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Friday, September 29, 2023

The Warehouse Restaurant & Lounge: an unexpected diamond in the rough

The Warehouse Restaurant & Lounge
The Warehouse Restaurant & Lounge

The unexciting area of south Main Street mainly features run-down industrial buildings and grassy patches of bare land. However, nestled on the corner of Southwest Main Street and Sixth Avenue is a large hanger-like structure that hosts a hidden gem. The steel-paneled building blends so effortlessly into the scenery that the uninformed restaurant diner might miss the swanky establishment altogether. The Warehouse Restaurant & Lounge conceals a sophisticated array of cuisine that effectively entices those with keens eyes and empty stomachs.

The vast industrial-inspired interior is filled with tables covered in crisp black fabric, a bustling wait staff, and thick wooden pillars that are wrapped in fairy lights, supporting high ceilings of aluminum-paneled roofing. The owner, Richard Yoh, mills around the small foyer and warmly welcomes guests with a genuine smile. A wooden bar, laden with sparkling wine glasses, is placed in the center of the building, and patrons chat and sip drinks around it.

The Warehouse has only been open for a little over a year and is frequented by mostly older Gainesville locals, college students and their visiting parents, or young couples on a special date night. The menu is diverse and offers everything from shrimp to gnocchi.

A side note informs the specialty is the beef, which they tout as all-natural and lacking antibiotics and hormones. The Warehouse follows the same environmentally responsible manifesto that has become the standard at so many other restaurants in the area. "Gainesville" might as well be branded with a hot iron on the steak specials of the day. The prices are affordable for a special night out. Appetizers range from $5-$13, and entrees start at just $10 (chive-and-corn cakes), but can reach as high as $22 (grilled fillet of beef). However, with an added drink or dessert, don't expect to walk out with anything less than a $50 bill for two.

A friendly waitress greeted us and we ordered an appetizer of stacked brie and apples. The plate holds three thin pieces of crispy sourdough baguette, smeared with warm apple butter, and topped with a slice of brie, rind still on, and a sliver of tart Granny Smith. The most prominent flavor is the melt-y brie cheese, and it is only enhanced by the syrupy, baked, cinnamon-coated apples that accompany it. I only wished there were more of the apple butter, which I greedily mopped up with a piece of the complimentary homemade focaccia bread once the brie was devoured.

A Louisiana-style entree of Creole grouper and shrimp is a welcomed wildcard to typical Florida cuisine found in the Gainesville area. A skillfully cooked fresh grouper fillet, breaded and seasoned, is delicately perched on a bed of steamed jasmine rice in the center of a plate surrounded by a moat of mildly spicy Creole sauce and an arrangement of several light pink shrimp. Anywhere in New Orleans, a well-made Creole sauce would break an instant sweat. Although this dish is a clear homage to The Big Easy, the sauce is toned down, leaving only a bit of heat in the aftertaste.

The papaya curry grilled chicken is a definite must try. On this specific night the dish was altered, to my delight, to feature a coconut curry instead of papaya. A hearty serving of perfectly char-grilled chicken is served adjacent to a heaping portion of a sweet orange heart of palm slaw and sticky toasted jasmine rice. The fragrant side dish is accented with bits of crushed peanuts, tender roasted squash, onions and chives. When combined in a mouthful with the other elements, the slaw makes the dish simultaneously sweet, salty and smoky. The chicken is actually marinated in the curry rather than dressed in it. I prefer the thin coating of flavorful Indian curry to a goopy pool of ladled sauce that would have undoubtedly drowned out the rustic grill taste of the chicken instead of highlighting it.

If you are a chocolate lover, end your meal with the chocolate soufflé cake, which is served with a petite scoop of refreshing raspberry sorbet. The moist, disk-shaped soufflé is small in size but packs a chocolate-y punch. It is dense, rich and utterly decadent.

Another homerun for a champion chocolate connoisseur is a stout cup of thick chocolate mousse topped with heavy homemade whipped cream. It is rich and slightly bitter -- the way dark chocolate should be. If you enjoy the simplicities of chocolate, this classic dessert would be an excellent choice.

The obvious star of the after-dinner menu is a pair of apricot beignets. This dessert is yet another nod to the subtle New Orleans influence seen throughout the menu.

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The dense sugar-coated cakes arrive still hot and covered in a canopy of simmered cinnamon apricot wedges and creamy vanilla dessert sauce. It is pure tactile enjoyment each time the fork punctures the crispy outer layer and allows just a bit of the steam from the sugary inner cake to escape. They are easily the next best thing to Café Du Monde.

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I left The Warehouse with an appropriately full stomach and a yearning for the euphoria associated with a sleepy food coma. The portions are the correct size and, for the most part, the quality of food is fantastic. The wide variety of options encourages me to take another trip and explore the menu again.

The Warehouse provides shining attention to flavor and ingredients, artful plating, and unique concepts that I've seen nowhere else in Gainesville. For those who are clever enough to dig for a restaurant situated away from downtown or midtown, it truly is a diamond in the rough.


502 S. Main Street

Gainesville, FL 32601


HOURS: Lunch 11 a.m. - 2 p.m., dinner 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.; closed Saturday lunch; closed Sunday dinner


Posts in Chomp and Chew appear on Fridays.

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