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Metro Diner

MD surprise: Breakfast Pizza, Pumpkin Waffle

By Melissa Kahan, GLOB Correspondent

MetroDinerLOGODiner restaurants have certain stereotypical characteristics that I have found to be true: large, hearty portions, bustling servers, and busy booths, but the atmosphere has to be the defining feature, and I have been in diners from Orlando, FL, to New York City. Gainesville's Metro Diner is no exception--many booths and standalone tables with a casual, comfy décor.

 112015METROmark

With 17 Florida locations, Metro Diner, a Jacksonville-based regional chain that started in a 1938 building transformed in 1990, has made quite the name for itself. In addition to being a family-owned restaurant started by Chef Mark Davoli and family with 80 years in the food industry, Metro Diner is famous for its appearance on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on Food Network. Fieri dubbed the meatloaf one from which "diners need to take a lesson." I was mainly excited about the all day breakfast menu, which adds another spot to my brunch rotation that is close to home.

At 7 am on a Thursday morning, Metro Diner was almost vacant. I have scooped up a breakfast sandwich or two at that time at other places, and I can say that going to breakfast early is the way to ensure immediate service. The John Sr. breakfast sammie was large and in charge, two runny eggs coating Swiss cheese, bacon, and tomato. It may be sizeable, but don't wait too long to devour it, as the 8-grain toast quickly got soggy.

 

SpecialBOARD

Conversely at 9:30 am on a Saturday morning, empty tables were harder to come by; thus, for the brunch crowd, a.k.a. my usual compadres at the usual time--after 11 am, there will likely be wait. At 9:30 am on Saturday, however, a 20-minute wait was not too painful, and it gave my dining companion, Greg, and I a chance to peruse the menu for efficient ordering. The daily rotating-specials chalkboard proudly displayed on the back wall and on the web added three very tempting options to the already abundant menu of delicious breakfast goodies. This would be a complicated decision.

 

112015Rancheggs

After two very sad cups of coffee were ordered--why most breakfast places don't serve local coffee is beyond me, Greg, who is health-conscious, decided to try Metro Diner's Huevos Rancheros, $11.49: Scrambled eggs cooked well and topped with salsa and green onion slivers laid over a huge colorful plateful of black beans and chorizo under melted cheese and jalapenos. The "fried tortilla shells" were like a cross between crunchy pita chip and tortilla chip, essentially the best of both addicting worlds. Greg ordered sour cream on the side, which the server had to be reminded about. Despite his cleaned plate, Greg felt it was average for this dish he typically orders at breakfast. The couple of bites I had were very flavorful, the thick chunks of chorizo and jalapeno slices packing an enjoyable punch for a dish I am not usually inclined to order myself.

I was sold on the Breakfast Pizza, $10.99 image at the top of this review, the moment I laid eyes on the two words placed together. It's as if the brunch heavens opened and placed two of the best food items together in succession for one harmonious, epic brunch option. It had a little of everything I would want to order... in pizza form, down to the "crust" being made from biscuit dough. That aspect almost made me do a happy dance it was so good. Piled on this delicious biscuit bed, was a thick layer of mozzarella cheese blanketing flavorful chunks of bacon, ham, AND, if that weren't enough meat, some Italian sausage. I opted out of the onions, but the peppers and jalapenos provided a texture that tossed my taste buds around. I also love eggs Benedict, so the layer of Hollandaise sauce was a welcome addition, which, alongside two runny eggs, made for a sop-off-the-plate eating experience. The biscuit, under all those ingredients, did not get soggy. That is impressive.

 

dessert

I almost chose the Southern Benedict daily special, since it is a favorite of biscuits and gravy in addition to eggs and hollandaise, but I could not pass up the Biscuit Pizza. I also wanted to order a sweeter entrée for contrast: The Pumpkin-Stuffed Waffle. I think I speak for Greg when I say it was worth the food coma that followed: Each fourth of the waffle was used to make a sweet breakfast sandwich of sorts, complete with a marshmallow drizzle and cinnamon butter.

True to name, the sandwich filling was none other than copious amounts of pumpkin-flavored fluff. It was almost a combination of fluffy icing, cream cheese, and some kind of aerating agent. Whatever that pumpkin-flavored confection was, it played into the crisp, light waffle perfectly. I almost thought the cinnamon butter would be overkill, but then I tasted it, and it was too good not to use despite all the other flavors going on.

 

metrodinerHORIZ

The breakfast menu includes everything from omelets and steak and eggs to Benedicts and breakfast sandwiches to a variety of French toast and pancake options. The Yo Hala on the Square French Toast is highlighted on the menu for a reason: It is stuffed with bananas, brown sugar, cream cheese, and Hazelnut sauce (!) and smothered with fruit compote. I am very intrigued by the Monte Cristo, a sandwich I have yet to experience, and by the Spicy Honey Chicken Biscuit, mainly because I heard Metro's fried chicken is very tasty and because it includes a biscuit. Oh, I can't forget about the grits.

The Diner has an extensive lunch/dinner menu as well, considering it is open from 6:30 am until 8 pm Sunday through Thursday and 6:30 am to 8:30 pm Friday and Saturday. Judging by Guy Fieri's review of the meatloaf, I'd say that is a priority item, but the wide array of sandwiches and burgers provides something for everyone. The Charleston Shrimp and Grits looks like a solid rendition of the classic Southern dish. There is a complete Metro Diner menu at the web link below this review.

The restaurant was busy, and servers forgot things in the hustle and bustle, but overall the Metro Diner did exactly what it should: Provide a hearty, yummy meal to satiate the taste buds and fill the belly. Health-conscious Greg was less a fan because of the lack of healthier options, but you go to diners for the hearty, comfort-food, and Metro delivered.

The Pluses and Minuses of the Metro Diner:

The Metro Diner + indicators: Good value to portion size, large servings, varied menu, cozy diner atmosphere, friendly service, plaza parking leaves options.

The Metro Diner - indicators: Long wait time on weekends

Offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about the Metro Diner. Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments. - THANKS!

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Sababa Israeli Cuisine

Israeli lunch experience feels like home

By Melissa Kahan, GLOB Correspondent

sababaSTOREfrontThere are few restaurants in Gainesville that I feel truly offer an utterly exclusive product. Eggs Benedict comes in many shapes and sizes, and burgers are made with this and that combination of meats/veggies/what-have-you at a number of establishments, but one thing completely unique may be the niche a restaurant fills. Let me explain: It is not common to get true Israeli food in Gainesville, and Sababa has become the only restaurant in Hogtown to offer Kosher meals with all Kosher products.

This Israeli cuisine-serving restaurant, which started out in the UF Hillel center on University Ave., serves Kosher meals and is rapidly becoming more popular. On August 31 of last year, then-owner Liora Volkovich stopped running the business. The next day, one of her daughters, Yael Goldstein, and Yael's fiance, Riley Sullivan, took over. However, Liora stated, "I retired, but I am still here about 60 hours a week."

On March 17 of this year, a permanent Sababa location was opened at the Sun Center on SE 2nd Place in downtown Gainesville.

I decided it was as good a time as any to check out the new digs downtown and grabbed my dining companion, Alyssa. If you didn't know where in the Sun Center the Middle Eastern food-serving joint was located, you could almost miss Sababa, but a constant stream of patrons bustling in and out signified we had arrived. The inside seating area, on first glance, seemed very simple with no frills, about six tables of various sizes with paisley chairs and a few framed photos on the wall contributed to the low-key feel.

sababaDINING

When you enter the restaurant, to the left in a separate area overlooking the dining area, a small counter emerged with a few customers in line and a full chalkboard menu. As I usually do with most restaurants I haven't dined at before, before I checked online to see what was on the menu, and I am very glad I did. Food items, such as bamia, schwarma, and mellawach, would have been gibberish to me had I not researched what each contained. Alyssa was certainly grateful of this, commenting, "I can always count on you to tell me what things are and what I should order." She didn't even blink when I asked if we could get two separate entrees and split them to maximize our tasting menu.

 

sababaMKsplateArmed with my researched plans for what foods I wanted, I ordered us the Falafel plate, $9.99 (image at top) and the Chicken Schnitzel plate. However, Liora, who was there, informed me that they were out of chicken and expecting a shipment the next day. Although saddened, I am not deterred by vegetarian or vegan food options, and the Veggie Schnitzel, $10.99, made with a breaded soy-based patty, was worth a try. She even had me go outside and ask a customer who was dining on the Veggie Schnitzel if it was any good! I obliged, although I knew the veggie option would be a perfectly adequate substitute. Liora also urged me to come back soon for the chicken.  She was even so nice as to include a side of Bamia, despite the couscous and potatoes being the menu-prescribed sides.

After about 10 minutes, only a few customers' orders ahead of ours, Riley presented Alyssa and I with our heaping, colorful plates of Middle Eastern delight. When I say heaping, I mean I could barely see the plate underneath, and I was ecstatic to dive in to this beautiful array of good-for-you goodies. Alyssa and I split eight total pieces of falafel and I divided the "sweet and tangy" sauce-covered tofu schnitzel. Each plate, in addition to our small side cups of couscous and bamia, came with five different types of "salad," as well as a heaping ladle-full of hummus, a large pita and a small cup of t'hini sauce for dipping/dredging/devouring.

Everything was so, so good. Aside from the bamia, a stew with sautéed okra and tomato sauce, which was a little too heavy on the onions and overly tomato-y for my taste (awesomely spicy, though), I finished every last bite on my plate, and even some of Alyssa's veggies. If I hadn't known the schnitzel wasn't chicken, it would have been hard for me to distinguish the difference based on texture, as it was so light despite all the sweet orange sauce which I loved. The falafel, made with chickpeas, herbs and onions, was wonderfully crispy on the outside while being soft, but not crumbly, on the inside, the green coloring due to copious amounts of parsley and other herbs. When drizzled with the creamy, but not thick, t'hini sauce or dipped in the flavorful hummus and placed on a piece of warm pita, it was so satisfying. It was certainly the best falafel I have had, and I would order that marinated schnitzel over a dish of orange chicken any day, although I can't wait to try the chicken rendition of the dish.

sababaSODAAs a veggie lover, the different salads were just as appealing to me as the protein on my plate. The cucumber salad with parsley was very refreshing, while the cabbage coleslaw-type salad was lightly dressed. Even the simple purple cabbage and diced tomato-cucumber concoction was a welcome addition. The carrots were probably my favorite, as Alyssa and I agreed that they were not too cooked or undercooked, but retained an ideal texture for carrots with some spice that elevated the simple vegetable to another culinary surprise on the plate. My plate was, metaphorically, licked clean. I also ordered some Limona'ana, pronounced limon-ana, which tasted like slightly watered down lemonade with mint, although I didn't taste the mint. I actually preferred it to the overly sweet, sugar-laden lemonade I am used to. Alyssa ordered what Liora described as "peach nectar," which was a can of peach juice, but Alyssa seemed to enjoy the flavor and the can, which was colorful and covered in Hebrew writing.

A minute or two before finishing our plates, Liora warmed up the Babka, $2, or sweet chocolate-swirled cake/bread, I had ordered earlier and brought it out to us, claiming it is much better eaten warm. She was right: Alyssa and I agreed it was way better than anticipated, the chocolate swirls became gooey pockets over the challah-type cake. Liora mentioned she wished she could eat them all the time.

sababaCAKE

Once we devoured our meals, Liora came and sat by me, as she did with the other customers, and asked what we thought. I showed her my empty plate, and she smiled, saying how she was glad the Veggie Schnitzel proved a tasty alternative. She then went on to remark how troublesome it could be to order everything Kosher, as many of the ingredients and products come from different locations. "We order the Kosher chicken from Miami; we get that Babka from a Georgia vendor who gets it from New York; we also order Kosher products from Ohio. There is nowhere else that serves Kosher food in Gainesville, so there is nowhere to get it here."

 

sababaCOOK

Sababa is the type of place you go to feel at home. A reviewer on the Sababa Facebook page said it best: "I'm Jewish and I feel like I'm home. My friends are not Jewish, and they feel like they're home. Best food." I felt like I was at a friend's home and was eating a home-cooked meal with the mother making sure the food is good and the plates are empty. Liora is the friendly, quirky Jewish mother who will always strike up conversation. I am Jewish, and my mother is guilty of making amazing food and making sure we all think it is amazing, too. While I have never been to an Israeli restaurant prior to Sababa and I did not grow up eating Kosher foods, despite my heritage, I felt very at home with this food. I also loved that I could eat every bite full of such a large portion and not feel uncomfortably full or as if I just devoured a greasy burger. I could honestly dine there anytime, whether for lunch or dinner or maybe even brunch, which they serve on Sundays. Babka French toast, anyone?

Side note to Liora: Mazel Tov on your daughters' upcoming weddings this September!

The Pluses and Minuses of Sababa: Excellent food, do not serve anything but Kosher which is a unique niche to fill in Gainesville, attention to detail, fantastic service, cohesive and refreshing flavors, can eat a ton without the guilt, made us feel like home, exceptional value, local eatery, vegan/vegetarian options.

Sababa + indicators: Fair chicken, quick prep time, decent price per food ratio

Sababa - indicators: Downtown parking is always a problem.

Be the first to offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about Sababa. Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments. - THANKS!

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Road Trip: Palatka, Magnolia Cafe

MC perfect 'tweener stop' for beach trip

By Alison, GLOB guest Correspondent

EDITOR'S NOTE: Alison returns from GLOB's dusty archives ready to report on her favorite breakfast/brunch/lunchstop in Palatka, Florida.

I'm sure people will think it cannot be done in Palatka, but there is an awesome restaurant on St. Johns Avenue downtown, a block or two south of Hwy 19.

 

121114MAGdowntownVisitFlorida.com speaks highly of Palatka: "Nestled within a bend of the St. Johns River ... Palatka is a historic Northeast Florida city that proudly showcases its past. You can experience Old Florida charm in Palatka while you celebrate Florida's heritage at the Florida Azalea Festival, St. Johns River Catfish Festival, Blue Crab Festival or Bostwick Blueberry Festival."  It continues:  "Also camping, canoeing, kayaking the area's eight blueway trails, playing golf, touring historic homes and churches built in the 1800s, hiking or bicycling, and visiting birding sites listed in the Great Florida Birding Trail. Also, don't miss the Palatka Mural Tour, featuring more than 30 artistic renderings that depict the historical, cultural and natural riches of Palatka and Putnam County."

I live on the St. Johns River a few miles north of Palataka, and what I like about this old Florida town is the small town friendliness, a great Publix, plus quick access to St. Augustine.

121114MAGsfMagnolia Café is open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday 7 am - 3 pm and Sunday 8 am - 2 pm. It has been open over a year, and I have never had a bad meal there. The service can be a little sketchy, but the staff are beginning to know us there and take good care of us.

A large open room, which is decorated with some local paintings and such, can get very noisy due to bad acoustics. The kitchen is open to view from the dining room. Everything looks clean and in place. This place fills up very quickly at peak breakfast and lunch times, but even later in the day guests are still arriving.  Many of the lunch guests are business professionals from downtown Plataka.

The Magnolia Café kitchen is very fast, albeit with a few minor mix ups here and there. Having worked in the restuarant business, I understand how these things happen with the growing business this lunch stop experiences.

MagnoliaDINING

I am sold on the Pressed Chicken Datil Sandwich, image at top of this feature, with caramelized onions, or any eating experience. What I like about this sandwich is it has plenty of Datil pepper sauce and cheese. The PCDA is served hot, and this lunch is always on the mark.

Although the PCDS is my go to sandwich almost every visit, there is also a great BLT. It is available with egg salad added to it, which makes for an interesting sandwich adventure.

 

121114MAGburger

The MC also has a fabulous Fiesta Burger that certainly deserves your lunch time consideration. This burger, which features a grass-fed beef patty, cheddar cheese, and house salsa of black bean, corn and cilantro, is served between grilled soft-shell tortillas!

Lunch time sides items include potato salad, pasta salad, or chips. There is no deep fryer in the house for French fries and such but I don't miss them. The Magnolia Café potato salad, with a little salt, always works fine with my pressed sammie. FOLLOW THIS LINK for a complete Magnolia cafe lunch menu.

Iced tea is freshly made, not the cloudy, day-old brew you will find served in so many places.

Magnolia Café Breakfast menu offers a Magnolia Café BLT with egg, several omelet choices, pancakes, and French toast.

 

121114MAGgrits

Now let's talk about grits. In my opinion Magnolia Café serves the best grits I have ever had in my life. They have a very coarse texture and are served in a large bowl. I must have them every time I visit this lunch stop gem of a cafe.

The restaurants that charge $2.99 for a mini bowl of grits really burn me. Peach Valley and Flying Biscuit do you hear this? It is a .25 cent item.

I usually finish up my breakfast with one pancake. Real butter, of course. And, OK, Log Cabin syrup. Not the real maple syrup but who serves that anymore anyways?

All right, I admit I sometimes bring my own maple syrup.   Really.

This place is a must stop for Gainesvillians for breakfast or lunch, in between the adventure trips to and from the beach.

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Thinking Weekend Brunch? Jones brunch battle

Wallet, cash, decider in brunch battle

By Melissa Kahan, GLOB Correspondent

EDITOR's NOTE:  Gainesville Lunch Out Blog features, Jones web links are available: The Jone's B-Side, and  The Jone's Eastside.

At first I was confused as to why there are two Jones locations in Gainesville, especially within a 10- minute drive of each other. However, their distinctions have been made ever so clear through various dining experiences at both establishments. Since both Jones serve breakfast at lunch time, why not have a brunch battle? Brunch is one of my favorite mealtime occasions It enables a unique dining experience, complete with an excuse to consume alcoholic beverages before noon and breakfast, as well as lunch, foods at lunchtime Some restaurants have "official" brunch times or menus. This leads to one of the differences between the two Jones right off the bat: Eastside has a breakfast menu that they serve at any time. B-side has a brunch menu that has both breakfast and lunch items in addition to its lunch menu. Although the B-side website does not state this, it's very likely that the brunch menu is served only on the weekend. On to the battle:

The Jones Eastside and B-side both literally bring something different to the brunch table, but what is life without a little competition?

Jones Eastside:

Recommendation: The Jonesy Cristo (massive) or an omelet (just as massive) with the rosemary toast (to die for).
zzGLOBbullet  041114BRUNCHesToastOpen 8 am to 3 pm "every damn day": This means you can enjoy a delicious brunch every day of the week. That has my vote.
zzGLOBbullet  Local: It's always nice to support the local community, especially when they're dishing out such amazing and detailed plates of food. You can certainly taste the freshness.
zzGLOBbullet  Appealing presentation: I am not referring to the plating of the food per se (although it is nothing to slouch at), but the overall brightness and how well the food is prepared is not overrated. A soft yellow omelet sprinkled with an herb or two, fluffy brioche French toast slabs—these speak not only of the chef but of the quality of ingredients, as well.
zzGLOBbullet  Menu variety: I greatly enjoy the variety on both the breakfast and lunch menus, whether you are craving a TLT (the first T stands for tofu) with veganaise or a breakfast sandwich. There are plenty of vegan as well as meat-infused options (I've had the most amazing meat-lover's omelet here).
zzGLOBbullet  It's all good: I have yet to try any menu item during brunch that was not impressively tasty. I am a bit obsessed with the fragrant, slightly toasted rosemary toast.
zzGLOBbullet Cash only: Do not forget this caveat! Many local restaurants are cash-only, which, in my opinion, is the Jones Eastside's only downfall.

Jones B-side:

Recommendations: A lunch menu sandwich (the burger included)

zzGLOBbullet  041114BRUNCHbsOmeletOpen Monday through Friday from 11 am to 2 pm and weekends 9 am to 2 am.
zzGLOBbullet  Local: This Jones location also has locally-sourced ingredients. However — and this may sound strange — they do not appear to be as fresh, which brings me to...
zzGLOBbullet  Lackluster presentation: I feel the need to point out that while boasting local ingredients similar to Eastside's, the food presented at B-side is not as visually appetizing. My salmon omelet had a sickly brown cast to it, while the grits, which I have ordered many times at Eastside and are a shade of cream, were more of a sickly yellow color. Unfortunately, the omelet tasted as it looked. I did, however, enjoy the multigrain toast, per the server's recommendation.
zzGLOBbullet  Menu variety: It was nice to see a somewhat different breakfast items between both locations, but honestly the only item that appealed from the B-side breakfast options was an omelet, but, as previously mentioned, it was less than appetizing. I've been told the lunch sandwiches are pretty tasty, but if I am enjoying brunch, I'm opting for breakfast items.
zzGLOBbullet  Cash and credit: I was extremely pleased to find that this local joint allowed payment through credit or debit, as I rarely carry around much cash as it is.

Conclusion: Although both establishments share some positive aspects, such as the locally-sourced food, the Jones Eastside is my brunch time winner. The only thing I believe the Jones B-side has over Eastside is that they allow you to pay with cash or credit, and you can put your money in your pocket. Even the service at Eastside was much friendlier, adding to the charm of this hole-in-the-wall spot complete with cozy tables and an inviting atmosphere. This Eastside lunch was made special as i was able to introduce my dad to a really excellent Gainesville brunch stop, image at top of this feature.

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Loosey's Bar & Table

In search of hamburger supremacy

LooseysSFBy Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

It was a lunch adventure with my long time pal, Jon Roosenraad, and he suggested checking out Loosey's Bar and Table in the Haile Shopping Center.

"Did you see that 'Gainesville Sun' food guy said he loved the Haile Loosey's Fish and Chips, and the burgers are really good." Rosey said. "Let's go see if he knows what he's talking about." Just like that we set a course due west from my humble NE residence to seek out red meat protein nirvana in the form of Loosey's Bar and Table Build Your Own Burger.

"You know, Rosey, right off the top of my head, I can count at least seven places to get REALLY good hamburgers that we are passing up just to get as far out of Gainesville as we possibly can to eat ground meat," I said trying to convince myself this hamburger really would be a special one.

Invading Loosey's B&G earlier than the average lunch outer, we quickly grabbed a high-top table. There was a plethora of sports happening on the many televisions around the restaurant. The circular bar looked inviting and like an interesting place for conversation. I mentioned to Roosenraad that the outside seating is handy in the evening because the dining area gets way loud when they have local, live entertainment.

 

FebFISHchipsRosey quickly opted for the Fish and Chips and for $10 he received two large pieces of lager-battered cod with crispy double-fried fries, creamy southern-style slaw, lemon, and house made tartar.

I hate to play the old head injury card, but when I looked at the list of 29 choices I had to make to eat a hamburger, my brain said, "You're kidding right?" The Loosey's burger is a have-it-your-way prize they call the Build Your Own Burger. You know, GLOBers, once again my question is why should I have to?

Here were my choices:

Build Your Own Burger: All-Natural Black Angus Beef, $10; House-Made Veggie Burger, $8; Boneless Chicken Breast (?), $9.

Toppings & Condiments at Your Request: Lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, mayo, ketchup, and yellow mustard are free.

For $.50 you can add: Cheddar, Swiss, Pepper jack or Havarti cheese. For an additional $1 you may also add bacon, avocado, jalapeno, fried egg, caramelized onion, sautéed 'shrooms, Bleu cheese, mozzarella, or queso fresco.

For $.25 more you can top your burger off with: Garlic aioli, jalapeno aioli, beer mustard, Dijon honey mustard, or sweet/spicy AK (?).

There is a restaurant link to the Loosey's Bar and Table menu at the bottom of this page.

I started to think about one of my favorite hamburgers, which just happens to be recognized as one of Gainesville's best and which I order by saying, "Double cheeseburger all the way please."

LooseysSFPinching myself back to reality I ordered Loosey's B and G Build Your Own Burger with lettuce, tomato, pickle, American cheese substituting for Monterrey jack, and a scoop of garlic aioli for a little over $10. The hamburger was very good -- a very fat hamburger patty with a distinct char-cooked flavor. The garlic aioli was a nice touch, I did taste the garlic on my burger. I'm glad I tried this West Gainesville burger prize.

Rosey was OK with his fish and chips, surprised at the twice cooked French fries. "Fish was great but fries weak. I mean it is fish AND chips, isn't it? I think it is a great place for the area and there still aren't that many places West of Tower Road, but no reason for us to go there again," Roosenraad said.

Depending on where I was standing, and who was making the request, I would go back to Loosey's Bar and Table again. That interesting menu includes a tasty sounding Tenderloin Italiano, and then there is the Mahi Fra Diavolo that deserves my consideration because I brag about having the Diavolo in me.



looseysBURGER

Loosey's burger lives up to acclaim

By Melissa Kahan, GLOB Correspondent

Here at Gainesville's Lunch Out Blog, I published an article about my best burgers in Gainesville, but I continue my search in hopes of continually updating this list. Relish Big & Tasty Burgers still has those great greasy, late night burgers with all the fixings, and Copper Monkey is just a really delicious, sizeable burger any time. I amended my list to add the amazing pork/beef burger at Blue Gill's Quaility Food, which has bacon and pimento cheese that gives it a Southern twist for a truly flavorful, tender burger. Looseys made my best burger list, but a recent trip to the Haile location has shed some new light in further favor of this burger joint. It was even on Scoutology.com's list of the Top 12 Burger Joints in Florida this year.

LooseysSFLoosey's has a location downtown and in the Haile area in Southwest Gainesville, which has been dubbed the "fancy Loosey's." Having done a school project on one of the owners, it is great to walk into Loosey's at Market Square in Haile Plantation off of SW 91st Street and see him behind the bar. Even if you do not know someone who works there, you are immediately absorbed in a laid back, albeit very nice atmosphere, the dining area to the right and the bar area with high tops and a bar made of pennies to the left. I always head for the bar area, as I enjoy the dimly-lit, relaxed ambiance. There is also another door in this area that leads to a great outdoor dining patio area.

I have been to the downtown location many times, grabbing a drink and listening to the occasional live music performance or off-key karaoke singer. This is where I discovered the amazingness that is Loosey's truffle fries with a side of garlic aioli, a dish I did not order on my latest trip to the Haile location but only because there is another fry dish worth noting. As soon as Thomas and I sat down at the high top table in Haile, ravenous as ever, and ordered our drinks, we did not hesitate to order the Carne Asada fries to start. This may sound like a bit much for fries but bear with me: These perfectly done fries, not too crisp or potato-y or greasy, create the perfect foundation for globs of queso fresco and cheddar cheeses, green onion, and the flavorful greenery of cilantro on a mountain of deliciousness topped with strips of rare, seared beef tenderloin. If that weren't enough, sides of jalapenos, guacamole, salsa, and sour cream add to the southwestern feel, but I always order the garlic or jalapeno aioli for dipping because they are AMAZING sauces.

looseyFRIEShorizontal

LOOSEYlogoAlthough the fries are clearly enough for four people to share, Thomas and I polished them off and were ready for the main event: burgers. These are not just any burgers; these are the juiciest, most tender burgers you will probably ever have at a pub. It didn't take long for my burger and Thomas' to arrive at the same time to the table, which was extremely appreciated so we could enjoy them hot and fresh together without having to wait for the other. I ordered mine pink in the middle and that is exactly what I got, another appreciated element. After smearing a little ketchup and mayo on the large, fluffy bun, I cut the burger in half and dove in. Every bite was as good as the last: The moist burger fell apart in my mouth as it was almost buttery; the tasty bun with slightly crisped edges provided the perfect neutral backdrop against the fresh lettuce, tomato, and sweet pickles; melted cheddar and bacon were cohesive savory touches to an already killer burger patty, although the patty was so tasty on its own no other toppings were truly necessary. Thomas noted that it was a welcome change that the burger wasn't too big. The care and quality truly shows, and despite being full to the brim I finished every last bite of that burger, as I could not allow myself to waste any of it.

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I have yet to try anything at Loosey's, from the truffle fries to the tacos and wings, that is not tasty and high quality. During this aforementioned school project with restaurant owner, Tim Hutchens, I was able to check out the kitchen area and see the cooks at work, an employee flying through the swinging kitchen doors every now and then to grab something. It was a well- done operation and clean, which is comforting as a customer. If you haven't gone to either the downtown or the Haile location, I highly recommend it, as both serve up this amazing burger, although some of their menu items differ. There is also a great brew list, and the service is extremely friendly.

The Pluses and Minuses of Loosey's Bar & Table:

Loosey's Bar & Table + indicators : Amazing burgers, tasty and inventive dishes, unique combinations, fresh, quality ingredients, great service, timely food delivery, nice atmosphere, location downtown and uptown for different atmosphere and menu and location convenience

Loosey's Bar & Table - indicators: Too many burgers and fries might kill ya

Be the first to offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about Loosey's Bar & Table.  Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments.  - THANKS!

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Uppercrust Bakery

All right GLOBers I am way out in left field with this Meatless Monday contribution. But have you ever looked into the all glass restaurant entrée cabinet and saw that special something you just had to have? It was Friday afternoon and I was excited about an evening of theater and the Actor's Warehouse Opening Night presentation of Me & JEZEBEL. Just as importantly theater partner and special friend Kristina Steinfeldt and I have gotten into the habit of adjourning to a good place after the show to discuss exactly what it was we just viewed. The GLOB Master thinks it's true that in the case of formulating opinions about ... art, theater, performances I have found a lively conversation regarding the objectives the screenwriter, director were trying to convey is invaluable. Conversation with a willing associate makes a world of difference in formulating a good case, justification for my personal opinion. And speaking of opinions I have salivated over the cake and pastry cabinet at Mildred's Big City Foods more than once here in the GLOB. The Bakery Mill & Deli across the Interstate off of Newberry Road never disappoints with fabulously delicious sugary treats.Finally the 4Rivers Smokehouse Bakeru is sure to please with awesome sugary confections.  The Uppercrust Bakery literally has glass cabinets of pastries and sweets that puts them -- in my opinion -- at the top of sugary dessert wonderfulness. By luck as I walked around the corner of the UC's pastry cabinet I spotted the last berry topped, sugar crystal flecked, butter cream frosting, three layer cake with cream cheese and vanilla bean filling. "Did you make that amazing looking cake for the fourth of July," I asked hoping it would be several days old, past peak buying time. "No sir," the staffer said. "We made the cake this morning, we make all our cakes and pastries fresh every morning," The staffer added. I looked at the cake thinking I had never seen such a stunningly looking, 'object 'de gastronomic'. I quickly purchased the cake before I changed my mind. AW's play Me & Jezebel was engaging, smart, and funny but in the back of my mind I was imagining what the inside of our discussion cake must look like. After the show we quickly found 'our spot' to stimulating conversation and more importantly examine this pastry delight. I cut the first piece thinking it would add to the image if readers could see the inside of this three layer sugar bonanza. The flavors were amazing the blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries and sugar crystals added the perfect amount of additional sweetness in a cake that was surprisingly not overly sugar-fied. Not eating a lot of sugar any more we split the piece I sliced and as I bit into the cake the icing, filling and yellow cake simultaneously melted in my mouth.

"You know I am eating just this one piece Kristina, you have to eat the rest," I said in a serious voice between bites.

Kristina lowered her head, shielding her giant grin declaring, "All right GLOB Master, if I must," she replied with an empathetic look of knowing compassion. I chuckled thinking to myself what a delicious, incredible ending to another perfect theater opening night.

- Mike Sanford

 

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FA discovers fresh bread nirvana

By Melissa Kahan, GLOB Correspondent

There is nothing the Food Adventurere loves to eat more than bread. I can appreciate loaves of seeded rye, warm pressed sandwiches of ciabatta bread and savory scones that adorn the glass cases within bakeries and specialty shops. It takes all I have to not snatch up every baked good behind these glass barriers. I tried for one week to cut out the sandwiches, bagels and pastries that encompass such a large portion of my diet, and it only made me feel ill. Needless to say, bread and flour products are not going anywhere.

uppercrustFRIEND0913jpgI have heard nothing but high regards and seriously-worded recommendations for Uppercrust "artisan bakery and luxury food and wine boutique" at 4116 NW 16th Blvd., next to the Fresh Market. After one last nudge from a close friend, Mariel, right, I gave in to a lunch date at Gainesville's oldest bakery founded in 1981.

While the proximity from campus was not an appealing aspect, I cannot deny the marvel that I felt upon opening the glass doors of Uppercrust. Immediately I was hit with the wafting aroma of rosemary, although its origins would be a feat to track, as there were dozens of loaves of freshly made bread snuggled together and rows of salivating-inducing baked goods, from croissants to "roses" and butter rolls. Not to mention that just around the corner from the checkout counter were stacks of specialty wine bottles and another food case of desserts, teasing and taunting me until I could extricate myself from the area.

 

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I have found fresh bread nirvana.

With a plethora of options, my anxiety as a food adventurer was growing steadily, as narrowing down lunch choices was proving to be the most challenging aspect of the day. My friend insisted we order the ham and cheese rose, and from there the ideas snowballed into uppercrustLEMONADE0913a carb-overloaded menu befitting an Uppercrust first-timer. The just-out-of-the-oven turkey, goat cheese and basil rose sprinkled with rosemary was a no-brainer, followed by its oven partner-in-crime, the artichoke, onion, garlic and tomato rose. Following suit were the decadently-crafted desserts. After much debate, we ordered the raspberry cream rose and the pistachio croissant. To complete the elegant food feast, we each grabbed a bottle of sparkling lemonade.  There is an Uppercrust bakery menu web link at the bottom of this page.

We decided to sit at one of the small tables in the outside seating area in front of the bakery, which is really the only available seating at the shop. A word of warning: While pleasantly shaded and easily accessible, our dining experience was frequented by one too many love bugs for comfort. Not to mention that the few tables were quite close together.

 

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But to the fun part: Each selection (right, above and below) was nothing short of a confectionary masterpiece, from the aesthetics to the flavors. Diving straight into the food, the turkey rose was up first: Warm, thick slices of turkey coated the pastry beneath the weight of the crumbly goat cheese, the basil leaves a shaded covering over the compilation of meat, dairy and that rosemary I consistently smelled. The runner-up proved to be the veggie and garlic rose: Flaky, seasoned pastry shrouded the thick layers of clumped grilled artichoke and surrounded the tomato and onion slices as a hallelujah chorus rang throughout my taste buds. Even the simplest lunch option, the ham and cheese rose, reminded me of those warm breakfast sandwiches I used to order to-go from various breakfast shops.

 

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This lunch would not have been complete without the dessert pastries, though, and the two options Mariel and I agreed on were nothing short of an experience. The raspberry cream rose was first, the center fluffy dough contrasting the crisp outer edges sticking to my teeth akin to the sensation of chewing cotton candy. The sporadic dollops of raspberry cream nestled into the flaky croissant layers created the ideal sweet and tangy addition. I couldn't put it down. The windmill shape of the pistachio croissant, up next, offered a hands-on way to section off a helping at a time. The folds of baked dough encased pistachio and walnut pieces in a savory concoction speckled with grains of sugar.

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It took everything I had not to inhale every bite.

uppercrustCOUNTERS0913All of this would not have been possible without the baked — always in-house, I might add — dough that is the moist, flaky base of all these goods and, in my opinion, the true secret to Uppercrust's success. It is the variety and the unique nature of the baked goods that has set also set them apart from other bakeries. Well, it's that and the just-baked, melt-in-your-mouth sensation that every bakery is not able to duplicate, unfortunately. In this case, I was more than happy it did. This food explorer will be a return customer.

My only problem will be consumption in moderation.

The Pluses and Minuses of the Uppercrust Bakery:

The uppercrust + indicators : Unique and varied selection; well made products; quality ingredients

The uppercrust  - indcators : Seating area close together and prone to bugs

Offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about the Uppercrust Bakery. Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments. - THANKS!

 

UCtopper

Lunchouting in the 'hood'

UClunchDESSERTWhite Apron Catering Queen Jules Gollner, Rusty the Wonder Dog, and the GLOB  Master decided that lunch around the corner from where Jules' old neighborhood would be an excellent lunch because we had heard that long time friend Lupe Moser was now working at the Uppercrust Bakery. Just like in neighborhoods of old, it was perfect timing: We bumped into fellow GLOBer Sam Boone, enjoying the beautiful lunch time outside of UB at an adjoining table; Jule's husband, Paul (below, left), showed up; and Lupe (below, center) took a break and joined us for an Uppercrust buffet of feta and ham, and ham and cheese rose pastries, an Eiffel Tower scone, and some of the best cookies this side of White Apron Catering. (That was a shout out to my pal Jules.  Woof!  Woof!  That one is to rusty)

The scone was the lunch prize winner being flaky, moist, and filled with ham and cheese that resulted in a wonderful explosion of flavor. But a close second is the UB meat-filled rose pastries, which are legendary – and if they are not, they ought to be. Jules, Paul, and I decided to divide everything into thirds. What a deal, we couldn't eat all of the superb lunch that the three of us enjoyed for less than $20.

Oh, all right, Paul did get up and purchase a couple more cookies, just because they were his favorite. There is an Uppercrust Bakery menu at the restaurant link below this feature.

Our neighborhood luncheon was informal, convivial, great fun, and very special due to the friendship energy at the tables outside the local bakery.

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Find your 'old world' Food On The Run here!

by Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

Something about the Uppercrust Bakery (UB) on NW 16th Blvd. exemplifies old world charm. Aside from the familiar fragrances of bread, cookies, and croissants stuffed with chocolate and cheese, there are gourmet and speciality items stacked in every nook and cranny of this store creating a feel of being transported to a french village in another era.

Uppercrust features an assortment of holiday gift options and stocking stuffers. They offer interesting French glassware, linens, fetching hand-made olde-fashioned European cooky molds, ceramics, luxury food products, and unusual wines. Uppercrust also custom creates gift basket to your liking.

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The cleverness of this bakery/speciality shop is that there are so many unique, interesting and tasty products in this tiny bakery that when you visit you want to wander through the shop inspecting every package or item that catches your eye with the possibility of uncovering a special food treasure.

There is a fabulous array of amazing gourmet delicacies in jars, boxes, and bags and many rows wine bottles with interesting labels.

Plus the folks behind the UB counter are extremely attentive to their customers. I always feel like a valued customer when I enter the cozy confines of this 'other world'. Maybe the friendliness is because thay have so many returning customers. Or is it the UB has so many returning customers because this is a Top Crust bakery selling quality products.

Stopping at the UB the other day to pick up a loaf of their addictive Rosemary garlic bread I noticed they had an extraordinary menu of tasty lunch items available for the customer that was in the grab-and-go, pick-em-up-and-eat-em-up, or -- as we say in the GLOB world --the FOOD ON THE RUN (FOTR) mood.

Several different kinds of fresh baked golden brown pastry, cheese, meat and veggie lunch items are arranged inside a glass presentation case to tantalize me as I walk in. There they sat, their melted cheese, and buttery goodness wafting their bountiful aroma directly at me, or so I thought.

Now I am somewhat of a large individual. I'd like to think that is why I thought it would be OK to buy four or five of these pastry medallion belly bombs. They would make a great lunch.

Reason prevailed however and I decided to be responsible and purchase just two of the Ham & Gruyere Cheese Rose delicacies for my FOTR experience.

Since this was a FOTR moment I didn't have a problem eating one of the 'roses' as soon as I got back to my car. The hard part of this eating exercise was saving the other rose for later.

Allow me a chance here to do a Food Network 'Best Thing I Ever Ate' impersonation:

"What they do is take a thick slice of honey glazed ham, gruyere cheese, fresh herbs, spicy mustard, light pastry dough and bake them into a rose-like shape at a very high heat until the pastry dough is mouthwatering, flaky, and golden brown. Then at that first bite the flavors of this ham, cheese, mustard and herb goodness explode into a glorious mouthful of french cafe heaven."

You know what my mistake was? I should've bought another Ham & Gruyere Cheese Rose to eat while I was writing this UB review. . .

Since I didn't do that, I am going back now to get another one, and I think I will also get one of those Artichoke & Swiss rolls while I'm at it . . . .

The Pluses and Minuses of the Uppercrust Bakery:

The uppercrust + indicators : This friendly, small bakery is filled with very tasty FOODie happiness. Their FOTR lunch items are unique, one-of-a-kind lunch treats including their own, fresh pate perfect for that GLOBer in a hurry.

The uppercrust  - indcators : It's a small, but very popular FOTR stop so be prepared to demonstrate a certain amount of patience while waiting your turn.

Offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about the Uppercrust Bakery. Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments. - THANKS!

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Thinking brunch: Peach Valley Cafe

The joys of a Peach Valley Café brunch

By Melissa Kahan, GLOB Correspondent

zzGLOBbullet Follow this link for a Peach Valley Cafe lunch feature

Sunday brunch is one of those lovely occasions where anything goes; rolling out of bed and donning your softest sweatshirt, you can roll into a restaurant booth, or you can throw on a pair of wedges and a sun dress and head out with your best girl friends.

Needless to say, I love brunch.

peachvalleyHOLLYSo when my friend, Holly, was back in town, I thought, "What better way to catch up on some much-needed girl talk than at Sunday brunch?"

When Holly said, to my disbelief, that she had never been to Peach Valley Café, I knew that was our destination. It has been my favorite breakfast/brunch spot since I came to school in Gainesville over three years ago, and I find any excuse to take friends and family there whenever possible.

And I suddenly had a craving for apple fritters, but more on those soon.

peachvalleyFRITTERSIt was no surprise that at 11 a.m. on Sunday this breakfast/lunch hotspot was teeming with hungry customers — I can only assume they had a hankering for the famous apple fritters, too. Booths were filled with families, a birthday celebration or two, and hungry GLOBers in need of a good meal after a late night. As soon as our very friendly server arrived, we ordered our drinks and I, without hesitation, added, "And a full order of the apple fritters, please." My friend's wide eyes and eagerness to keep eating the warm, apple-filled balls of brown sugar-coated baked dough dipped in refreshing strawberry yogurt confirmed a successful first experience with what I consider one of the most amazing breakfast items in Gainesville.

And Holly is one picky eater.

peachvalleyWAFFLESAfter much encouragement from me and my previous experiences with what I feel is some of the best French toast in Gainesville, Holly settled on the Peach Valley French Toast. I courageously ventured to try the intriguing-sounding chicken and waffles.

I confess: In all my years and my time spent in Gainesville amongst many PeachvalleyFRENCHTOASTsouthern food restaurants, I have never had chicken and waffles. It has been on my to-do list for some time now, and I am pleased to say I don't think I could have had a better first experience.

I could not hide my surprise as the server brought out a delicately crafted tent-like shape of Belgian waffles with an orb of blueberry butter on top, accompanied by multiple thick, fried chicken tenders and a side of Cajun syrup. A puzzling combinations of flavors on the menu had immediately caught this food adventurer's attention. Then, it puzzled my taste buds the same way.

peachvalleystorefrontThe fried chicken was tender and soft; the savory — and what I assume is handmade — breading was crispy and almost sweet. The Belgian waffles were fluffy and tasted as fresh as the chicken. I was aware that the lilac and blueberry-speckled butter was meant for the waffles, but the Cajun syrup was a mystery. This spicy-sweet flavor pairing was as contradictory as that of chicken and waffles, but it worked. Unsure of what to combine with what, I tried as many flavor combinations as my taste buds would allow: blueberry butter-coated waffle, waffle dipped in Cajun syrup, chicken dipped in Cajun syrup, chicken and waffle combined together and so on. Just to give myself a sense of normalcy, I allowed myself a side of regular syrup with the waffles, too.

Perhaps it was my tired state of mind, but I cannot quite figure if fried chicken is meant for a breakfast menu. However, the unique take on this southern dish was well-received by this food explorer. As always, Peach Valley leaves me, and my companion on this occasion, satiated and with chicken and waffle leftovers.

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Thinking weekend Brunch? French Toast

Fancy some French toast this holiday weekend?

By: Melissa Kahan, GLOB Correspondent

The Gainesville food scene has plentiful breakfast, lunch, and dinner spots that provide unique dining experiences. Breakfast, also known as the most important meal of the day, is a vast food venture, from the typical eggs, bacon, and hash browns to pancake stacks and oatmeal mounds that stuff tummies. However, I feel the need to touch on what I feel is an overlooked, versatile breakfast item: French toast. There are so many variations of this bready wonder that it may be time to pin down who gets it right in Gainesville.

1. Peach Valley Café: What they have done for French toast is nothing short of mouth-watering. Simple, fluffy goodness is found with each sugar-sprinkled bite. The stuffed French toast is a bit heavy for me; peach and strawberry filling is a concoction worth trying, though. Topping the toast with a fruit — and I am thoroughly impressed that it doesn't seem to have been frozen — is a flavorful addition.

2. The Jones Eastside Eatery: While I feel I must preface this by saying it is not particularly close to campus, it is worth the visit. Everything is delicious, and there are numerous savory menu items teaming with fresh, locally-grown ingredients of sizeable proportions. The omelets are sensational, the sandwiches overflow with meats and veggies and ooze with cheeses, and the fresh-baked sweets melt-in-your-mouth. However, it was on tasting the thick slices of brioche French toast drizzled with blueberries or used in Jonesy Cristo sandwich and snuggling eggs and bacon in the middle that solidified my desire to not want the experience to end. The French toast is hands down the best bang for your buck (or, in this case, schlep over).

083013Toast3. Ivey's Grill: So this is a bit on the pricey side, but too many people have raved over the French toast, namely the banana nut, to not include it. A generous slab of banana-filled French toast provides a sweet, but not overbearing combination of flavors. It is also another way to support the local food scene.

4. The Flying Biscuit Café: OK, the French toast with a mound of raspberry sauce piled on top is good. Not great, but good. It is a solid addition to many of the breakfast choices, but the food is hit or miss.

5. IHOP: Hey, let's not disregard this cheap, late night hot spot. That means French toast, 24/7, with multiple types of toppings to adorn your breakfast food item. I don't exactly hate it.

6. 43rd St. Deli & Breakfast House: As soon as I saw challah bread French toast on the menu, I was sold. I had only heard amazing things of this sweet, fluffy bread's magical qualities for making the most eggy, scrumptious French toast. Instead, I received a few slices of pre-cut sandwich bread-size disappointment. This French toast is on this list because there is definitely room for improvement.

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Paramount Grill

The 'little somethings' spoil great lunch 

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

paramountstoresfThe question I hear the most when I introduce myself as Gainesville's GLOB Master is, "What is the best restaurant in Gainesville?"

After saying there are 243 restaurants in Gainesville with many unique 'best restaurant' choices, I quickly say if my mother were coming to town I would take her to the Paramount Grill downtown.

My friends and I were in luck with an early arrival there for lunch with only one table of six ordering ahead of us. The PG ambiance, service, and uniquely interesting menu never fails as a great lunch experience. This lunch stop is special if for no other reason than to gaze out the PG windows onto the old Gainesville brick streets and historic preserved buildings.

I was with long-time friends and previous UF Entomology & Nematology colleagues, Jane Medley and Kathy Milne, to celebrate Ms. Milne's birthday.

 

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Ongoing adventures with my diabetes led me to choose the Paramount Grill Southwestern Hamburger with fried green tomato, avocado, goat cheese, and chipotle aioli for $11 as an excellent option, YELP image above.   I could easily leave behind the bread (and thus keep my carbs down) by treating the sandwich as an open-faced dish.

I find my cerebral logic wires working more often since I am trying to marginalize bread, white ingredients from my diet.

To start the meal, our server described a soup special of Indian-spiced, roasted garlic and tomato soup with cilantro that sounded divine down to the cilantro that had me thinking outside my lunch box for a side order of soup.

PGrosanneWhile we were catching up on Kathy's birthday, and Jane Medley's retiring from Entomology & Nematology, our server returned with the news there was no more hamburger meat in the kitchen. I was surprised by that – how do you run out of an important product like that so early during the lunch interval? As a second choice, like my pals, I too ordered a panini sandwich and lamented the toasted bread thinking Giilda Radner's very cunny character Roseanne Roseannadanna is correct saying, "If it ain't somethin', iIt's something else."

The Portabello Panino with asparagus, roasted red pepper, caramelized onion, spinach, brie and pesto for $7 did sound good, image at top of this review. In fact I had even given the Panini serious consideration before deciding on the red meat protein.

 

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There is a link to the complete Paramount Grill menu at the restaurant link at the bottom of this page.

Our order arrived in a timely manner and I eagerly tasted the soup for spices and flavors. The soup was delicious with a very small tinge of Indian spices which made me happy since I am not a big fan of curry. I did manage to squeeze in a little bread during this lunch as the soup came with a tiny homemade basil roll. Yum.

 

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"This is really good soup," I said to the server. "But I'm not tasting the cilantro," I say to the server disappointed about missing my favorite spice.

"Oh, the Chef decided he wasn't using any cilantro today," the server stated matter-of-factly. Another missing ingredient!

The Portabello Panino was a very good alternative to my red meat dream. The bits and bites of red pepper, onion, and spinach were delicious in the melted brie. The pieces of asparagus jumped out off the flavor palette literally making me stop to smile at the delicious, crunchy asparagus flavor. The accompanying side order of a light salad with navy beans and a tangy vinaigrette dressing was my substitute for the waffle fries.

 

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As always lunch with friends from my bug/insect working days is an enjoyable lunch hour and the food served was delicious. Unfortunately this trip created a quandary as far as my recommending the PG as one of the best lunch stops in the future. Should I mention the ingredient missed steps in my evaluation or should I think of the missing cilantro as a grain of salt?

The Pluses and Minuses of the Paramount Grill:

The Paramoung Grill + indicators :  Excellent cusisne, atentive service.

The Paramount Grill - indicators :  With attention to detail falling off is the Paramount resting onit's laureals?

Be the first to offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about the Paramount Grill. Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments. - THANKS

 

ParramountMEATLOAFpannini 

A wonderful, 'old Gainesville' lunch experience

zzGLOBbullet Paramount Grill one of Gourmet magazine's best Valentine's Day dinners.

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

Would it surprise you to learn that the fine dining establishment, the Paramount Grill (PG) in downtown Gainesville, is serving up a sandwich at lunch?  It's an incredibly tasty, pressed sandwich called "Grilled Chicken with Havarti, Bacon, Plum Tomato, Organic Greens and Avocado with Garlic Aioli."

PmountPICThat's quite an inventory of ingredients combined in this toasted, pressed-to-perfection, melted cheese flavor extravaganza.

When it's my turn to suggest a lunch out spot to friends I am happy to pick the Paramount Grill because I like to think of the PG as one of my special lunchtime discoveries.

The Paramount Grill is a great friendly lunch gathering spot for your biz meeting. The tables are spaced out evenly enough that you don't feel like you're invading the space of lunch outters at the next table.

There is no sense of being in a hurry at the Paramount Grill. Located on a side street just off of Main St, the PG has a large front window with a great view looking out on one of the oldest streets in Gainesville. Directly across the street is a beautiful, red-brick rustic building that once housed what may have been the first hardware store in Gainesville (Rice Hardware, now American Apparel -- which retained the original well-worn wooden floor).

 

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You can imagine yourself in a Gainesville from another era as you sit amidst a gracious decor at a table traditionally laid out with a white table cloth and cloth napkins, and an attentive, quick-to-please wait staff eagerly anticipates your needs.

The Paramount Grill lunch menu is an interesting variation of their dinner menu and features salads, soups, and wraps.

They have also included a nice collection of burgers, some veggie items, and a very nice assortment of special lunch entrees like Almond Encrusted Crab Cakes, Salmon Saute' with Portabello Mushrooms, and Pesto Roasted Chicken Roulade.

From the perspective of this professional eater, if you are looking to impress, to close a big business deal, or just to stop, step back, and take a breath away from every day madness, the Paramount Grill might very well be your designated destination.

So fellow GLOBers, if you are out to impress where's your best lunch out spot?

 

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Plans had been made for a Paramount Grill Sunday Brunch for quite a few weeks.The PG's menu of excellent choices made decision-making very hard but eventually entrees were chosen. Gold stars go to the Crab Cake Benedict with lots of crab, plumtomatoes, roasted garlic and basil hollandaise, and gooey poached egg yolks over all, despite the curiosity of crab cakes sitting atop a slice of sourdough bread. The Chicken salad crepes with brie were a close second with tasty chunks of chicken over baby spinach, asparagus, and plum tomato salad tossed with fig vinaigrette and finished with walnuts. The thick slice of Almond Crusted French Toast served with fresh blueberries, raspberry coulis and sour cream was very good. Two friends took advantage of the all-you-can-drink mimosas. How good was our Sunday brunch?  Our plates were cleaned spotless, we had enjoyable extended conversation, and I'm going back!

-- Mike Sanford, GLOB Master

The Pluses and Minusesof The Paramount Grill:

The Paramoung Grill + indicators :  A superior lunch experience in beautiful, old Gainesville.

The Paramount Grill - indicators : Lunch can quickly work up to the pricier side of a good lunch deal . . .

 Be the first to offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about the Paramount Grill. Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments. - THANKS

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Francesca's Trattoria

Style, class, really good homemade sausage

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

FrancescasWINEglassIn the GLOB Master's opinion, Francesca's Trattoria, off of NW 43rd St., is one of the nicer lunch stops in the Urban GLOB. Five star style, attentive servers, fresh made and home style fabulously delicious Italian cuisine:

STYLE: As the doors open into Francesca's, you are swept into a world of white table cloths, cloth napkins, and water in glass stemware that has me thinking, "I'm not in Gainesville anymore."

PROFESSIONAL SERVICE/ATTENTION: The quick-to-attend-to-your-needs wait staff is always smiling, ready to make your lunch special.

JUST LIKE MOMMA'S: With homemade sauces, breads, and incredible sausage, the Francesca's kitchen staffers works make the lunch hour a piesano, Italian-style, homemade experience.

Do I sound excited about having lunch with good friend and SweetBerries Eatery and Frozen Custard co-owner, Jane Osmond, and GLOB Content Editor, Lynn Dirk?

I was excited even though I'm not the biggest fan of Italian cuisine. When the idea of pasta, marinara sauce, and parmesan cheese comes up in relation to lunch, I always remind myself that there are a lot of Italian dishes that don't include pasta and tomato sauce.

The Francesca's lunch menu lists salads, paninis, pasta, and specialties. There is even a lunch Wine Special of a glass of Chardonnay, Cabernet or Chianti for $5. There is a note on the summer menu that you can get 15% off individual carryout orders, which expires 9-30-17. There is a lunch menu link at the bottom of this page.

Jane and Lynn were both considering sandwiches with Francesca's home baked bread that had me pining for the good ol' days of eating all the bread I wanted.:(  The Francesca's lunch paninis are served on artisan bread with a choice of Italian fries, homemade soup, or salad.

 

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Jane quickly selected the Panini Caprese for her Italian mid-day meal. This veggie sandwich sounded exquisite being served toasted with melted buffalo mozzarella, local vine-ripened tomatoes, and fresh basil leaves ($10.25).

 

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Captain Dirk went the route of the Francesca's Sausage Parmesan Panini with homemade sausage baked with tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella ($10.50). I suggest you be sure to add grilled onions and peppers to your sub for $2 to make it special.

Francesca's homemade sausage is unique with a generous addition of fennel and when I got to taste some of Lynn's sandwich, it elicited memories of the last time I enjoyed this most excellent, glorious homemade bread submarine sandwich.

 

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The Pesto Grilled Chicken was my red sauce- and pasta-less lunch. The chicken breast was tasty and special being grilled and treated with basil, pine nut, Parmesan cheese, and extra virgin olive oil pesto. My lunch was served with a side of sautéed seasonal vegetables ($13,95).

The flavors of the chicken breast seasoning were bold and rich. I was pleased the chef had not gone the current route of bigger portions are better portions. My lunch portion was the perfect size for this used-to-be extra-large all-you- can eat diner.

Lynn enjoyed her sausage sub and side salad, which was a very generous portion. She was surprised that the sausage was very soft and it reminded her of meatloaf, which she loves.

"You have taken this new diabetes diet seriously haven't you," Jane said noticing the left over sausage sandwich bread on my plate.

"It's been 13 months since my diagnosis," I said thinking about the question.

"Any more, ignoring all the amazingly tasty carbohydrates every day is almost automatic. It is longingly painful at times and I do feel like a food martyr wondering if it's better to be the food hammer or the noodle nail."

The Pluses and Minuses of Francesca's Trattoria:

The Francesca's + Indicators: Very special lunch ambience, they serve brunch on weekends, authentic Italian cuisine.

The Francesca's - Indicators: A lbit pricey for an everyday lunch

 

 

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Panini featured in fine dining lunch

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

FrancescasI just had a Northern Italy home cooked lunch of a sausage, peppers and onion panini made with homemade ciabatta bread, homemade tomato sauce with tons of halved cherry tomatoes, and some of the best Italian sausage packed with spicy fennel seed I have ever eaten.

This five-star sandwich wasn't served to me on plastic plates or wrapped in paper with somefranchise logo stamped all over it.

I was enjoying my lunch time surprise at the fine dining restaurant Francesca's Trattoria off of NW 43rd St, behind the Zaxby's fried chicken shack.

Excuse me for sounding excited, but this lunch was unexpectedly remarkable.  Plus they have an unbelievable Sunday Brunch!

 

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Walking into Francesca's from the noon day heat, I was pleased with the subdued setting that lay before me. The darker than normal lighting combined with rows of tastefully appointed tables ready for lunch time guests and with starched yellow tables cloths and burgundy napkins. The several rows of geometrically aligned dining tables in front of me gave the impression of lunch time elegance.

My friendly waiter expertly assisted me with my lunch time dilemma of whether I should have the lasagna or the sausage panini. A knowing glance from my server made it clear that the panini was the better choice. And was he ever correct.

The Francesca's Trattoria lunch special is a free salad included with any Panini sandwich choice. I chose the house salad of mixed greens lightly tossed with tomatoes, olives, red onions, and pepperoncini and a side of creamy Italian dressing. The salad delivered an excellent assortment of flavors and textures.

 

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My panini was served in halves with tomato sauce, peppers, onions and sausage overflowing the sides of very softly toasted, freshly baked ciabatta. After picking up this juicy, fennel-laden sausage concoction, I realized that eating an open face approach was a better idea if I didn't want to wear tomato sauce the remainder of the day.

The abundance of flavors heightened by perfect amounts of spices in my sausage sandwich made me eat slower than usual so I could enjoy this culinary experience to the max.

Francesca's Italian sausage is the best sausage I have eaten in quite some time.

There isn't a lot of heat in this protein. However, with the dominant presence of fennel seed, I wanted to eat more, and more, and more of this delightful other white meat.

Did I say this was an excellent lunch?

I'm going back to Francesca's Trattoria soon. I make an excellent lasagna that includes sausage and ground beef. I'm eager to try FT's lasagna and see how it compares with mine.

Francesca's also has a brick oven pizza that I plan to try.

So let's see. I invite two friends for lunch and I order the lasagna. I talk my two friends into ordering pizza and a Sausage sandwich. Then we can have a sharing party.

Yeah, that's the ticket. Paninis, pizzas, and lasagna for lunch. That sounds like an extended lunch hour that will be elegant and remarkable.

The Pluses and Minuses of Francesca's Trattoria:

The Francesca's + Indicators: Five star lunch with authentic homemade ingredients

The Francesca's - Indicators: A little pricier than some places, but worth every penny of your lunch money.

Be the first to offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about Francescas.  Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments.  - THANKS!

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