There are certain bars and restaurants in Gainesville that every UF student has to try in their four years here–these are the places that everyone remembers years after leaving. When you’re looking to be adventurous with your friends on the weekends, check out this list as a reference of places in Gainesville you must try and cross one of them off.
WARNING: There are so many great restaurants and bars in Gainesville, and it would have been hard to include them all. We love recommendations though, so shoot us a message through one of our social media platforms @spoon_uf if we forgot something and we will be sure to check it out–maybe even write a review!
1. The Top
If you want to get a killer burger and a great vibe, The Top is definitely a place to check out. It has tons of signature burgers and you can even “build your own” burger or grilled cheese sandwich with endless extra toppings. Make this meal even more satisfying by accompanying your dish with their sweet potato fries or a key lime martini.
The Swamp Restaurant is the ultimate sports bar for UF students who want to hang out casually, drink a beer, and watch the away football games. The Swamp serves delicious wraps, sandwiches, burgers, tacos, and pretty much any game day food you crave. Click here to find out The Swamp’s drink specials Mondays through Fridays; they like to spice it up every now and then.
3. 101 Cantina
101 Cantina easily has the best queso that has ever been made. Ever. If you’re thinking of margaritas instead of beers while the game is on, Cantina is the way to go. Picture it in your head now–it’s a Saturday night and you’re watching the game at Cantina, dipping your chips in guac and queso while drinking strawberry and lemon margaritas. They are clearly living by their motto “Eat. Drink. Fiesta.”
#SpoonTip: Check out 101 Cantina on Sunday Funday for free Tequila shots all day. Shots, shots, shots, shots, shots.
Miso Black Cod, Tiger Shrimp Tempura, and Beef Tataki are just three of Dragonfly Sushi’s customer favorites that are featured on every basic girl’s Snapchat story. Impress your next date by bringing them to Gainesville’s most talked about Sushi place–the sushi will probably look better than your date tbh.
If you want a quick french vanilla iced coffee or a breakfast sandwich, roll up to Bay Islands Coffee Company and place your order. Bay Islands is a cute little breakfast shack that is drive-thru only. I personally recommend the deeferchino, and their bagels aren’t too shabby either.
Kick-ass fried rice, beautifully set up sushi rolls, and the best damn take-out Chinese food you’ll get in Gainesville can be found at Bento Cafe. If you want to have Chinese food delivered to your room and watch a movie with your friends (tbt to high school), definitely order Bento.
Think Central Perk in Friends when you think of Maude’s Classic Cafe. Maude’s is a simple coffee house, but it has some of the world’s most quality coffee and desserts. Customers can relax in a timeless, free-spirited atmosphere and even play games (which is why it’s also the perfect place to bring your children to distract them). Don’t be surprised if you find yourself becoming a regular here.
Dough Religion is very similar to Blaze; you choose your own toppings (and I mean endless amount of toppings) and the pizza you drool about in your dreams is ready in a matter of minutes.
9. Boca Fiesta
A bad word has never been said about the beloved Boca. Here, you get a quality taco– not the fake ones at Chipotle (I accept that I will get much hate for that). The best part? DRANKS. On Mondays, margaritas are only four bucks. Roll up on Sunday for brunch and ten dollars will buy you your own personal bottle of champagne and juice (that’s about 6 mimosas, FYI) and 7 dollars will get you unlimited access to the Bloody Mary bar up front. Praise the Lawd.
Ah, Pizza By The Slice. This is one of those places that even your parents have fond memories of. This pizza is the closest to a New York-style slice you’ll get in Gainesville, and the calzones aren’t too bad either. Let’s pray it stays open for the rest of our lives.
11. Gator’s Dockside
Gator’s Dockside is the perfect place to bring your parents when they visit for Family Weekend. This sports bar is filled with an intoxicating atmosphere, screaming fans, and most importantly, great food. Their salads, juicy burgers, and bangin’ appetizers are an essential accompaniment to watching any Gator game.
12. Metro Diner
For all you Long Islanders looking for the comfort food you find in all your 24/7 diners at home, Metro Diner is here to save you. Conveniently located right next to Bagels Unlimited, Metro Diner is perfect for any meal and satisfies the diner craving all us out-of-staters have been struggling with since we got here. (PS, Guy Fieri said that “Diners across the world have to take a lesson on this one” when he covered the Jacksonville location on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.)
The 2nd Street Speakeasy is Gainesville’s longest running cocktail bar. The bar’s unique and mature ambiance can be credited to a new cocktail menu put up every month, a variety of DJs, and awesome specials. Southern Living called it one of the top 100 bars in the South and Ken Eats Gainesville said it was “the best spot for cocktails” in 2013. If I didn’t make it any more clear, this place is pretty prime.
14. Satchel’s Pizza
Satchel’s Pizza, while the quirkiest of pizza places, is definitely a pizza place to try out in Gainesville. It’s dedication to philanthropy, groovy atmosphere, and homemade menu have made this joint one of Gainesville’s favorites. Click here for 10 reasons why you should give Satchel’s Pizza a visit.
15. Bagels Unlimited
With fast service, huge portions and low prices, Bagels Unlimited gives you tons of bang for your buck. A typical meal here consists of eggs any way you want, stringy and crispy hash browns, and a side of any of the following–a bagel, biscuit, croissant, bacon, etc.
#SpoonTip: Bagels Unlimited is open seven days a week and you can get $1 omelettes every Wednesday.
16. The Jones B Side
There’s nothing quite like eating a meal out on the veranda at The Jones. For something classic, try the Jones Anticristo, a spin on the traditional Montecristo sandwich, or try the Jones Rancheros for brunch. If you’re feeling really fancy, go for the brie plate as a starter. If you’re looking to impress a hot date or someone touring the University, definitely take them to The Jones for a meal.
Chuck E. Cheese and Dave & Busters cannot live up to the fun and good vibes felt in Gainesville’s Barcade. It puts two of our favorite things together: arcade games and booze. What could be more fun than traveling back in time to your childhood with a beer in hand?
The 43rd Street Deli & Breakfast House has “the most diverse breakfast menu in Northern Florida.” Dying to try sweet potato pancakes? This breakfast house has got you covered. From elaborate and creative pancake choices to simple Greek omelettes, everyone is guaranteed to find a breakfast food they like. We also can’t forget their undeniably delicious paninis that are served for lunch.
At Civilization, you’ll get the prettiest breakfast ever (instaworthy for sure), especially if you order their famous avocado spread and toasted whole wheat bread. From perfectly poached eggs to challah french toast, you’ll leave this diner more than satisfied. Don’t be fooled by their unbelievable breakfast food; you can still stop by Civilization for an equally tasty lunch.
The Peach Valley Cafe will definitely remind you of those Sunday morning brunches you had with your family back home. Their most notable breakfast foods are their Belgian Waffles and Cinnamon Roll Pancakes. The best part: basically every meal comes with a side of brown sugar. Peach Valley Cafe also offers lunch so take a look at their lunch classics here.
Currently, 3Natives is all the rage in Gainesville. Every acai bowl and smoothie loving student has been going wild since the grand opening of the Gainesville location just a few weeks ago. Not a day goes by without me seeing at least one acai bowl on a friend’s Snapchat story.
Mostly known for their scrambled, poached, or sunny side-up eggs, and, of course, their biscuits, The Flying Biscuit is the perfect place for breakfast if you aren’t looking for anything fancy (and don’t mind waiting, because it’s usually packed).
Sweet Berries is the best place in Gainesville to get that traditional soft ice cream we all crave during the hot summer (which lasts all year here). Even when you order the smallest sized cup, they make sure to give you enough ice cream to drip down the sides of the cup.
D’lites is Gainesville’s best low-calorie, soft-serve ice cream. It offers blenders, layered ice cream, and even cakes with different flavors blended into one piece. They also change their flavors every day of the week. Don’t be ashamed to be that person who asks for a sample of every flavor (haters gonna hate anyway).
#SpoonTip: If you have a D’lites punch card, Tuesday is double punch day and Monday is $1 off blenders.
25. Grog House
Two words, 9 letters: Grog. House. This is the number-one college bar in Gainesville and my personal favorite place to go to on Friday nights. While drinking your cranberry vodkas or vodka sprites, there’s no doubt that you’ll be dancing to songs that were popular in the late 90s and early 2000s (shoutout to Mr. Brightside, Ignition Remix, and Fergalicious).
1. On Wednesday nights, ladies drink for free until 12:30am and drinks are $1 from 12:30am-1am. The best part though, EVERYONE drinks free until 11pm–so make sure you get there by 9:30pm and drink for free adequately.
2. Everyone’s favorite night is Friday because Friday is Beat the Clock and the special starts at 9pm, so get there by 9 before Grog is full to its max capacity.
3. On Saturday nights, everyone drinks for free from 9pm-12:30am.
Beer, burgers, and live music fill Loosey’s Downtown every night. Downtown has a great night scene and is even better with Loosey’s live music. Loosey’s is definitely worth checking out–especially to all those beer drinkers.
#SpoonTip: Loosey’s offers a different beer of the month on the special menu, ALL MONTH, for only $3.50 a pint.
Ranked #4 for breweries in Gainesville, Tall Paul’s is just as fun as Barcade. Again, it combines games and drinks; it’s basically Candyland for adults. Bonus: it has life size Connect Four.
28. Salty Dog Saloon
Similar to Grog House, there is minimal food at the Salty Dog Saloon, but a boat load of drinks. On Mondays, their Happy Hour lasts ALL DAY. If you’re that student that has a day off on Monday, definitely make it worth your while by getting drinks and their new corn nuggets while your friends suffer in class.
29. Bistro 1245
Bistro 1245 is the perfect intimate restaurant for a date night. Bottom line: this cute, peaceful restaurant has killer minestrone soup and signature paninis and sandwiches that you’ll find yourself dreaming about after you try them. Ever have salmon ON a sandwich? If not, check Bistro 1245 out and see what all the buzz is about.
30. Gelato Company
Paninis, gelato, and crepes. Need I say more? Their delicious Italian gelato is a step up from the traditional ice cream you usually get. The best part about Gelato Company: THEY DELIVER. That’s right, get your pollo panini or MBLT delivered to your dorm while you watch The Bachelor. Click here for the delivery menu.
Bagels and Noodles is probably the most underrated breakfast place in all of Gainesville. They serve, as you might guess, bagels and noodles (well, soup). Though these bagels are not quite on the same level as New York bagels, they’re still pretty damn good.
Besides their bagels and noodles, they serve up some ridiculously cheesy, melt in your mouth omelettes. If you want fast service and the closest to a New York bagel you’ll ever get in Florida, make sure to give this place a shot.
Piesanos is definitely a fan favorite among UF students. It’s the perfect place to go for a friend’s birthday, with your family when they visit, or just on a regular Sunday night. This Italian restaurant has pretty prime Caprese, Eggplant Parm, and let’s not forget, CHEESY GARLIC KNOTS. It’s hard to say no to this place, especially when it’s just walking distance from UF’s campus.
There are a ton of places on Archer or University where you can go to get great Asian food, but if you want something special you go to Chopstix Cafe. Located on 13th, you get a great view of the sunset if you ask to sit out on the porch. The pad thai is to die for and their extensive sushi menu isn’t bad either.
If you’re from the South, you know that barbecue means Sonny’s. What you may NOT know is that the original location of the barbecue giant is right here in Gainesville on Waldo Road. Stop in for your favorite barbecue meal, be it a pulled pork sandwich or ribs, and enjoy the homey vibe.
If you want authentic Cuban food for a great price, you have to try Flaco’s. There are actually two locations here in Gainesville, one on University and one Downtown, so there’s no excuse not to try it. When you step into Falco’s you are immediately welcomed by the amazing smell of both their savory and sweet Arepas, Epanadas, and Flan. I promise you will never leave disappointed.
36. The Fat Tuscan
I like to think of The Fat Tuscan as one of Gainesville’s hidden gems; you might not hear about it on the daily, but The Fat Tuscan’s italian food is amazing. If you are in need of some major comfort food (aka tons of cheese and alcohol), this is the place for you. One of my favorite dishes is the fromage-a-trois pasta, a heavenly dish of pasta with LOTS of layers of different cheese.
#SpoonTip: The building is actually a historic house with a very homey feel; this is a great date place.
Emiliano’s is the quintessential place to get your fix of Latin cuisine in Gainesville. One of its best features is the covered sidewalk patio where you can sit and enjoy your meal while enjoying the great weather and wonders of downtown Gainesville. Emiliano’s Cafe has unique dishes for every meal; they serve Tapas, lunch, dinner, and brunch (with different menus) on Saturday and Sunday.
38. Karma Cream
Karma Cream is home to the most delicious vegan and organic ice cream, cakes, pastries, coffee and tea in Gainesville. All of their desserts are baked from scratch with only organic ingredients; they even have small sandwiches that are vegan and vegetarian and prepared with almost all organic ingredients. Say hello to some killer desserts and coffee AND to social responsibility.
39. Copper Monkey
The Copper Monkey is just walking distance from campus (thank g-d) and serves up some of the best burgers in town. Not only are their burgers delicious, they have $3 burger specials on Mondays. If you aren’t a burger lover, or are looking for something else, the Copper Monkey has a variety of menu items ranging from soups and salads, sandwiches and great game day appetizers. With a great bar and a ton of TVs, this is the perfect place to nosh on some food and watch the Gator games.
40. First Magnitude
A brewery in G-ville? That’s right, First Magnitude is Gainesville’s own brewery with both indoor space and an outdoor shaded beer garden for everyone to enjoy their beer. Not to mention, inside the tasting room there is a life sized Jenga. Can you say adulthood?
41. High Dive
Good drinks, good music and good vibes can all be found at The High Dive. The High Dive holds tons of shows weekly, hosting both local and national music stars (tbt to the Ying Yang Twins). It is also home to Gainesville’s great Food Truck Rally which includes amazing food trucks such as Monsta Lobsta and Soup to Nuts. Embrace the culture that is oh so unique to Gville at this downtown gem.
42. Daily Green
Daily green puts a spin on healthy foods with delicious smoothies, sandwiches and waffles. They offer a wide variety of vegan, vegetarian and meat eater items. They are best known for their savory waffles, which is basically a waffle cone with anything from pulled pork to tempeh inside–how could you resist this?
Another one of Gainesville’s downtown beauties, Harvest Thyme Cafe is a great go-to lunch spot. They have a huge assortment of soup, salads, sandwiches, and wraps that are guaranteed to fulfill any of your lunch cravings. Harvest Thyme Cafe also has a ton of gluten free, vegetarian and vegan options so everyone can enjoy something.
You can’t not notice Ballyhoo as you’re driving down Newberry. With the giant statue of Tim Tebow out front, this place is a staple of Gainesville food culture. Whether you’re stopping by for some classic surf ‘n’ turf or a free lobster on your birthday, you can’t leave Gainesville without having been there at least once.