Carrabba’s Italian Grill

Based on family gathering a really good Italian food, Carrabba’s Italian Grill is a restaurant that lives up to its name. Started by Johnny Carrabba and Damian Mandola, Carrabba’s has become an Italian staple from Florida to Utah.

Both Johnny and Damian were influenced by their grandmother and mother (respectively) who learned to cook from her mother, who was born in Sicily. Grace became a lover of cooking, passing down recipes she received from her mother to her family. Her recipes now live in Carrabba’s and appear on plates everyday.

Carrabba’s sits just off Archer Road, standing bold atop a low hill. The atmosphere is mellow, yet comfortable enough for the person who is not looking to fall asleep, but have a great meal with friends and family. Tables are spaced just enough for waiters, waitresses and guests to move about, but close enough to engage in conversation with someone at a different table. The lights are dimmed low setting a romantic mood, while televisions are position high enough to catch a NASCAR race or hockey NCAA win.

And if you’re looking to brush up on your Italian, Carrabba’s helps with a wide variety of their menu options written in Italian. I’ve found myself sounding a bit jazzy ordering my Lasagne (instead of lasagna). This dish is by the favorite of all guests. With one bite you are transformed to Italy, sitting outside under the stars with a tall glass of red wine. Mmmm… Carrabba’s brings you home (if the trip to Italy is just too risky) with their personal LARGE pizza. Spice it up with as many toppings as you like. Pepperoni always seems to win the race. Their calamari comes on a large plate (enough to share with the table), the same as their house salads which will probably fill you up just by looking at it. The bowls are as big as a torn open football.

Carrabba’s all time house favorites include the Pasta Carrabba and the Pasta Weesie. The Pasta Carrabba is the grilled chicken and fettuccine Alfredo. It’s your choice to keep the meal uber healthy with sauteed mushrooms and peas. The Pasta Weesie, on the other hand, is geared more toward seafood lovers offering sauteed shrimp in garlic and lemon butter atop fettuccine Alfredo. The dish is not complete until more veggies are added (sauteed mushrooms and scallions) and a delicate hint of white wine sauce.

One thing to be wary of before diving into a dish of deliciousness: Carrabba’s sticks to roots and adds light to full-bodied wine to their food. This does not mean you’ll eat some Pasta Weesie and walk out on Cloud 9. This just means that Carrabba’s chef’s take time on every dish and like to add a little flavor to each meal. However, if you are overtly worried the menu clearly states how much wine, if any, is added to each meal. And on that note Carrabba’s is very PSA friendly sending you off with this one message: Drink Responsibly. Drive Responsibly.

Price: $$
Service: 5/5 (The men will help the ladies into their seats, if prompted)
Atmosphere: ‘Rilassarsi e godersi l’Italia.


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The Flying Biscuit

The Flying Biscuit started as a popular Southern-style cafe in Atlanta and quickly grew into a chain of about 11 restaurants spread across Georgia, North Carolina and Florida. The atmosphere inside a Flying Biscuit is decidedly cheery — the tables are set with colorful oilcloth tablecloths, the rooms painted in bright shades of purple and yellow. What really draws the crowds though, is the food.

The restaurant is perhaps best known for its breakfast (and, of course, those biscuits). To get a taste of everything, I usually have the High Flyer, which comes with two eggs, chicken sausage, an oatmeal pancake topped with peach compote and the signature “creamy, dreamy” grits. As a grits enthusiast, I must warn you that these aren’t your grandmother’s grits, for better or for worse. The grits have almost a pudding-like texture and seem to be mixed with sour cream to give them a little flavor. Add a liberal amount of butter on top, and you’ll never look at grits the same way again.

Breakfast is served all day at the Biscuit, so check out menu items like the Egg-Ceptional Eggs or the French toast. The Egg-ceptional Eggs are served over black bean cakes and topped with salsa, feta cheese and sour cream, while the French toast is orange scented and covered in raspberry sauce and honey creme for a sweet start to the morning (or afternoon — your choice). All breakfast items come with the signature biscuits and cranberry apple butter, which is good enough to be spread on generously and sneaked home in your purse.

Lunch and supper are equally as delicious, especially if you stick to traditional Southern dishes like the shrimp and grits. The oven-fried chicken breast is another favorite and comes served with the baked macaroni and cheese, which comes in sort of a brick form on your plate. (Rest assured, calling it a brick is only for visual purposes and speaks nothing to the taste.) For a twist on the BLT, get the Fried Green Tomato BLT, served with cashew-jalapeno relish and goat cheese.

You really can’t go wrong here — I have yet to order a menu item that did not meet or exceed my expectations. Just be sure to get here early. On weekends especially, the place is packed. To its credit, however, the restaurant mans a table outside where you can grab a free cup o’ joe while you wait, and trust me, it is worth the wait.

Price: $

Service: 4/5

Atmosphere: Paula Deen turns fast food

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The Jones

Off the beaten path, The Jones is settled in a tiny strip mall on 23rd Avenue. The place is tiny (it seats maybe 30 diners) and the restaurant only takes cash, but the generous menu makes up for it. The Jones ‘ shtick is providing sustainable/local/organic/hippie-friendly food. Vegan options are a plenty, but they serve meat as well. (I ordered bacon.)

For breakfast, the Jones Rancheros is an egg dish served Mexican-style with black beans, salsa, cheese and avocado – perfect for midday dining when you can’t decide between breakfast and lunch. The brioche French toast will satisfy a sweet craving and comes with fruit served on the side. All breakfast dishes are made better with the addition of the homefries, which are perfectly cooked and seasoned.

The sandwich offerings are plentiful as well. Just Like Mama’s is  a fresh take on a grilled cheese using provolone, Swiss and cheddar, served with soup on the side. All sandwiches are made using your choice of fresh bread. The rosemary sourdough added a slight tangy flavor without being overbearing.

The Hot Dang Buffalo Burger, made with local grass-fed water buffalo, is served up differently every week. Recently, it was topped with cheese and a fried egg for a gooey, but delicious, mess.

Instead of the standard Coke or Pepsi, the restaurant uses Blue Sky Natural Sodas, which, while expensive, offer a different taste with any lunch entrée.

The Jones is a great place to go for a different dish and easygoing atmosphere. Just don’t forget your cash.

Price: $$

Service: 3/5

Atmosphere: hipsters

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Gator Dawgs

Italy has pizza. Japan has sushi. Britain has terrible food. And America has hot dogs.

And with its arrival to Gainesville, Gator Dawgs has a near monopoly on specialty hotdogs in the area. Ever wondered what mac ‘n’ cheese would taste like on a ‘dog? Now you can find out for yourself. (It’s delicious, for the record.)

The restaurant is located at 1023 W. University Avenue, within perfect walking distance of the UF campus, making it a great place to grab a quick bite in between classes or after a game. While you’re waiting for your hot dog to be made, you can check out the concert posters and band memorabilia that line the walls, or you can play a game of PacMan on one of the game machines.

Once your hot dog is served, you’re in for a treat. The Bacon Cheese Dawg – a virtual kosher nightmare – is perfect for any pork lover and comes topped with ketchup and nacho cheese. (Be sure to grab some napkins.) The Frito Dawg, a personal favorite, comes with chili, cheese and Fritos, and is great for anyone who likes a little crunch to their food. Miss the 10:30 a.m. cutoff for McDonald’s breakfast? Drive a couple more blocks and grab the BEC (bacon, egg and cheese) Dawg for an early morning pick-me-up.

Despite its name, Gator Dawgs also serves specialty burgers, sandwiches and sides. The seemingly Elvis-inspired Peanut Butter Burger is slathered with mayo, bacon and everyone’s kindergarten favorite, peanut butter. Feeling hungry? Try the Fat Ass Burger, a monstrous beef patty sandwiched between two grilled cheeses with tomato, bacon and mayo. If that’s not enough, the Bulldawg – the piece de resistance of Gator Dawgs – is a hot dog wrapped in a hamburger, which is then deep-fried and topped with chili, cheese sauce, bacon, peppers, onions and french fries.

All the hot dogs are available as Yves Vegan dawgs. Vegan buns and veggie burgers are also available. With most prices under $10, Gator Dawgs is a great place to grab a quick bite and try something off the beaten path. Be sure and check out the weekly specials on the table decks as well – the Cuban Dawg may be calling your name.

Price: $

Service: 5/5

Atmosphere: casual, with a hint of the 80s

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Satchel’s Pizza

Where else can you eat a slice of pizza inside of an old Volkswagen Bus that now seats 12 diners?

Clearly, the first thing on anyone’s list of must-haves for owning a restaurant.

Satchel’s Pizza has become legendary in its short time in Gainesville. Opening in March of 2003, Satchel’s has a reputation for being an out-of-the-ordinary eating establishment. The saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” could not have a better home than at Satchel’s. The walls are lined with original art and the building is decorated with bottle caps, car reflectors and many other recycled materials.

What separates Satchel’s from any other pizzeria, besides the colorful decor, is its menu. You will see the traditional pizza toppings found at most pizza parlors across the country here but much, much more.

Toppings such as artichoke hearts, tempeh, broccoli and steak (sauteed with onion) are just a few of the many combinations of concoctions you may devise while ordering.

On top of the toppings, Satchel’s has a variety of calzones and fresh-baked desserts to choose from. Though it is not an extensive menu, Satchel’s has defined itself as a pizza parlor with some added twists. It is far from an “Italian Restaurant” and specialized on its New-York-Style pizza. Each menu has a different back which will provide you with some reading material while you wait for your food. Different philosophies and stories varying from the evolution of how Satchel’s became what it is today, arguments over Coke or Pepsi or Ford or Chevy and other anecdotes that will keep you entertained.

Located off of N.E. 23rd Avenue, Satchel’s is about a 10-minute drive from campus, but it is well worth the trek. And for all of you Gator-1-loving freshman, you’re out of luck here. Satchel’s is a cash-only business and has an ATM conveniently located near the cash register for those of us who only use plastic.

One thing to note: When Satchel’s is busy – you will wait. The menu states “… It is not unusual for your food to take up to 50 minutes. We’ll do our best.” So come into Satchel’s with the mindset of an eating experience and less of a quick bite between classes.

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Welcome restaurant lovers of Gainesville. This site is here to help you choose the best places to eat in town. This Web site will organize restaurants throughout Gainesville by location and  will review the menu, atmosphere and food to make choosing places to eat easier for you.

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