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Saturday, June 10, 2023

Gainesville co-op "Civilization" nails organic, local food


While The Jones – especially the downtown location – has lost some of its mystique and nonchalance to its newfound popularity with UF students and Gainesville entrepreneurs, Civilization maintains an aura of calm. The restaurants are comparable, for sure.

Both are local businesses that use locally grown foods and cater to consumers who have an interest in freshly made dishes of the organic, antibiotic and hormone-free nature. Civilization, known officially as Civilization Restaurant and Terranova Catering, is the epitome of quaint.

It’s a refurbished studio warehouse with an atmosphere that is absolutely pastoral. Seating is either inside, in a deep booth or at one of the long wooden tables, or outside on the wrap-around porch, beneath a row of steel fans.

At 1511 NW 2nd St., Civilization seems tucked away from everything, making its name slightly ironic. The website even boasts a motto of sorts: “Celebrating the past.  Believing in the future. Not knowing what time it is.”

Civilization is also a co-op, which means every employee is also an owner of the business. This type of business gives every worker a voice in management and is supposed to foster harmony. The restaurant is open for lunch, dinner, and brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.

Between the three menus, there’s everything from chicken curry to lemon ricotta beignets. There are more vegetarian options than at The Jones, but the drink menu looks almost identical, with a variety of organic iced teas, gluten-free beers, organic sodas and juices, and a coffee bar. Wine and beer menus are separate upon request.

The weekly specials are written colorfully written on a large raised chalkboard on the center of the back wall. I think Civilization represents an entirely satisfying consumer experience. Every waiter is patient and attentive, everything is clean and light oldies/jazz tinkles in the background, lightening the mood.

The high ceilings allow the restaurant to be just cool enough for comfort. Additionally, the entrees, sides and desserts are all described perfectly on the menus. Prices are average, with most entrees in the $7 to $15 range. If I love the interior design of a business or restaurant, I’m always dying to see if the bathrooms match in style and comfort.

Most restaurants disappoint me; they make their bathrooms uncomfortably dark, play obnoxious music, etc. Civilization passed this test with flying colors. The restrooms are quiet, well-lit, well decorated, and – most importantly – not singles. For a restaurant of such small stature, I expected the bathrooms to be tiny, but there are two stalls in each plus external sinks and largish mirrors. If you haven’t visited this little alcove of comfort and pleasure, you must. 

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