It's hard to believe that we're now into our third year of calling Gainesville home. I can still remember our first few drives down Archer, looking at the seemingly wall-to-wall chain restaurants, and thinking, "oh no, great school, bad food." Once we had time to get settled in, though, and actually explored Gainesville and the surrounding communities, we started to find that there are good local, independent restaurants. While Gainesville is no culinary mecca, you can get a good meal here if you look for it.
In recent months, our rotation of old reliable favorites has remained relatively consistent - La Tienda, Blue Highway Pizza (the original Micanopy location), Indian Cuisine, Pearl's Country Store, and New Deal Cafe (paired with Sweet Dreams of course for dessert!). For a more upscale meal (and when you don't mind a bit of a drive), Blue Water Bay in Melrose remains my pick. For a quick fast-casual chain meal I still prefer Chipotle to any other chain.
Here's quick reviews of three restaurants we've tried for the first time in the past month or two:
- The Reggae Shack: Yesterday we tried for lunch The Reggae Shack, a Jamaican restaurant on University heading towards downtown. I wasn't sure what to expect. The reviews on Yelp were overall positive (although I've become more skeptical of Yelp lately, see Chunky T's below) and Traci had heard good things from a co-worker. Probably since the last Caribbean restaurant we tried was hot and sweaty inside (a la Island Flavors and 'Tings), I was expecting more of the same. Instead, the air conditioning was blowing and the Reggae Shack was quite comfortable and pleasant. The beef patties we ordered as an appetizer were fine, but could have used more heat. The hot sauce on the table did the trick. My goat curry was nicely done and Traci enjoyed her chicken curry. Each meal came with a side of rice and cabbage. On the downside, the service was forgettable (it's okay to apologize once, but multiple apologies don't help your cause...). This is definitely a place to go if you're not in a rush and are ready for "island time."
- Panache: I have long read about The Wine and Cheese Gallery and know it is an important part of the local Gainesville food and wine scene so I've felt guilty for not having tried Panache, the little restaurant tucked inside the shop. I've had several people tell me that Panache is worth checking out. A few weeks ago we tried Panache for lunch on a week day. The crowd was a mix of business workers and ladies-that-lunch. The lunch menu is a nice mix of soups, salads and sandwiches. There are also weekly specials. The warm roast beef and rondele sandwich on french bread that I had was very tasty. Prices were reasonable and the service was fine. If you're in and around downtown, this makes for a good, somewhat tucked away lunch spot.
- Chunky T's: In part due to a reader suggestion, we tried out Chunky T's, a relatively new barbecue joint in town, a few weeks ago. As long-time readers of this blog know, I am a big barbecue fan and have reviewed pretty much every barbecue place in and around town. The reviews on Yelp for Chunky T's were glowing and I checked out this place with high expectations. By the time we had finished our meal, expectations had crashed into reality. We arrived one evening to a nearly empty restaurant (that's not always a sign, but...). The guy behind the counter bordered on being rude, they were out of items on the menu and the drink machine didn't work. The food itself I thought was fine (Chunky T's uses a vinegar/mustard based sauce, which admittedly is not my thing), but the portions and pricing were nothing to write home about. In short, I don't understand the source of cult enthusiasm on Yelp for Chunky T's. Clearly, the place has fans and I hope every local restaurant does well, it just won't be in our rotation
Thanks for reading and keep those restaurant suggestions coming!