If you’re anything like me, stress sets in every time your parents call to tell you they’re coming to visit because you know they’re going to ask you where you want to eat. You want to show them that you’re not just a successful student but that you also know how to survive and thrive in a new city that you’re just beginning to call home.
Fortunately we’ve got your back, so give Google a rest and relax. From close to campus to a few miles out, from comfort food to cuisine that kills, we’ve got you covered for every meal so you can stop panicking and start planning.
Serve your parents a slice of Gainesville by taking them to this popular pizza joint. It’s about a 10-minute trip from campus, but the grub and good atmosphere make it totally worth the trip. The crew at Satchel’s makes almost everything in-house—right down to the soda and lemonade—and the interior is decorated with local art for sale.
As if the VW bus that you can EAT IN weren’t enough, Satchel’s is known throughout Gainesville for its philanthropic ventures and community outreach. So while you and your parents are splitting one of their award-winning pies, tell them all about some of the great things that Satch is doing. (You can find more info on their Facebook page).
2. Boca Fiesta
Little-known fact: This place is owned and operated by a bunch of Gator grads. If you’re feeling Mexican and want to show the ‘rents the cultural side of Gainesville, head down Main Street and pop in to this old warehouse for a wild blend of Mexican, southern, and seasonal eats. (Be sure to ask about their meat of the month, which can range anywhere from alligator to kangaroo.)
Boca Fiesta also has Swamphead, a locally brewed beer, on tap. If you’re 21 or older, order a pint to showcase some of the best beer Gainesville has to offer, and wow Mommy and Daddy by the fact that you’re into things like that. (They’ll be especially impressed when you toss around phrases about how you like to “support the local economy.”)
A lot of people go to The Jones because of the vegetarian and vegan options on the menu, but what a lot of people don’t realize is that The Jones offers some kick-ass brunch options as well. Located downtown just behind University Ave., the menu at The Jones offers some fantastic spins on brunch classics—think lox but in an omelette—as well other house-made creations, like brioche French toast.
We recommend the Jones rancheros. An interesting twist on the huevos rancheros classic, this brunch item is served on fried corn tortillas with a whole lot of the good stuff (lots of cheese, avocado, you get the drift) piled on top. Order it with a Bloody Mary and you’re sure to look like you know exactly what you’re doing. (And make sure you mention The Jones’ commitment to local farmers and organic ingredients.)
If you want to take your parents out for a great plate of breakfast, consider taking them a few miles out to The Flying Biscuit Cafe. With tons of gluten free options and their own blend of spices—cleverly called “moon dust”—this breakfast joint is a favorite of Southern-food lovers throughout Gainesville. The Flying Biscuit also serves a variety of coffeehouse favorites, like cappuccinos, lattes, and mochas from their in-house espresso bar.
#SpoonTip: You may want to call ahead and check on the wait time; it’s rare to show up at Flying Biscuit and NOT have to wait.
Skip the Sonny’s and forget about 4Rivers, because Billy Bobz is where it’s at if you want some good smokey grub. This small barbecue joint is located on University Ave. right next to Know Where Coffee and Bagels ‘n’ Noodles, and the cool part about it is that NO ONE ELSE SEEMS TO KNOW ABOUT IT. It’s quite literally one of Gainesville’s hidden gems (even though it’s right under everyone’s nose).
There’s this thing about good barbecue and affordability being mutually exclusive (I’m pretty sure Plato said something about it; look it up). Not at Billy Bobz. I never walk out of there spending more than ten bucks—and that’s for a chopped pork sandwich, two sides, and all the sweet ‘n’ smoky sauce I could dream of. Your parents are bound to be super impressed—not just by the friendly staff, but by the friendly check too.
This Med-Californian eatery is known for having a great Caesar salad and a fantastic brunch spread. A plate of complimentary muffins and Brunch Punch are served to every brunch goer, but if dinner is something you’re interested in you’ll be treated to live jazz every Monday and Thursday starting at 7 p.m.
The owners, who have been operating restaurants in Gainesville for over 30 years, also own Pizza by the Slice and Bistro 1245. A charming pair that is dedicated to local ingredients—sourced by Swallow Tail Farms—and community engagement, the guys who own 706 have turned the restaurant into a beloved Gainesville staple. Stop in to see the local art that lines the walls and try some of their eclectic creations like blackened tuna pizza or the 706 bouillabaisse.
Located on University Ave. right near the stadium, the Copper Monkey is the OG of college sports bars. Around since 1980 and voted Best Burger in Gainesville year after year, the Copper Monkey knows what students want. They serve burgers for $3 on Mondays and have drink specials nearly every day. If you can, sit in the booth decorated by a map of bars and restaurants in Gainesville. Have some fun with your parents and tell them which ones you’ve been to.
#SpoonTip: If you take your parents in after 9, appetizers are half off and there’s usually a deal on pitchers. Split some loaded potato chips, nachos, and a pitcher of Bud Light and maybe catch a replay of one of the away games.
Having not included a restaurant on Archer yet, the only real choice is a quaint little Mexican place tucked into a corner next to Lowe’s. Yeah, I’m talking about Chuy’s. Originating in Austin, Texas, Chuy’s has become one of the go-to places for college students in Gainesville. Friday nights are usually packed, with drinks offered at the door and happy hours from 4 to 7 p.m. every Monday through Friday.
Each Chuy’s location partners with local charities, and in the past Chuy’s has worked with the Child Advocacy Center and fundraised for Gainesville Gone Austin. If you decide to take your parents here, you can feel good about the integrity of the establishment while ordering some fresh tortillas and seconds of Chuy’s signature creamy jalapeño cheese sauce.