to try the bean cake. 

                      I can see how this place could easily get mixed reviews because it has such a diverse menu. It's simple yet you could totally stumble into a bad dish. The eclectic atmosphere isn't for everyone either.

                      Next up are Burrito Brothers and some beers at Stubbies and Steins.

                      1. I've visited Mi Apa and really loved the fried pork chunks. Fried? Pork? What's not to love. Maduros too.

                        1. Restaurants that have been overlooked--

                          Big Lou's for pizza
                          Amelia's for Italian (newer chef/owner)
                          Wine and Cheese Gallery (for lunch)

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: foodfan203

                            I concur with foodfan203 on Amelia's which has just been totally renovated. The new chef/owner prepares some of the freshest and best Italian food I have ever had.

                          2. Taste of Saigon on NW 39th has some very good pho. Ballyhoo's probably isn't your cup of tea, but they do a very competent job at standard American dinner fare (steaks, chops, seafood). They also have a pretty decent bananas foster.

                            Taste of Saigon
                            4860 NW 39th Ave, Gainesville, FL 32606

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: bagofwater

                              Thought I'd get this thread a bit more current. Some of the above restaurants are gone (Steamers R.I.P. at last) but the main thing to contribute is: the best CH destination ing Gainesville, hands down, is now REGGAE SHACK.

                              veggie-friendly Jamaican, conveniently located, family-owned, and simply fantastic food. IMO the jerk actually takes a back seat here to traditional oxtail, escovitch (escabeche) style fish, rich curries and an outstanding brown-stew slow-cooked chicken that is the best single dish in Gainesville, i'm confident, particularly if you factor in how hard it is to find stellar Jamaican.

                              owner, Omar Otselimo, started with one busboy cooking in a hole in the wall, people would wait 30-40 minutes gladly, now he's got a full staff, good sized location, etc, and a much wider menu, but the quality has remained very sharp, even with the less-adventurous 'burgers and dutty fries' type offerings are quite good. do not skip the festivals, which are essentially sweet hush-puppies.

                              15-year Gainesville resident, and I can't dream of taking a guest anywhere else for a single meal. Satchel's pizza is worth the hype, and i do enjoy my meals at the Warehouse, the Jones, Buddha Belly/Tasty Buddha, and elsewhere, but Reggae Shack is in a class of its own as a Chowhound destination.

                              (For drinks, Stubbies & Steins does great and the German pub snacks hit the spot too.)

                              Reggae Shack Cafe
                              619 W University Ave, Gainesville, FL 32601