Food Adventurer's Red- Hearted dining tips
I have always been very pleased with the diversity of the Gainesville foodie scene; there is truly something for everyone for any occasion. A night out could be as simple as watching the game over a stellar burger and brew at Copper Monkey or, perhaps a tad upscale, intimately dining on a specialty Italian entree with a glass of wine to match at Manuel's Vintage Room. Whether in Haile Plantation, midtown, or downtown Gainesville, there are more places than even this food adventurer has visited (a running list is being checked one by one to rectify this). Valentine's Day is one of those occasions that, despite the stigma that it should be more on the over-the-top side, is really about being with loved ones and enjoying yourselves.
With that thought in mind, here is a list of a few great dining options for this day of love, February 14, which falls on Saturday this year, from the more upscale to the more casual, all sure to please:
Mark's Prime Steakhouse - Downtown: A high contender for a fancy option whether for a special occasion or a date night, you'll want to don your best. It only seems appropriate that Mark's Valentine's Day menu is prix-fixe menu: $145 per couple includes a choice of appetizer to share, a choice of salad for each person, a sorbet intermezzo to cleanse the palette, choice of entrée and side for each, and a dessert to share. Not only does this menu give you a great value for the quality you are sure to receive, but it is available both Friday and Saturday, which may cut back on the typical s crowds on the day itself. And who doesn't want to celebrate for an extra day?
Paramount Grill - Downtown: Known for quality dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it is certainly hard to go wrong when choosing anything from the ever-revolving menu, and the fine dining establishment has whipped up a special menu for Valentine's Day. For $55 a person, you are offered five courses of unique, specialty creations that truly push the envelope. Six words: Bacon Wrapped Gorgonzola-Stuffed Veal Meatloaf.
Ember's Wood Fire Grill - SW 34th St: Valentine's Day may be on a Saturday this year, but some restaurants are giving you the option to celebrate all weekend. From Friday through Sunday, Ember's is offering a five course prix-fixe menu starting with an amuse (appetizer for a Valentine) and soup, continuing with a salad and entrée, and ending with a luscious dessert. Wine pairings and specialty Valentine's Day cocktails are available but not included in the $85 per person meal.
Sabore - West Newberry Rd: Here you will find one of the more exotic tapas-serving cuisines in Gainesville, with presentation and quality both highly-regarded. This world cuisine menu, however, is taking Valentines to France. On both Friday and Saturday, Sabore's innovative Chef Valero is offering "a unique French experience for your St. Valentine's Day." It is sure to be a treat!
Francesca's Trattoria - NW 43rd St: There is no shortage of more upscale Italian places in Gainesville, including Francesca's. It is churning out a handful of special Valentine's Day menu items. Expect to find a few seafood-heavy dishes and some sweet little desserts. Speaking of upscale Italian places, nods to Amelia's and Manuel's Vintage Room, as both are phenomenal downtown Italian dining experiences.
Leonardo's 706 - Midtown: This is one of my favorites for dinner or a fantastic Sunday brunch. The dinner items are delicious, from specialty pizzas to pastas and varying specials that the chef crafts with the utmost care. Luckily, due to Valentine's Day being a weekend affair this year, a better-than-average Sunday brunch at Leonardo's 706 may be the ticket if your date, like myself, loves brunch more than any other meal of the day.
Blue Gill Quality Food - SW 13th St: You can always probably find something that you would like on the menu, and it will be made five times better than it sounds. Separating Blue Gill's menu by category, from chicken, beef and pork to fish and salads, the value in this food is spot-on. While not the fanciest dining ambience, the burger at Blue Gill is absolutely one of the best in Gainesville, and their hand-spunl blueberry ice cream is sinful. Plus they have a killer cocktail menu with the best bourbon drink I have ever had.
Southern Charm Kitchen - East University Ave.: Don't let the small size of this southern gem fool you: Southern Charm is truly a force to be reckoned with. The Pentacostal Fried Chicken is absolutely the best in Gainesville, with down-home Southern sides that are unmatched in the area, namely the okra, glazed cornbread, and mac and cheese, which I am super picky about. If you are looking to get slightly off the beaten path, this menu of many traditional Southern offerings, from oxtail to catfish, is one of the best.
Yummy House - Newberry Rd: Take your Chinese take-out game up a notch with a menu for the masses. The dim sum menu is truly special, and a Saturday Valentine's Day allows those who typically work during the week to enjoy this daytime treat. They also have the best fried rice in Gainesville. Actually, I have yet to try a bad dish from Yummy House, whether it be udon, rice, or crispy fried noodles that use the broth to soften them. The price is certainly right, too!
Ichiban Sushi - NW 43rd St: I have yet to come across a sushi roll here that I have not loved. The extensive menu includes everything and more, namely the Aji San Roll with a hint of banana. You are guaranteed fresh seafood, and when it is served to you basically raw as sushi is, that is a comfort to know. The noodle dishes at at Ichiban are also very appetizing for those who steer clear of raw fish, but regardless of choice, make sure you complete your meal with a delicious ball of fried ice cream to share with your date.
Of course there are many, MANY places that you can head to to celebrate the day with your special someone. These are just a few that I have found consistently serve a quality meal, which is what we want out of any dining out experience, right? If none of these call to you, you can always make your special someone his/her favorite dish at home and call it a night.