Gainesville is home to one of Florida’s most famous colleges, the University of Florida, but did you know that it also boasts a great food scene? This Southern Mom did!
I have followed Gainesville’s culinary scene for a few years through my Southern cooking magazine subscriptions. Due to the city’s major growth, Gainesville is home to many trendy and high-end restaurants. Here are 4 places that my daughter, Taylor, and I visited in Gainesville that we think you should try.
4 Places You Must Eat in Gainesville
#1 Dragonfly Sushi & Sake Company, 201 SE 2nd Avenue
Taylor and I dined at Dragonfly Sushi & Sake Co one evening and were immediately impressed with the restaurant’s sleek and contemporary look. Luckily our friendly waiter helped us decipher the menu as we were definitely out of our element.
For starters, we had the crispy Wontons (krab, cream cheese, and peach/apricot sauce). The wontons were exquisite; light and billowy with just the right ratio of cream cheese to crab. Taylor ordered the Grilled Shrimp Skewers and a side salad, served with a tangy ginger dressing.
I ventured out of my comfort zone and had ramen for the first time. Bean sprouts, corn, cabbage, scallions, and a bunch of things that I am not familiar with, made up my Short Rib Miso Ramen dish. The presentation was lovely, served in a large bowl with a poached egg floating on the top. Our waiter explained how to eat the ramen and I dug in as best as I could with my children’s “chopstick helper”. The pork broth splashed all over my face while I attempted to eat it. We laughed at how silly I looked, but it was fun trying something new. The only part of my meal that I did not care for was the nori. Otherwise, I enjoyed my exotic meal.
#2 Satchel’s Pizza, 1800 NE 23rd Avenue
You are in for a treat when you visit this oddly eccentric pizza joint a little off of the beaten path. I had to take a few minutes to enjoy all of the funky decors before I could wrap my head around checking out Satchel’s Pizza menu. This Gainesville restaurant is colorful, artsy, and just plain fun!
We had to start with a bowl of Satchel’s salad after hearing locals rave about it. This creative salad features carrots, apples, cucumbers, red onion, almonds, tomatoes, Romano cheese, and sunflower seeds, all tossed in a house made vinaigrette. It was fresh and fabulous! You could make a meal out of this salad alone, buy why would anyone skip Satchel’s pizza?
Pizza is available by the slice or as a whole pizza pie. Taylor and I opted for individual slices. I am not a big pizza fan, but Satchel’s was extraordinary. I loved the flavor combination as well as the thin and well-done crust. My pizza paired perfectly with my cane sugar sweetened craft soda flight, featuring six sodas (cola, diet, root beer, lemon-lime, lemonade, and ginger ale). I enjoyed them all!
I will not spoil the surprise for you, but you cannot skip dessert. Portions are small and affordable which make the tasty items hard to say no to. Satchel’s Pizza only takes cash, but an ATM is available onsite. For an even more unique experience, dine in the retro bus. Visit Satchel’s website for their live music schedule.
#3 Emiliano’s Cafe, 7 SE 1st Avenue
This Pan-Latin cafe will really surprise you. I loved it all! From the cute street front outdoor patio to the fun-loving server, and the unique menu items that were wonderful to sink my teeth into, Emiliano’s Cafe is the real deal. They consider themselves the “spearhead for downtown Gainesville’s renaissance”, which has now become the true entertainment part of the city.
Taylor and I began our dinner with two items from Emiliano’s tapas menu: Beef Empanadas and Warm Brie with a spicy mango glaze. The empanada shell was a bit heavy, but the taste combined with the beef was spot on. The baked brie, with a kicked up fruity spread, was velvety and had just the right amount of spice. I devoured them both!
Next came the best dish that I have eaten all year. The Pollo Isleño’s chicken was pounded thin and marinated with zesty flavors and topped with a tangy guava jalapeño sauce. It was unlike anything that I had ever eaten. It topped a bed of sautéed spinach and corn arepas, perfect compliments to the chicken dish. The best part was a dollop of chèvre on top of the chicken. This tiny addition added a creamy element. My Pollo Isleño was truly sensational! Emiliano’s Cafe is one restaurant not to be missed.
#4 Maple Street Biscuit Company, 3904 SW Archer Road
Breakfast will never be the same after trying this stellar eatery. At Gainesville’s Maple Street Biscuit Company, both sweet and savory biscuits will win your taste buds over with just one bite. Everything that I ate was good, but the Squawking Goat was so over the top that it blew me away! The flaky biscuit topped with all-natural fried chicken breast, a fried goat cheese medallion, and house-made pepper jelly was incredible.
Taylor had The Farmer, a biscuit with cheddar cheese, pecan smoked bacon, fried chicken breast, and house-made apple butter. What I was too stuffed to try but sounded fabulous, was The Ralphie (a biscuit with sausage or shiitake mushroom gravy). Make your biscuit a deluxe, topped with an over-easy egg. A popular side item is the Hashup: home fries with smoked ham, peppers, onions, and melted cheese. I opted for the Hashbrown Cake, which had Smoked Gouda cheese and chives. Nom!
I can definitely see why locals love Maple Street Biscuit Company. I appreciated that the manager checked on all of his patrons at one point during their meal. This management style only adds to Maple Street Biscuit’s popularity.
Gainesville Wowed My Taste Buds
When I visited Gainesville, I had no idea what an impact their food would have on me. I expected delicious, but it was so much more. Perhaps the recipe for their success is a combination of good service, food quality, and originality of dishes. Certainly, one that I an anxious to share with our readers.
Gainesville is a city that is growing by leaps and bounds and certainly putting their mark on Florida’s culinary scene. I cannot wait to go back and try even more of their restaurants! What is your favorite Gainesville eatery?
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Big thanks to Visit Gainesville for offering us complimentary meals on our travels. As always, opinions and reviews are 100% ours and unbiased.
Check out our other delicious restaurant reviews around Florida:
Blue Gill Quality Foods, Gainesville
The Crab Stop, Vero Beach
KeKe’s Breakfast Cafe, Orlando
Best Restaurants in Daytona Beach