Loosey’s: Not Just Good Beer

I’m not going to lie to you. The Man and I practically live at Loosey’s the random chances we get time to go downtown for a drink. So it’s kind of hard to write up the food. (And I hope the kitchen guys will NOT “alter” our food at all the next time we go there to eat if they don’t like what I’m saying here.)

For a long while there wasn’t much for us veggies to eat because Loosey’s was focusing on their American craft beer lineup. That’s entirely forgivable because they have a great selection. But recently the good folks who put up with us vegetarians decided to upgrade the menu and graced The Man and I with a few interesting options. They refrain from calling themselves a gastropub (too trendy), but do serve elevated pub food for a real foodie to enjoy.

First of all, this girl couldn’t have been happier to see the Veggie Egg Rolls back on the menu. In the far distant past, they were on the menu and then cruelly taken away. And now back. The crunchy, crispy rolls are served with teriyaki sauce and Loosey’s ass kickin’ sauce (which brings tears to this wimpy girl’s eyes). As you can tell from the above picture, my priority was reuniting my face with these rolls rather taking a picture for you, dear readers.

The Man has been talking about trying the BBQ Tofu Sandwich since he laid eyes on the new menu. I am not kidding. So he barely hesitated when I suggested forgoing The Top and heading to Loosey’s for an early dinner. I think he was salivating by the time we walked in the door. But he generally gets excited when we enter the presence of so much good beer.

Not many people know what to do with tofu, so offering it on the same menu with a burger is rare. The tofu sandwich is grilled and served with mustard and vinegar BBQ sauce, a Carolina style of sauce that came from Germans that settled the midlands areas. It’s topped with citrus ginger slaw that adds crunch to the tofu and soft bread, so you get this mouth full of textures.

The picture you see here was the only one without hands in it because everyone pounced on the truffle fries, a simple and tasty upgrade. (REAL French fries from actual potatoes! And then you get truffle oil, parmesan, and parsley on them… my gahd!) The only think I would do to improve this sandwich is a marinade on the tofu, because let’s face it, tofu has almost zero flavor of its own.

Our non-veggie friends got burgers and were so happy, they were doing the happy belly dance in their seats. Loosey’s is kind of known for their burgers these days. So feel free to drag your carnivore friends to eat here. For the veggie people like us, there’s the egg rolls, a pasta dish, several salads, chips & salsa, onion rings, and a big plate of the cheesy truffle fries. The Man is a pescetarian and has a few more seafood options to go with.

Of course you can see the whole menu is intended to be enjoyed with a beer or three. It’s not the frozen and flat usual pub food, so be prepared for actual flavors. I know, right? But really, beer is good with this stuff, so when you’re done ordering, ask the bartender what would go best with your meal. These folks know beer like you know your pillow. Intimately and passionately.

Our dinner:
Veggie Egg Rolls – $6.50
BBQ Tofu Sandwich – $7.50
+truffle fries upgrade – $1.50
Victory Summer Love Ale
Sasion du Buff 2012

Loosey’s
120 SW 1st Avenue
Gainesville, Fl 32601
352.672.6465

Looseys.com
Menu
On Facebook

[Girl21]

P.S. I wish I had a dime for every time I’ve sat on the patio and heard someone say ‘Market Street Pub’ as they walked by. MSP was an icon for the Downtown area, but it closed. Loosey’s took over the spot and completely cleaned it up. Like refinishing the bar, taking the sticky whatever layer off the floor, and removing the lingering odor of vomit. They redid the tap lines, brought in a happy selection of American craft beers, and offer live music and regular events at night. So… old Market Street Pub is gone. Shiny happy new Loosey’s is here. And bring your dog. The dog-friendly patio is just something you can expect from people who named their bar after their dog 🙂

Fresh Off the Vine

We’d heard some rumblings about this local bakery popping up quietly in town. There were breads showing up at Ward’s and Citizen’s Co-op, farmer’s markets, and then The Top! What? How did this sneak under our radar?

I hunted them down online and stalked them on Facebook. And then like a big, wet, unexpected kiss from an overly friendly dog, I saw that they were actually opening up a storefront right across the street from Satchel’s. Boom! There you go. Vine Bread & Pasta.

I always said that the reason I wasn’t heavier on the scale was because Uppercrust was across town, and harder to get to. Now this place is right around the corner. I could walk there if I wanted to (yeah, like that’ll happen). So when The Man and I had a spare morning free, we went to check this place out.

If you’re driving there, you will miss it. It’s back off the road in a little warehouse park between the Ole Barn bar and the row of storefronts next to it. It was hot the day we showed up (check their days and hours before popping in), and it was a typical warehouse space, so as the summer warms up, it should get painful in there for working.

Anyhow, we grabbed up some pastries and a loaf, and scurried home because we hadn’t even had coffee yet (gasp!). We got a cheese croissant and chocolate croissant, a cranberry scone, and a country loaf. The croissants were tasty; the pastry dough was not as flakey as Uppercrust’s but miles better than Flour Pot. I would have liked a bit more cheese in the cheese one, maybe another kind of cheese in with the Swiss? And a great deal of the chocolate in the other croissant was designer and you could taste the quality.

The country loaf is a sourdough, and I can count the ingredients on one hand. It’s good bread. That being said, we did one set of sandwiches with it which wasn’t very successful, and then one set of grilled sandwiches, which worked out better. The bread didn’t quite hold up in its unaltered state, and required a bit of toasting or grilling to give it some structure. And the whole heel of it turned out to be a giant air pocket, which was disappointing, but happens with wild bread like this. On the whole (haha, pun intended), it was a nice, simple bread that somewhat lacked the stronger sourdough qualities we were expecting.

The scone was nice, and I’ve craved and scored a few more since our first visit. It feels like eating a bowl of oatmeal instead of a pastry. Happy belly and happy mouth–almost a meal in itself. The cranberries are a nice touch, but I’d love to add a hint of orange or lime to give it a little pop of flavor.

We’re looking to get our hands on more of the other bread styles, including the rosemary baguette. And I really, really, really want to try some of their fresh pasta. Overall, it’s good bread, and a local business, so I highly recommend trying it if you can (look at their site to see what other local businesses use their bread, like Tempo Bistro, Manuel’s Vintage Room, and Civilization).

We will be watching and tasting, and keeping our fingers crossed. This bakery has some growing to do (haha, another pun! I am so not funny), and there’s a lot of potential here. It’s fresh off the vine and might need to ripen just a little longer (okay, done with the horrible plays on words here, I swear).

Vine Bread & Pasta
1801 NE 23rd Ave, Unit C2
Gainesville, FL
352-682-8038

VineGainesville.com (their site has been down since I last checked 5/14)
On Facebook

Check site for hours and other place to get Vine products.

[Girl21]

Lenny’s NY Pizza Co., Ormond Beach

Lennys NY Pizza Co, Ormond Beach

Thank you, Urbanspoon.

We were road-tripping it down around Daytona Beach a few weeks ago. As we’re coming into civilization out of the swamps into the strip malls, a desperate hunger popped out of nowhere. My job as navigator means I have to magically find the best place to eat (with vegetarian options) within a short distance from wherever we happen to be. So I start flipping through my phone for my Urbanspoon app, while The Man kindly tells some of the snowbirds and early spring-breakers what he thinks of their ability to maneuver their vehicles on a roadway.

The Ormond Beach/Daytona area is packed with tourists and college youths, and local restaurants can get away with murder when it comes to what passes for food. But The Man wanted food. Possibly pizza. Okay, definitely pizza. So… Okay Urbanspoon, nothing? Another mile up the beach and resetting the location offered Lenny’s NY Pizza. Yeah, because people are always honest about their “New York Style Pizza”.

But it got a rating in the mid-90%, and it was not far away. So out of desperation we stopped to give it a whirl. Reluctantly. It was in a strip of store fronts like all of the others that face the condos on the beach. To look at, it was nothing special. But we stood there to look at the menu for a minute. The staff were yelling at each other. And the customers. Pizza ovens were slamming open and closed. It smelled amazing.

We ordered a few slices of cheese pizza, and soda, and took a table at the window to wait. There was one guy who seemed to be running the place. Probably the infamous Lenny. It became obvious quickly that this place was for locals, and Lenny kept them coming back.

“Only one stromboli today?” he nagged one customer. “You always get two. One for dinner. You want two!” The regular nodded agreement finally and waited for his two strombolis.

Lenny craned over the counter at a group laughing on the side. A woman was trying to lift a huge sandwich with cheese falling off the side. “You can fit that in your mouth. It’s not too big,” he laughed, stopping just short of suggesting she had oral skills. She blushed and tried to open her jaw like a boa constrictor swallowing a small boar.

Our pizza came up, still sizzling from the oven. Each slice the size of a legal pad of paper. Exactly right. Thin crust that actually was hand tossed. Cheese that acted and tasted like actual cheese. Sauce could have been a bit zippier but was great anyway. Real pizza. Oh. My. Crap. It was good!

We left with a cannoli in a to-go box because we obviously were working up an appetite from sitting in the car. Lenny’s would be added to our list of places to come back to next time we were down this way. (Vittoria’s pastry shop and Anna’s Trattoria in Daytona are worth the drive on their own, and this is right up the shore.) It reminded me of Lisa Pizza in the mall back in the ‘90s. I had my learner’s permit and had to drive my sister and her friends to the mall for hours. I would get pizza and hide up in the balcony area, reading a book and avoiding the kids throwing cheese. Okay, that makes me feel old now.

Lenny’s NY Pizza Co.
1456 Ocean Shore Blvd
Ormond Beach, FL 32176
(386) 441-8811
www.ormondpizza.com

[Girl21]

Gainesville House of Beer

Gainesville House of Beer Front

You’ll have to excuse us for not leaping with excitement when Gainesville House of Beer opened its doors. It is so close to Stubbies & Steins that any superbly drunk but dedicated beer lover could stumble from Stubbies to GHOB and find it on the first try. That, and it is one in a chain of several. A chain?

But we are ever ready to do our duty to you, our readers, and the beer culture of Gainesville. So after dining at Las Margaritas with friends the other night, we buttoned our lips at the suggestion of heading downtown for a drink at House of Beer. Yes, we would go and see what it was like. We actually enjoyed these friends’ company and could suck it up and try out the new place without acting like pouting children. I said it often while heading across town. Open mind. Open mind. Open mind.

Gainesville House of Beer is on the corner of University and SW 1st, where the burger place was (Jeff’s Deli was there for a while among other things). Down the block is Stubbies, then Sweet Mel’s (and Naughty Mel’s, whatever that mess is). In fact, within easy sober walking distance, there are a significant number of popular drinking establishments like The Top, The Bull, Tall Paul’s, Loosey’s, Palomino, Mainstreet Billiard, Durty Nellie’s, Piano Bar, :08, The Atlantic, University Club, and Stubbies (yes, I mention it again only because it’s a few doors away). Hell, you could even go to The Venue and get a beer if you don’t mind metal detectors at the door. So why would you open a beer place in that exact spot?

Don’t get me wrong. They have 40 taps, plus a decent assortment of miscellaneous bottled beer. The bartender knew his way around the beer, and was more than happy to pour samples and suggest options. The only excuse is that these guys are from the Dunedin/Palm Harbor area. They don’t know the area very well. Gainesville’s House of Beer is the third in the chain, and I can honestly say third time is not the charm because there is no charm in this location.

It’s a storefront box with awkward pillars and an uncomfortable little patio area for smokers. The long bar down the back of the room guards the expansive row of taps. The industrial flooring is as exciting as the Sam’s Club “Pub Style” collection of tables and stools. And the pressed tin beer advertisements seem like they were hung up quickly to cover the walls because the TVs were delivered a few weeks late.

The most annoying thing about the night can’t be directly pointed at GHOB. At least I am hoping it was some overly-excited patron that stuffed the jukebox and treated us to a long series of bad ‘80s music. No, I agree there is good ‘80s music. But this was the stuff that you find only in the bottom of the box of Salvation Army’s Vat O’ Dusty Cassettes. As in, why would you offer this on your juke box unless you hated your staff and patrons?

This will be the end of my rant about the lack of personality of the establishment. If I wanted to go to this kind of bar, I would visit one of those gargantuan outlet centers in Georgia and find where all of the soul-drained employees went during their lunch breaks to top off their buzz. But I like my bars to have a little personality. I spend a good deal of time there after all. And the downtown is rampant with interesting places to park your arse and waste a few hours with friends.

On the plus side, GHOB does have a good selection on tap. This is not an argument. They have Victory, Bell’s, Southern Tier, Chimay, Boddington’s, Swamp Head, Rogue, Shipyard, Abita, Red Brick, Cigar City, Woodchuck, Sam Adams, Left Hand, Sweetwater, Dogfish Head, Ace, and more. And they even have fancy glasses to serve the different types of beer (and cider) in.

They do have big name beer like Bud Light, Miller Light, PBR, and Corona, so if you have those friends that can’t tolerate their beer with flavor, you’re free to bring them with you if you like. And GHOB has wine, cider, and lambics for those that are less than excited about beer. You can download the PDF of their bottle and wine selection if you like (you should know by now how much I hate this lazy way of displaying a menu online, so their terrible website was another nail in the coffin).

If you’re waiting to get into Stubbies, you could have a beer at GHOB and watch TV while someone holds your place in line. We went on a Friday night and it wasn’t busy at all. The girl on the door was writing a paper for school and watching the crowd across the street at The Bank or whatever it’s called this week.

House of Beer wasn’t bad. Don’t get me wrong. It’s just not a place we wanted to spend a lot of time. We all had a drink and tried to settle before giving up and continuing on to another drinking establishment. It might someday develop character. We might even go back. Maybe.

Gainesville House of Beer
19 W University Ave
Gainesville, FL 32601

352-376-1100

www.gainesvillehob.com

Open:
Monday-Friday 2PM-2AM
Saturday & Sunday 12PM-2AM

[Girl21]

Gainesville House of Beer, CC Puppy's Breath Porter

A Little Too Civilized

We really wanted to like Civilization. Really. We tried.

But you know how you have that one friend that is super nice, and has never said a bitchy thing about anyone, ever. That girl that genuinely likes even the biggest ass in your circle of friends. The girl that’s probably not a virgin, but no one is quite sure. The one that you try to like because she is so sweet and truly nice, but you never know what to talk to her about because you’re afraid of offending her in some way. And she won’t laugh at juvenile jokes.

That’s how I felt about our time at Civilization. We wanted to like it. We tried very hard. But it just didn’t happen.

Months ago we had gone for the first time with two friends. I was still mourning the loss of 2nd Street Bakery. It was like driving past a house you lived in as a child and seeing the new owners painted it a really trendy shade of green. But I sucked it up and walked in there with my big girl panties on. We did have a decent meal there, and the neighborhood cat was panhandling nearby. But we weren’t impressed enough to go back.

Another friend absolutely adores the place with the zeal we adore The Top, and she begged us to give Civilization another try. There’s not much else open on a Monday night on the Northeast side of town, so finally we grudgingly wandered over there for dinner.

It was one of the first cool nights of the year, and the dining room was quite full (there’s a minor acoustic problem because of the one big room), so we asked to sit outside on the patio. The hostess clearly thought we were insane but was too gracious to let it show.

We started with some delish craft beer. Then the Utopian Salad; one to share between us because they are HUGE. I had the Fettuccine della Casa because the housemade pasta and creamy tomato sauce sounded yummy. The Man went for the Thai Shiitake Mushrooms w/Asian Greens. Nothing was particularly bad, although I was trying to get him to switch with me because I liked the flavors of the cilantro and scallions in his dish.

My dish was passable, except for the slightly gritty texture of the pasta and the over-abundance of roasted ‘in season’ veggies on top. This month ‘in season’ meant eggplant, zucchini, and yellow squash, all of which make me nervous. I couldn’t escape the heavy butter flavor in the creamy tomato sauce, which is what chefs use to punch up a weak sauce… add more butter. It wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t $14.00.

The Man had more to say about his dish. Some things I wouldn’t necessarily type here. I liked it better than mine, but again, it still wasn’t all that fabulous. The rice was a touch undercooked. The shiitakes were there but the flavor was not. The greens were nicely done, and again, I liked the balance of cilantro and scallions with the coconut milk. But it’s never a good sign when mere hours after eating out, your stomach starts to make sounds you only hear coming from the bathroom stalls at a booty dancing club after 1AM.

On the other hand, the salad was perfection. The dressing, the toppings, the flavors and textures. Possibly the best salad in G’ville. And of course it’s nice to get good beer with your meals.

This visit didn’t change our opinion of Civilization very much. Our first time there, the general consensus from the four of us was that the salads were perfect, appetizers were tasty, the desert was yummy, but the meals were questionable. Of the four of us, one had a special which was a weak thumbs-up, two were so-so, and my Stroganoff was far too oily to finish eating.

But the staff were painfully nice, knew the menu and the food, were gracious and timely, and obviously cared a great deal about their patrons. And Civilization is another of those true Gainesville businesses, where a lot of emphasis is put on the provenance of the ingredients, support of small business, and deep community roots.

So how could we feel so lukewarm about this place? The food just misses the mark. Punches are pulled. People are playing it safe. Everything is too nice. Aimed at being inoffensive to everyone. And you feel it. This vaguely nice personality that doesn’t seem quite real. A lack of depth or life experience that makes it uninteresting.

I’d rather sit next to that weird older guy at the bar that drinks Negronis and talks about his worst days as an EMT, than sit with the very nice girl who always smiles politely but refuses to laugh at fart jokes.

We’ll probably go to Civilization again. There’s not a lot of choices on a Monday and on the Northeast side of town. It wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t remarkably interesting. We’ve heard better things about the carnivore meals, but are not overly impressed with the veggie selections so far.

Civilization
1511 NW 2nd St
Gainesville FL 32601

352.380.0544

WelcomeToCivilization.com
(Okay… a pet peeve of mine is when restaurant websites have their menu only as a PDF download: Menu)

Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday through Friday; Saturday brunch and dinner; closed Sunday. Also home of Terranova catering.

Our meal of two craft beers, a salad, and two entrees (plus tip) was about $60.

[Girl21]

Test-Driving Tempo Bistro To-Go

Tempo Bistro To-Go

Tempo Bistro To-Go has been high on our list of places to try for quite some time. The Man and I rarely have a day off together, so we are usually limited to dinner restaurants. But the elements of the universe aligned perfectly and we were finally able to check off one on our list.

I’ve been watching from afar as Tempo Bistro evolves (stalking on Facebook, I admit), and I adore the food culture that drives this tiny lunch shop. There’s a heavy, passionate emphasis on in-season, locally grown and sourced, natural and organic ingredients to make flavor-driven sandwiches, salads, and soups. A little bird told me that they’re looking to get their bread from Mosswood in Micanopy, which will bring me back again just to try that out.

The Man and I were both hungry, and let’s be honest, more than a little cranky. So the snippy negotiations on where to get lunch, and what to get, took much longer and involved more bruised feelings than necessary. We settled on Tempo Bistro’s “Piedmont” and “The Blueprint” sandwiches, with a side “Far Eastern” salad. I sent The Man to pick up our order, which is always a bad idea when he’s hungry. He returned with a large bag that included a bottle of ginger ale, a bottle of root beer, potato chips, and Flour Pot Bakery cookies (oatmeal toffee and ginger) which I’m sure were too tempting while attempting to pay and go.

All of the food was lovely. The bread was knobly and whole grained. All of the greens were fresh and tasty. The dressing made my tongue do that little prickly shiver like all of my taste buds doing The Wave. It was all done simply, efficiently, and elegantly. Even the packaging was environmentally friendly.

Tempo Bistro, BlueprintThe Blueprint: “Blue and goat cheese, Tempeh, roasted walnuts, red bell pepper ribbons and microgreens, pressed with mayo on multigrain”. Not only do I love, love, love blue cheese and goat cheese, this sandwich was pressed, so all of those lovely little cheesy and furry goat flavors came out just a little more. I’m not a huge fan of tempeh only because I know what it really is and it’s kind of gag-tastic. But the tempeh in the sandwich was very mild and added a nice texture without being too fungal like it can sometimes get. I cannot emphasize enough how much I love this sandwich and will be eating it again.

Piedmont: “Sliced roasted turkey or Tempeh, granny smith apple, goat cheese, red onion and spinach on multigrain”. We of course got the tempeh instead of turkey. The apple, onion, goat combination is always fun and flavorful. Again, the tempeh was nicely underplayed so the nuttiness came out to support the spinach without tasting like feet. And yes, I know tempeh is a wonderful protein source, so my brain knows it should be eaten. This is also a great sandwich. Next time I might ask for a little extra goat cheese just because I love it so much.

Far Eastern Salad: “Seasonal lettuce, napa cabbage and basil with toasted almond, microgreens, red bell pepper, shredded carrot and sesame ginger dressing”. When I licked the lid of the little container of the dressing, my tastebuds did a little dance. I’m a salad addict, as you may well know, and I could eat this three times a week. I especially loved the little flavor bursts of basil that lurked in the greens.

So in case you haven’t noticed, we are both giving MAJOR thumbs up to Tempo Bistro. The Man actually looks like he wants to go back right now. He keeps hanging over my shoulder and telling me what he wants to get next time we order there. (“The Sadie” has sauerkraut which makes him drool, and “The Caribbean” has him titillated.)

The shop itself is in a tiny space next to the Starbucks at 16th Ave. and 13th St. There are a few tables in case you want to eat in, but I recommend taking out (it’s “To-Go” for a reason). It can also get awkward to park during busy times of the day, and that parking lot is a disaster to get out of and go in certain directions. But it’s totally worth the trouble of getting to the bistro. The food is delish. The people are genuine foodies. And it’s a local business that supports local business. You can’t go wrong.

Tempo Bistro To-Go
1516 NW 13th St
Gainesville FL 32601
352.336.5834

Hours: 11:00-5:00 Monday-Saturday

Our lunch: $33.00
Two sandwiches, salad, two drinks, two cookies, chips, and tip. Worth every penny!

[Girl21]

Not Very Garlic & Ginger

Garlic & Ginger

I hate walking out of a restaurant and feeling incomplete. As if something is missing. Like the ‘yum’.

It all started out well enough. Several friends had discovered Garlic & Ginger and said it needed to be tried. We were invited out finally, and prior to heading over there, we looked up the menu online. The website was out-of-the-box generic, but at least it didn’t look like a child had designed it in 1998. And the menu was also in Korean. So these were possibly good signs.

We had somewhat high hopes for the place even though it was located in a storefront in a Publix shopping center at the end of Archer Road, past the Land of Chain Restaurants. There were hand lettered signs in the window announcing the place was now open seven days a week. There were only three tables full on a Tuesday night at 8:00. Still nothing terrible.

The first little alarm bell went off when we cracked open the menu. Almost nothing on the drinks menu. And… flip … no, flip… back up, um, what’s Korean for ‘vegetarian’? Even after asking the waiter, there were a total of three things on the skimpy menu that didn’t include beef, pork, sea food, or similar. Not a tragedy, I know. But in Gainesville, it’s rare to find a restaurant that doesn’t have at least some obvious vegetarian options. Even these were somewhat sketchy.

Our tablemates had the huge ‘Seafood Paradise Special’ platter which arrived in a sizzling cast iron skillet. I ordered the Tofu Jab-Chae, sweet potato noodles with veggies and tofu. And The Man had the Tofu Dolsot Bibimbap, a hot pot with rice, veggies and an egg (and posibly some meat products clinging to the egg from something left on the fryer). Oh, and the green tea which was as fresh and tasty as Kool-aid.

My dish was ho-hum, and somewhat difficult to eat the long, sticky noodles with my metal chopsticks. I eventually mastered the knack of rolling the noodles around without elbowing The Man in the head. The Man was terminally underwhelmed by his dish, which even doused with copious amounts of Korean BBQ sauce. Our table mates had a few complaints about their dish being different than they normally got.

I like to think the kitchen was having an off night. I can only hope. Because our one time experience left me feeling like a mediocre Korean restaurant got bought out by a college student fresh out of the UF with a marketing degree and zero interest in food. The only thing going for it was they obviously used fresh veggies and tons of mushrooms. Not a lot of garlic or ginger from what we could tell.

It was a sulky ride home after, with both of us pouting about the experience and our determination to not repeat it. We were full, but there was very little flavor in the whole meal. In our opinion, Garlic & Ginger didn’t live up to its name.

Garlic & Ginger
5847 SW 75th St
Gainesvile, FL 32608
garlicnginger.com

[Girl21]

Flaco’s at Night

Flaco's Pig Sign, Downtown Gainesville

I spent a great deal of my youth skulking around downtown Gainesville at night. My older brother was in a band and I discovered that any girls with a band were let into clubs without being ID’ed. Not that I drank at that age. Seriously, I went to T.G.I. Friday and had an ice cream coffee drink on my 21st birthday, and that was my big first drink. I kid you not.

We hung out downtown, and I lived off of Mountain Dew or the Jamocha milkshakes at the Burger Barn while the boys schemed about scoring drinks and girls and stardom. This was back in the time of Hardback Cafe, Florida Theater, Insomnia, Purple Porpoise, and all of the random parties the band played in the rat warren of the student ghetto. If we were lucky, we would eat at Kesl’s Coney Island. If it was late, we ended up at Taco Bell.

Not that I’m saying anything bad about Taco Bell (don’t sue me!), but with age, my expectations for late-night food have increased to include the criteria that it must at least be edible. Carbs and protein are the food requirements after midnight. I’m a salad fanatic, and I wouldn’t touch the stuff late at night. Warm carbs and protein are what the stomach requires.

Fortunately Flaco’s is within walking distance of many of the usual places we hang out with friends at night these days, and it’s open until 2:30 AM Wednesday through Saturday. Just enough time to wander down there for some to-go food after having a pint or two. In case you’re wondering if it’s open, they provide that big neon pig sign to light the way. If you want to find it, Flaco’s is right across from the cow building. You know what I mean.

Flaco’s is a Cuban bakery and coffee shop. Firstly, if you’ve never had Cuban coffee, do not attempt this without a diving buddy. Secondly, if don’t know much Spanish, you can still order food at Flaco’s because they’re prepared for people like us (unlike some of the Cuban places in Miami which you might be physically removed from for asking “What’s quee-so?”). Their menu has nice little descriptions that are easy enough to be understood when you’re tired and can’t focus your eyes well.

They’ve got a lot of great hand-food and bowls of food, so you can eat and run (stumble), or you can sit around their stylishly shabby dining areas and enjoy the gorgeous smell of good food cooking. It’s a bit moist in the summer, but in the cool months, it’s lovely. Like someone’s kitchen. By ‘someone’, I mean ‘someone who cooks well and often’.

You can find hot sandwiches (yes, a few vegetarian options), salads, ‘plates’ & ‘bowls’, arepas, empanadas, coffee, drinks, and beer. They’ve even got a taco bar Saturday after 10PM. I’ve not been to take advantage of this fabulous event, but I imagine all of the celebrities attend.

Our usual late night to-go has narrowed down to queso blanco arepas, and two Donna’s Turnstyle sandwiches, one with black beans and one with lentils. I’m an arepa fan–cornmeal patties with a slab of fresh cheese half melting in the middle. There are many ways to make arepas, not all of them good, but Flaco’s are delish.

The Donna’s Turnstyle sandwiches are simple Cuban bread with swiss cheese, mustard, pickles, and either black beans or lentils, and pressed to warm. A far cry from the late-night burritos from Taco Bell that I was always convinced must contain the recycled wasted from liposuction clinics.

Flaco’s is the kind of place I would have felt at home at in my stupid youth. Miss-matched second-hand furniture, interesting art, a kind of rumpled and angsty mood at night. The food is honest and tasty. The pigs are a bit creepy in a fun way.

Flaco’s
200 West University Ave
Gainesville, FL 32601
352-371-2000
www.flacosgainesville.com

Donna’s Turnstyles – $4.95
Queso Blanco Arepas – $3.50

Hours
Tues | 11:00AM- 4:00PM
Wed- Fri | 11:00AM-2:30AM
Sat | 12:00PM-2:30AM
Sun & Mon | Closed

[Girl21]

Satchel’s, Get the Bumper Sticker

Satchel's Pizza
Satchel's Pizza
Satchel’s Pizza

If you live within 300 miles of Gainesville, you’ve seen the bumper stickers on everything from the ratty Subaru wagons to dusty Lexus SUVs. Hand-lettered, artsy signs asking forgiveness for being late because the driver was at Satchel’s. Contrived cute hippie statements worthy of Be Here Now. These are the great, galloping herds of the Satchel’s temple cult.

You may sense a slightly sarcastic note here, so I have to confess. We live mere blocks from Satchels. Close enough that when the wind blows, I can smell hot cheese, burnt dough, and patchouli. In the early days when I first moved in to this house, I ate Satchels often. Too often. I burnt out–no pun intended.

Reluctantly I’ve started eating there again. From time to time, friends play live music at the Lightening Salvage stage, and of course The Man drags me out for live music, pizza and beer. (I protest at the lack of air conditioning in the Salvage area in the dead of summer while eating hot pizza.) I’ve once again become intimately familiar with the menu.

I am well aware of how many people adore the kitschy decorations at Satchel’s. Here’s me going out on a limb to have an opinion (rare, I know). The place is kind of cool, and obviously a lot of work went into it all. It gives me the shivering willies. I can’t help but imagining a trailer park in Arizona completely populated by alien enthusiasts in aluminum foil hats. End opinion.

That aside, the food is spectacular. The salad is a delicious meal in itself. The calzones are deadly pockets of yum. They’ve got a small selection of beer and wine. As for the actual pizza, there’s a great selection of toppings, and the crust and sauce taste handmade. The good kind of handmade. If you’re lucky and smart, you’ll call ahead and get them to start a deep dish pizza for you since they have a limited quantity of the crusts, and they take a while to cook (I suggest basil, garlic, and black olives on top!). In fact, I suggest calling them with your order as soon as you get in the car to head over there, since it can often be hugely busy and you might wait an hour for your food.

So slavish followers and creepy decor, vs. distinctly delish pizza. Kind of even battle there. The thing that throws it for me is the culture of Satchel’s business practices. There are stores I don’t shop at because I don’t agree with the mood of the company and the way they interact with their community. Satchel’s strives to exhibit the gold-star standard of how a business should treat its employees and its community. This is the good side of the hippie culture (yes, I’m a direct descendant of hardcore hippies, so I know what I’m talking about).

If you’ve never been to Satchel’s, here’s a few things you need to know. There is seating in the old van parked out front, as well as around back past the gift shop. Yes, they have a fun gift shop. Parking is lousy, especially when it’s busy. They do catering, and you can do carry-out orders. This is a cash-only establishment (but they have an ATM in the hall). The deep dish pizza is the best, but they only prep a quantity and can run out. You will not be able to look at everything they have decorating the place.

This is one of those places that is intrinsically Gainesville. For good or bad. G’ville was a haven for hippies through the years, and these flower children grew up, had kids, had grandkids, and evolved their ideals to survive in the real world. Then there’s the poor Southerners who couldn’t escape to the big cities, and the college kids (some of whom can’t escape G’ville even after their multiple degrees have been earned). So we have this gumbo of unusual local characters and transient upwardly-mobile youths.

You’re highly likely to meet this gumbo at Satchel’s. If you make it through dinner without seeing someone you recognize–well, I have to wonder how long you’ve been living in the area. In fact, if you’re reading this and haven’t been the Satchel’s, you must have just moved here this year. But that’s okay. Go to Satchel’s try the salad and the deep dish pizza, and buy a bumper sticker to put on your car so you’ll blend in with the locals. And no, it’s not an excuse for being late.

Satchel’s Pizza
1800 NE 23rd Ave
Gainesville, FL 32609
www.satchelspizza.com
352-335-7272
Tuesday-Saturday | 11:00am-10:00pm

[Girl21]

Chopstix Cafe

Chopstix Cafe

We’ve been going to Chopstix so long, we probably lack complete objectivity about it as a restaurant. It’s just one of the places we like to go when we want good vegetarian options at good prices. We’ve come to expect the slow, ultra-casual service as much as we expect the ever-changing view of the water out the big windows. It’s usually crowded with college students and locals during rush times, and almost empty the rest of the time. The menu hasn’t changed much over the years. Neither has the food. Neither have the giant fish sulking in their tanks. In fact, the only thing that changed was the family’s little kids, who went from baby carriers to homework at the big bar.

Even when they burst out of the mold and opened their Bistro location up on the NW side of town, it was pretty much the same thing but in a nicer facility. The menu is slightly different up at the Bistro, but the staff are easily recognized from the Cafe/13th St restaurant.

And then rumor hit that they were renovating the old place recently. What? Who allowed this to happen?

We had to swing by for a late lunch to see what had happened. It was possible they had obliterated all of our old memories along with the chintzy Chinese wall art and the rip-off of Hokusai’s Great Wave over the sushi bar. I would be happy if they replaced the wobbly cafe tables and chairs that sent my Thai iced tea cup skittering wildly at random moments.

All said and done, it’s the same old place, but with a gentle make-over. The dining areas have been reworked significantly for better flow. The deck out back has been given a little TLC and a bunch more tables for those nice days you’d like to sit and watch the water of Biven’s Arm. The giant bar that dominated the room to the right of the entrance has been reduced and sent far down to the left next to the new carry-out door and counter. That old bar space now has a fancy glass wall separating the restaurant from a chic WhiteBerry frozen yogurt franchise, finally providing a tempting dessert option.

The pan-Asian menu still hasn’t changed much, which is a good thing by the way. There are still a lot of vegetarian options, sushi, bento, and drinks. The gargantuan bowls they served everything in seemed to have shrunk just a bit. The same faces and same casual service attitude remain. And yes, there is still the random fly buzzing wearily against the windows to get out.

Chopstix Cafe
3500 SW 13th St
Gainesville FL 32608

352-367-0003

M-T | 11AM-10PM
F-S | 11AM-11PM
Sunday | 12noon-8PM

Prices: Medium ($10-20 per meal)

[Girl21]