The best restaurants in Gainesville: When to go and what to look for

By: Alissa Kotranza

What is the best place to eat in Gainesville?

This question may have a different answer, depending on who you ask. The answer you receive from a college student will be different than that of a Gainesville young professional, or even a native of the city.

Everyone has different preferences and priorities based on factors like price, proximity and dietary restrictions.

And unless you’re a total newb, you know brunch on a Sunday morning is something you have to plan. You also know you can’t just hop over to Relish at midtown for a 1 a.m. snack on a Friday.

So whether your favorite is Adam’s Rib Co., Dragonfly, or The Jones, I want you to know what you’re getting into.

These are the average wait times for the best restaurants in Gainesville, plus need-to-know facts about each eatery.

 

The Brunch Joints

The Flying Biscuit

Busiest Times:

Sunday mornings

Average Wait:

10 mins. – 1 hour

Beyond-popular for its sweet biscuits and creamy sausage gravy, The Flying Biscuit is a favorite of Gainesville locals and visitors alike. While there are multiple restaurants that serve brunch in town (see Leo’s 706), The Flying Biscuit is the most well-known and certainly the most popular. You actually won’t be able to get in this place the Sunday morning/afternoon after a game day.

Civilization

Busiest Times:

Sunday brunch

11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Average Wait:

5 mins. – 30 mins.

Civilization is the coolest co-op to capture the hearts of UF students and Gainesville young professionals. Civilization features local, organic ingredients, and has multiple vegan and vegetarian dishes. While their menu has plenty of lunch items, their brunch dishes are particularly good. Because Civilization closes in the middle of the day for their employees (and owners) to have a meal and regroup, they’re pretty busy all around.

 

Lunch/Dinner Successes

Satchel’s Pizza

Busiest Times:

Fridays and Saturdays

6 p.m. – close

Average Wait:

30 mins. – 90 mins.

Satchel’s is the most popular pizza place in town, and arguably the best. If you’ve driven around Gainesville, you’ve seen at least 20 Satchel’s bumper stickers. With vegetarian options, gluten free crust, and cheese-free pizza for vegans and lactose-intolerants alike, this pizza joint aims to please. But if you get caught with a longer wait time, you can grab a drink at the bar, explore Satchel’s shop and relish in the eclectic style.

Sabore

Busiest Times:

Fridays and Saturdays

7 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Average Wait:

25 mins – 1 hour

Approved by Ken Eats Gainesville, Sabore is one of the only tapas and raw food restaurants in town. With great ambiance, delicious ahi tuna and rolls galore, Sabore brings some glamour to the Gainesville restaurant scene. Tapas usually brings larger parties to the table (literally), so be prepared to wait if you come with friends.

The Top

Busiest Times:

Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays

5 p.m. – 2 a.m.

Average Wait:

45 mins. – 2 hours

In the same category as Dragonfly and Leo’s 706 in terms of places people go on special occasions, The Top is a hugely popular downtown restaurant. Where the food is expensive but tasty, the waiters paint their faces with glitter and drink specials are always taken advantage of – The Top never goes out of style.

Southern Charm Kitchen  

Busiest Times:

Friday night and Saturdays

Average Wait:

15-20 mins

One of two restaurants owned and run by Omar and Arpita Oselimo in Gainesville, Southern Charm is famous for its Pentecostal chicken, waffles and other down-home dishes guaranteed to satisfy any Southern craving. Gainesvillians seriously love this place.

4 Rivers

Busiest Times:

Friday and Saturday nights

4 p.m. – close

Average Wait:

15-20 mins

4R has the best barbecue in town (unless you prefer Adam’s Rib Co. for the lower prices and local contribution). Again, good luck getting in here on a UF game day.

 

The Ones Who Have It All

Paramount Grill

Busiest Times:

Friday & Saturday nights

7 – 9 p.m.

Average wait: 10-30 mins.

While I named Loosey’s as the best burger in town, Paramount Grill comes in close second. Considered by many to be THE best restaurant in the Gainesville area, Paramount is the place to go when you have the time and money. With a quaint dining room, central downtown location and many lavish seafood and meat dishes on the menu, Paramount is a really big deal.

Leonardo’s 706

Busiest Times:

Sunday Brunch (opens at 10:30 a.m.) and Friday night

Average wait: 10-15 mins

You won’t wait long at Leonardo’s; they have one of the largest dining areas in town. You’re probably already familiar with Leo’s Pizza, but this is the real deal. Ken Eats Gainesville named Leo’s 706 the best brunch in town, which is saying something. Beyond that, this place is one of the only “special occasion” restaurants in Gainesville with a menu they can actually keep up with. With all of the choices and the majority of them done right, Leo’s 706 is a force to be reckoned with.

The Jones

Busiest Times:

Saturdays and Sundays during the day and Monday nights

Average Wait:

10-25 mins.

The Jones (both locations) began in Gainesville as the ultimate hipster joint, the majority of their ingredients being locally grown or farmed. The Jones boasts a popular weekend brunch, vegan desserts and organic dishes of multiple genres. They also have a late-night menu that pairs with a full bar of wine and spirits, some weeknights until 2 a.m. Be aware, though, The Jones doesn’t take weekend reservations.

 

The Specialties

Loosey’s

Busiest Hours:

Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights

While Loosey’s may have generically American food to go with their authentic local bar feel, they do have the best burger in town. So go ham… or, beef, rather.

Dragonfly Sushi

Busiest Times:

Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights

7-9:30 p.m.

Average Wait:

10-40 mins.

Dragonfly attracts huge parties, whether it’s a sorority function or a local business dinner. The menu has everything you could want from a Japanese restaurant: small-plates (authentic Japanese appetizers that go best with the Sake menu), a huge sushi selection, typical Japanese entrees, and even some authentic ramen dishes. Needless to say, Dragonfly is one of the most popular restaurants in Gainesville.

Crane Ramen

Busiest Times:

Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights

Average Wait: 10-20 mins.

Crane Ramen serves authentic Japanese ramen dishes along with a full bar and appetizers, making it one of the best specialty restaurants in Gainesville. Upon opening in 2014, Crane Ramen received a glowing rec from Ken Eats Gainesville (you’ve noticed that this is important, right?), and was immediately embraced by everyone from UF students to Gainesville natives. The dining room is also open for dinner until 1 a.m. on the weekends! Every dish is made expertly and with total panache. The beautiful decor, layout and atmosphere of the restaurant don’t hurt, either.

Bangkok Square

Busiest Times:

Friday and Saturday nights, 7:30 – 9:30 p.m.

Average Wait: 15-20 mins.

Bangkok Thai is THE Thai place in Gainesville. Although it’s on the other side of I-75 (oh no!), Bangkok Thai has the greatest variety of authentic Thai dishes with the best flavors – all at reasonable prices. We almost wish they would deliver, but we all know 2dollardelivery immediately cheapens something just by association, right?

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