Bolay Gainesville only opened in June, but they’re already shaping the Gainesville food scene with flavor and tropical vibes befitting of Florida heat. The teal awnings and diverse ingredients were a shock to us, especially since college towns are dedicated to “normal” chains like Chipotle, Moe’s, and Blaze.

But there was nothing “normal” about Bolay – the cilantro noodles, slices of meaty avocados (instead of brownish guacamole), and spiced veggies are a step up from cold pizza. Similar to the review Spoon University UF did of Vale, also a “bowl”-based restaurant, we decided to try out Bolay Gainesville – here’s what we thought!

Location, Location, Location

Mackenzie Patel

UF students are notorious for picking places that are close to campus. Bolay? Not so much. Bolay is part of the "New Butler Plaza," which also hosts Newks, 1000 Degree Pizza, Olive Garden, Culvers, and many more. The area is an impressive mix of new and fresh — great to look at, but far from campus (relatively speaking).

The haul out to Bolay is about a 15-20 minute drive from campus on an average day. If you're feeling liberal with the gas pedal and the traffic lights rule in your favor, maybe you'll make it in less than 15. The bottom line: it's not in a prime spot, but it's worth the drive. In our opinion, Grill Fresh doesn't quite cut it in terms of quantity or quality, so a fresh bowl in Gainesville necessitates the drive. 

Let's Talk Money

Stephanie Zajac

Ballin' on a budget or working with a diet? Bolay satisfies both of these needs. Bolay has a simple system: $7.99 for a small bowl and $10.99 for a large bowl. We can both attest that a small bowl is enough food with its generous portions of 1 base, 2 veggies,  1 protein, and 1 add-on. If you're not running on an empty stomach, leftovers are fair game. 

The Bolay bite is generally healthy — the father-and-son founders curated a menu from healthy foods, made tirelessly exciting when seasoned with just the right spices and herbs. Cauliflower and broccoli, for example, are dynamite when made into smoked cauliflower and ginger broccoli. The money you're paying for fresh, bold flavors is worth your while.  

What’s For Lunch? Part 1

Mackenzie Patel

After sampling EVERYTHING (one of my favorite parts about Bolay), I (Stephanie) picked quinoa for my base, Cajun sweet potatoes and seasoned green beans for my veggies, barbecue chicken (yum) for my protein, and topped it all off with avocado. 

My biggest takeaway? All the options at Bolay are flavorful and fresh. What should be warm is indeed warm, contrary to lots of fast-casual restaurants that get lazy with temperature conditions. I'm not a huge food-mixer; I like to keep my flavors compartmentalized so that I have the liberty of creating my own tasty bites. Bolay allows for this, and it also caters to all you food-mixers out there — the avocado is a nice natural blender if you like your food mushy. 

What's For Lunch? Part 2

As for my (Mackenzie’s) lunch, I went for the cilantro noodles, cajun sweet potatoes, smoked cauliflower, lemon chicken, parmesan cheese, and cilantro pesto sauce. Random ingredients, explosive flavor! Bolay also lets you sample food, so a bowl is 100% to your liking (no picking out random onion chunks or pickles).

The flavors appeared incongruous, but they complimented each other like blue and orange. The cilantro pesto and chicken were partners, but the hard bite of the cauliflower contrasted with spicy potatoes. And the random sprinkling of cheese? Divine. My only gripe is that second-day Bolay doesn’t taste that great – the noodles loose their zest and the potatoes are mushy.

Is Bolay Worth The Hype?

Mackenzie Patel

Given the endless food options in Gainesville, it’s easy to dismiss another Butler Plaza restaurant. When every newfangled place is “trendy” and “delicious,” our palate sets the bar a little higher – but Bolay Gainesville not only meets the bar but exceeds it.

I’m attracted to the unusual spice combinations and high-quality ingredients. I haven’t eaten cauliflower in six months, but Bolay made it irresistible with spices and smoke. It’s hipster and pricier than McDonalds or Wendy’s, but I’ll spend $8 on something I feel good about eating.

Overall, Bolay is worth the hype everyone’s been feeding you. It’s far from my downtown apartment, but if I’m already in the neighborhood for Walmart or Target, Bolay is a natural lunch option. Bolay all day!