We all know the routine: You have a few hours to kill between classes, or you’re on campus late at night and need to grab a bite to eat. You’re tired of dropping the same $8 or $9 at Chipotle or Chick-fil-A, so you’re looking for something that will satisfy both your wallet and your taste buds. I understand the struggle, and I have your back on this one, so here are Gainesville’s best bang-for-your-buck local food joints: no chain restaurants, no guilt for spending too much and none of the same old options.
First on the list and first in my heart. I firmly believe La Tienda is the best Mexican place in Gainesville, and to make it even better, it’s also a bargain. The restaurant’s location on Southwest 13th Street means you’ll probably need a car or a scooter to get there, but it’s definitely worth the trek. You can get three fantastic tacos for $5.60 or a stuffed burrito for $5.80 among a packed menu of other options. Also, great guac.
Leonardo’s By The Slice
This one’s a Gainesville staple, and I’m still not emotionally ready to accept it’ll be closing in the next year. In the meantime, if you haven’t been, you absolutely need to. On the corner of West University Avenue and 13th Street, it’s in walking distance of campus for the perfect between-class lunch break, and it provides a perfect casual hangout vibe. The pizza also ranks among the best in town and is $3 to $4 for a huge slice. The rolls alone are enough to make a stop, and the food will fill you up for the entire day.
Located right next to Midtown on Northwest 18th Street, The Spot is something of a hidden gem. It has a really diverse menu, from gyros to specialty sandwiches and burgers, with nearly everything in the $6 to $7 range. A good option and definitely something to mix up the same old places in Midtown.
After opening in town earlier this year, this place has quickly gained popularity, and it’s easy to see why. Burgerque offers burgers and barbeque sandwiches starting at $3.50, along with ribs, wings and a ton of sides. Located on West University Avenue, it’s also really close to campus and is definitely some of the best barbeque you can get in town for the price.
Flaco’s Cuban Bakery & Coffee
With two locations, this Cuban bakery is a Midtown and a downtown favorite, and since it’s open until 2:30 a.m., it’s especially popular with the drunk weekend crowd. Whether you’ve had a few beers or you’re totally sober, this place definitely lives up to the hype and offers some great food for a great price. Flaco’s signature pressed sandwiches ring up at around $6, with empanadas for $2 and arepas starting at $3.50.
It wouldn’t be a complete list without Relish. Consistently rated the best burger joint in Gainesville, it’s also one of the best cheap options, with a single patty for $4.75. They have tons of topping options, from the classic lettuce and tomato to the delicious avocado, pineapple or fried egg. With four locations in town (Midtown, downtown, Archer and Royal Park), there’s always one close by no matter where you are, and it’s are open late to satisfy your cravings.