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Dinner, Early or Late!
Considering you will make many trips to UF to visit your student over the next four years or more, it is well worth exploring the many great dinner restaurant options. I have my favorites but I always aim to try a new place for dinner each time I visit.
Adam’s Rib Co – Two locations in Gainesville. Consistently considered a must-visit for dinner for all of its 10 years in Gainesville. Famous for their bbq ribs, smoked beef brisket, and smoked pork, along with sides including southern collard greens and black-eyed peas. A fine taste of the south, you will want to visit at least once when visiting Gainesville. They also serve breakfast and lunch.
Amelia’s – Downtown. Serving homemade pasta and other home-style Italian classics with sauces made from scratch. A wide array of antipasti dishes, Italian soups, pasta, chicken, veal, fish. Full bar.
Ballyhoo Grill – This island-style restaurant with indoor and outdoor patio seating offers seafood, steaks, oysters, salads, soups, pasta and sushi, all made from scratch. Now that’s dinner! Live music inside.
Big Lou’s NY Style Pizzeria – Downtown. As the name implies, this is a NY Style Pizzeria in a very casual atmosphere. Also serving calzones and stromboli, subs and pasta dishes. Al fresco dining available to watch Gainesville life pass by.
Boca Fiesta – Downtown. Mexican fare with veggie options and a southern food chaser. You’ll find gourmet tacos, enchiladas, burritos, and chimichangas. Your choice of protein includes tempeh. Try their gator tacos for a twist!
Cheesecake Factory – Butler Plaza, Archer. Indoor/outdoor dining, happy hour, and everyone’s favorite “fresh-from-scratch” menu of more than 250 dishes. Not only great food, but enough choices to make it great for any size gathering. And cheesecake for dessert, of course! Open for lunch and dinner daily, brunch through dinner on the weekends.
Crane Ramen – Downtown. We stumbled onto this charming restaurant during a busy football weekend. As its name would imply, they serve ramen, but they take it to a completely new level. With the motto –“We like BIG POTS! ” — you’ll be hooked by this authentic Japanese craft ramen. Only 12 items on the menu, but all served in authentic homemade broths. They like to be known for serving slow-food fast, and even throw in specials that are not on the menu.
Dragonfly Sushi – Downtown. High-quality sushi and other Japanese specialties prepared tapas-style. They’re known for a contemporary take on traditional rolls and other specialties.
Embers Wood Grill – 34th Street. Upscale dining, known for its prime steaks prepared over a wood grill. Try their Prime Filet Mignon flatbread, crispy Florida Gator tail — you ARE in Gator territory — and various seafood and vegetarian options. It’s a great place to celebrate graduation, birthdays, and all special occasions. Try their sister restaurant, Spark, located next door, for a Gastro menu and beer, wine and champagne.
Francesca’s Trattoria – Located at 4410 NW 25 Place. They specialize in homemade authentic Italian food including brick-oven pizzas, pasta, seafood, specialty pasta, chicken, and veal. A true Italian menu that makes for a great dinner. Also serving lunch daily and brunch on Sundays.
Grub Food & Drink – A relatively new addition to Gainesville, they are located off of Archer Road on SW 35th Drive. While serving bowls and salads, they are known for their unbelievable burgers on freshly baked-from-scratch buns. They even have a chickpea meatless burger. And their
Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille – Downtown. Known for their Cajun, Creole and southern cuisine. Authentic New Orleans flavors including jambalaya and Po’ Boys. A staple in Gainesville for over 25 years.
Hooters – Yes, they are a chicken wing chain, but they do serve up some great chicken wings. And, IMHO, the best-fried pickles anywhere. Located on SW 34th Street off of Archer. You’ll also find sports on TV, happy hour, and half-price appetizer specials.
If It Is Kitchen & Cafe – Downtown. One of the newest restaurants in the downtown area, they are a made-to-order restaurant specializing in Thai cuisine and Sushi, and featuring a Tea Bar. The menu offers options for both individual or family-style service.
Just Salad – If you want to grab something quick (counter service), this new addition to Midtown serves up wraps, bowls, smoothies and, yes… salads. Most who live in NY, NJ, and Philly are familiar with this casual restaurant. We’d say that if you are in a hurry and don’t want full service, or are heading to a football game and need something healthier to eat than stadium fare, this is a great option.
Las Margaritas – 39th Avenue. Authentic and traditional Mexican cuisine including tacos, quesadillas, burritos, enchiladas and more. Try not to fill up on the salsa and chips that come to the table almost as soon as you are seated.
La Tienda Latina – 13th Street. Latin American cuisine meets Mexican with enchiladas, empanadas, tacos,and burritos. A great place for a casual, fairly inexpensive, and quick south-of-the-border dinner.
Leonardo’s 706 – The original Leonardo’s was a storied institution, founded in Gainesville in 1973. That location was purchased by the University of Florida but, fear not, their famous name and pizzas live on at their current site. Even a pizza lover will be seriously tempted by the menu full of classic and cutting-edge Mediterranean offerings, including vegan items. Sunday Brunch is also served here, as is live jazz on Monday and Thursday evening.
Liquid Ginger – Downtown. Thai and Japanese fusion entrees and sushi bar. Try their bento boxes which include salad and soup plus ice cream.
Mark’s Prime Steakhouse & Seafood – Downtown. This is considered the go-to restaurant for special occasions (yes…graduation!) if you are looking for a top steakhouse. Using the finest USDA beef, they are known for their filet mignon, bone-in ribeye, New York Strip steak, and Delmonico cuts. All steaks are cooked over a wood-fired grill and served on a hot plate sizzling in butter. Seafood options include wood-grilled salmon, lobster, seared diver scallops, and more.
The Social at Midtown – good bar food and an epic mac and cheese! Evening transforms the restaurant into a rooftop bar at night with a great view of the stadium.
Mojo Hogtown – Downtown. Make sure to stop by this BBQ hotspot on one of your visits to Gainesville. You’ll find serious smoked-in-house barbecue pork, brisket, and chicken along with their famous onion rings, fried pickles, and southern platters. Pair that with a drink from their whiskey bar or one of their craft beers. Full bar, too. Yum, dinner.
OAK (Original American Kitchen) – Downtown. Southern fare prepared with a modern flair. If you’re not drooling at the sound of sweet tea short ribs, waffles with pulled pork, shrimp and grits, cajun crab dip, and roasted cauliflower tacos, we can’t help you. And can you say Fried Deviled Eggs and Happy Hour appetizer specials?!? I’m there.
Paramount – Downtown. Paramount is considered slightly more upscale than most restaurants in the downtown area, with a menu that includes southwestern-spiced salmon and grilled duck breast. But, Gainesville being a college town, you can still get in wearing nice jeans. They use mainly fresh ingredients prepared in an inspiring and creative manner. Reservations recommended, especially during peak weekends.
P.F. Changs – Butler Town Center, Archer. A Pan-Asian chain favorite, it’s the right place to eat if you are looking for either a Farm-to-Wok menu or traditional Asian food. Open for lunch as well, this restaurant easily accommodates groups and offers vegetarian and gluten-free options. Also serving lunch and happy hour specials. They will take reservations for up to 3 months out. For parties of 7 or more, call 352-570-7785.
Piesanos Stone Fired Pizza – Located in the Holiday Inn University Center (with two other locations in Gainesville), they are known for their traditional pizzas and Italian food. They boast over 40 rotating taps of local Florida pints and national craft beers. We went to Piesanos after a UF football game but there was about an hour’s wait. So instead, we grabbed two of the ready-made pizza pies they had on hand and headed back to our daughter’s house to eat. But our group has been easily accommodated in the restaurant on post-concert evenings, and it’s one of our favorites for that.
Red Rice – Located just off Archer, this small but sweet Asian Fusion restaurant offers everything from soup (pho) to nuts (peanut sauce), and everything sticky rice and spicy in between. Lunch is also served most days.
Satchel’s Pizza – A cash-only quirky pizza restaurant located on 23rd Avenue. If you’re in the mood for pizza with a vast amount of topping selections and calzones, this is the place to go. This is another long-time favorite of a family (ours!) known for loving both pizza and quirkiness. Closed on Sundays and Mondays.
Taste Pho & Noodle House (Vietnamese) – 34th Avenue. Serving Pan-Asian offerings including sushi, pad thai, and pho. See their dine-in only daily specials.
The Swamp – Midtown. Serving the Gator Nation since 1994, The Swamp has been designated a national landmark. It’s a definite must for a visit sometime during your Gainesville days, but on Game Days you’ll need to get there early or you won’t get a table inside or even on their front lawn patio. Both are big draws because of their large screen televisions and in-the-thick-of-things location. They serve traditional American fare including burgers, salads, wings and more. No reservations are taken on football or basketball game days and are limited for graduations.
The Top – Downtown. There is typically a minimum 45-minute wait on weekends to get into this hip spot known for vegetarian and vegan options and its modern take on American food. In spite of the wait, it’s a must-try when you head to Gainesville.
V Pizza – Downtown. V Pizza is known for their authentic artisanal pizza made in ovens that come from Naples, Italy. (If you have ever been to Italy, you know that pizza there is not like the pizza served in the States.) Here, you’ll find homemade dough, very little sugar, and no preservatives. Be sure to try another of their well-known items: meatballs made with no breading. Just don’t tell Nana you did.
Wah Ha Ha Thai Food & Noodle Soup – 13th Street. A fairly unassuming Thai restaurant with great Thai Food, offering a buffet as well as an extensive menu. Their spring rolls are made fresh daily…except for Tuesday, when they are closed.
Yummy House Chinese Bistro – 34th Street. Originally out of Tampa, you’ll find authentic Chinese food and dim sum here. Their signature Salt and Pepper Appetizers are award-winning.
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