Over the past two months I’ve tried all sorts of restaurants in Gainesville. Some were great, others weren’t so good, but all of them contributed to a great summer experience. This is my list of the top five places I uncovered along the way.
5. Tatu (Japanese/Korean)
Let’s be honest, nobody really goes to Tatu for the food. The sushi is actually pretty good, but student’s flock to the tiny midtown restaurant for one reason, sake bombs. When I went, the place was packed and two birthday’s were being celebrated, so the sake was flowing all over the place, literally. So many people joined in on the action, that drinks were flying off tables and spilling all over the floor. There’s a great atmosphere here, and it’s a fun place to bring your friends for a night out over solid food.
4. SweetBerries (Ice Cream)
Calling SweetBerries just an Ice Cream shop is something of a disservice to them. They do a little bit of everything, and it’s all done well. Their smoothies and shakes are super high quality, much more so than the local chains like Smoothie King, and they even have a solid selection of sandwiches. SweetBerries just opened, but they’ve carved out a great reputation around town already. Currently, they hold a Yelp rating of 4.5 out of 5.
3. KC Crave (Barbecue)
It’s not the number one overall restaurant of the summer, but KC Crave definitely takes home the prize for most unique. Who would have ever thought to stick a barbecue joint in the middle of a nightclub? The food is high quality, the atmosphere is slick and there’s a massive menu of on-tap beer. You can even reserve a special table, where you control the tap yourself for a pre-paid fee.
2. Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille (Seafood)
I’m hooked on Harry’s. Seriously, I think I have a problem. I must have eaten here every week this summer. They specialize in New Orleans-style seafood, and they do it better than anyone else in Gainesville. I’ve never been My favorite dish by a wide margin is their blackened tilapia with creamy corn grits. The grits might just be my favorite side dish of all time. The texture is great, and the bits of cheese and corn elevate the flavor to the next level.
1. Manuel’s Vintage Room
This was the first restaurant I reviewed this summer, and it’s still my favorite. Manuel’s is an experience. The staff takes care of you like family, and the owner of the place sits in the middle of the room for dinner almost every night. It feels like you’re eating dinner at a relatives house because it’s so small and intimate. The atmosphere is great, but the highlight here is the amazingly well crafted food. I would expect Manuel’s to be somewhere in the middle of Sicily, not in the heart of midtown. Everything on the menu is decadent, but the Pizza Pastore is especially exciting. It comes topped with prosciutto, fresh gorgonzola cheese and arugula, and the whole thing is drizzled with a sweet balsamic reduction. It’s really not that expensive either, and you can share a small pizza with a friend for $10.