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Updated March 2009

Special Link - Ed Porras' Gainesville Restaurant Listings:

Tom's 6 Simple Rules for a good restaurant

1. The food shouldn't suck.
2. The staff should treat me like God.
3. Somebody should know something about what they serve.
4. No spots on the glasses, utensils or plates.
5. I shouldn't feel ripped off after I get the check.
6. Food should never resemble vomit. Plate well and garnish. Would a piece of parsley kill ya'?

Tom's Top 11 Gainesville Restaurants

Paramount Grill
Chef Clif Nelson has a magical aptitude for combining flavors. Artfully presented. Gainesville's best. Nobody can cook a steak like Chef Nelson. Great staff, with the ability to be pretentious, casual, elegant, or charming depending on your desires and attitude. The crab cakes are the best in town. Treat yourself!
2. Ti Amo
Chef Bert Gill makes his mark with a tapas infused tasting menu. Lovely atmosphere. Cant miss with the lamb. The oxtail is another tasting treat. The fresh catch of the day for entrees will fail to disappoint. You'll love it.
3. Manuel's Vintage Room
Boy, howdy! Did Manuel's Vintage Room come back from the Near Miss list to the top with a vengeance. Went there last night and had absolutely the best Veal Picatta I think I've ever had. Manuel was there with his lovely daughter, and his son, Marco, is now the head chef. And that is the right choice. Family! Folks, the man and his staff can cook. Adding to the intimate environment is the always delightful Manuel, food at the top of the game, and the very personal attentions of the staff who hit all their marks in the service department without being stuffy or snooty, or conversely, too casual. It was just right. No. It was awesome. It's what I've been waiting to happen; a restaurant in Gainesville, Florida that actually goes from good, to great, to better than great. Let's go over the rules again: 1 - The food shouldn't suck. It doesn't. It's awesome. 2 - The staff should treat me like God. After that veal, I was performing miracles. 3 - Somebody should know something about what they serve. Knowledgeable staff, and the food speaks for itself. 4 - No spots on the glasses, utensils or plates. Spotless. 5. I shouldn't feel ripped off after I get the check. Yes, Manuel's Vintage Room is, for Gainesville, a little tough on the wallet, but for what they're doing, I felt great about my $20 tip on a $40 meal. 6 - Food should never resemble vomit. Plate well and garnish. I was eating a work of art. And finally, a master stroke. I heard a plate break rather loudly in the kitchen. The kitchen staff fellow that broke it leans out of the service window and announces loudly to the patrons, "That was me. I did that, and I'm sorry." That's what it's all about. Accept responsibility. If you're going to break a plate, break the shit out of it and make it a moment to remember. And then own your mistake! Manuel's vintage room. Go immediately. Go hungry. Drink and feast, and save room for desert.
Thank you, Manuel! You rock!
4. Mark's Prime
Verging on perfect. The steaks here can rival Gibson's in Chicago. Ala-carte and usually worth the high price. And by high price, I'm talking fucking $40 bucks for an 8oz. ala carte filet. Jesus Christ. More power to them.
5. Leonardo's 706
Best California thin crust pizza in town! Go with the specials. The seafood pasta and all the Alfredo dishes are winners. Watch out for the Pasta Madagascar. Used to be the best dish, but recent changes have made it a risky choice unless you like food so hot your mouth will dissolve. Top desserts. The Sunday Brunch is A#1. I recommend to 706 they bring back the pesto & shrimp California pizza.
6. The Top
Artsy. Indie. Punk. Oddly sophisticated. Attitude. Great choices for vegetarians. Try the pesto gnocci or the encrusted tofu dish. Keep an eye out for Walter, the wonderfully gay black asshole behind the bar at night. Want a great night of entertainment? See if you can get his attention, order your drink and don't make small talk. Then, sit and watch him work as he slices and dices his way through the customer bullshit and reads patrons like a drag queen on steroids. It's a hoot! If you're lucky, he'll throw somebody out of there. I once waited at the bar for a half hour. It wasn't crowded and I was in plain site with my ten dollar bill in hand. Couldn't order a fucking thing. Best time I ever had getting ignored. You know secretly, he's really a nice guy. Then, I went to the front counter and waited twenty minutes and nobody came. Yet, I'll be back again and again. Don't fuck with The Top, and don't expect to be somebody here. Just shut up and if you get something out of there, say thank you and feel lucky. One more note; they more often than not overfry their "Crabby Patties" from the late night menu. But the Corn Nuggets are highly recommend. It's like fried crack. Walter pours a mean drink, if you can get it.
Authentic Italian in a cozy setting. Great date restaurant. Go with the specials. See if the Chef will make his special limoncello with dessert. Expanded dessert menu was a long time coming. Thank you. 
At the top of the pizza chain, super-great salads, and a charmingly quirky hippie junk yard environment.
Book Lover's Cafe
Unique. Dine amongst the books. Excellent vegetarian choices. You can buy the recipes in a book.
Sushi Matsuri
The rice is uniformly excellent. The fish is fresh. Charming little place.
11. Emiliano's
Mostly, it's great. The desserts always get a high five. They are outstanding. I recommend the Sundowner's Special from 5 to 7pm: Two for One Sangria and discounted tapas. Sometimes there's live music. I notice there is an over abundance of garlic in some of the dishes. Tone it down a little, I say. And I love garlic. The scallops civiche used to be better years ago. I think they switched from the larger more difficult to find sea scallops to the smaller sea scallops. The art on the walls is magnificent. Great new restaurant design and ambiance. I hear wonderful things about their Sunday brunch. The Pialla is awesome. The artichokes are divine. I recommend the Paella and for lunch, & the Atlantic Salmon with a curiously sweet bianito mash and perfectly cooked asparagus!

Tom's Top 3 Gainesville Restaurants That Think
They're Great, but Aren't

Tapas 12 West
Okay, it's been a long time since I've been here. They're still in business, doing lots of group events. I don't see a lot of activity in the main dining room these days. I gave them a pretty rough review, but that's over a year old. I really like Steve. I think he's a talented Chef and a nice guy. This place just never seemed to have it together after changing from Steve's Americain to Tapas 12 West. In fairness, I'm going to pop in during May of '09 and see if they can't some up with something to impress me. Stay tuned. UPDATE (May 12, 2009): So I went back to give it another shot. I must say, I had a better experience, but it still doesn't rise to the level of a great Gainesville restaurant. My server was very enthusiastic, which made no difference regarding the lipstick from the lady or drag queen who last drank from the cup my scotch was served in. Good God Damn scotch, though! Steve wasn't there. They told me he only works one day a week because he's starting a new restaurant. If your name is on the sign, then that's a bad sign if you're rarely in the kitchen. Just ask Chef Marco Pierre White if you dare. OK, the food. I sampled three items.

1. Lemon-Rosemary Chicken Skewers
Chicken skewers marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, rosemary and garlic.
The skewers are served with a lemon-rosemary dipping sauce.

Comment: Nicely done chicken on a stick with some lemon-rosemary aoli. Plated on a nice rectangular dish, put a fucking piece of parsley on the lonely things. Drizzle some olive oil on the poor speared bird bits. Looked like cafeteria food. It was properly cooked though, moist, and with nice flavors. Boring, but tasty.

2.  Baked, Stuffed Scallops on the Half Shell
Scallops on the half shell are topped with onions, peppers, bacon,
garlic and Parmesan cheese, then baked.

Best dish of the night. I thought they overcooked the scallops a tad, and by tad, I mean like 10 seconds. Great flavors, presented in their beautiful shells, this was the standout for me.

3. Mussels with Spinach and Chorizo
Mussels are sautéed with spinach, chorizo sausage, garlic, onions and white wine.

Also a nice dish. Not to be an asshole, but I like to have a mussel in each mussle shell. There's nothing so disappointing as pulling out a nice beautiful shell only to look into it and see a beautiful little empty cavern. When plating, kindly make sure there's a mussle in each shell. That's the kind of easy care and attention I hope for a restaurant, as it's not an unreasonable request. Having said that, the mussels were flavorful and not overdone.

I concluded my evening with the Red Sangria, which I had been told was made from scratch every day. They had a right big bucket of the stuff raring to go. Folks, the food is ok, nothing to get crazy about. But my God, this Sangria is the best in town, hands down. Go for the Sangria if for no better reason. It is outstanding!

Conclusion: It's nicely laid out in there, comfortable, with a beautiful bar and the chefs working in an open kitchen right in front of the patrons. Service was enthusiastic but scattershod. Food was all over the place. They were prepping food at the bar, for Christ's sake. Weird. So in a way, it's a bit of a mess in there. But now that the Chef isn't around so much and I felt no pretension, I had a much better experience this go-around. Good night, and good luck.

2. Thai Fusion
I've never had anything good there. I keep hearing how good they are, but I've seen no evidence of anything extraordinary. Once I ordered egg rolls and they put them into a styrofoam container where they melted into the plastic. Mmmm. Once I went in and sat in front of the waiter and the chef for a half hour and they just sort of stared at me. Nobody thought to ask if maybe I was in there for service or food. I ordered a lunch once and the rice was weird tasting. So I don't know what to tell you. I haven't really ever had anything happen to me at this restaurant that was pleasant. I'll keep an open mind, but they won't be new for long so there will be no excuse. UPDATE MARCH 2009. I WONDER WHY THEY HAVEN'T CLOSED YET. UPDATE (May 12, 2009): THEY'RE CLOSED. BOY, DIDN'T SEE THAT ONE COMING!

3. 101 Downtown Restaurant and Martini Lounge
I would like this restaurant to go under, and soon. Big on atmosphere and very very small on food and service. I call it a fake restaurant. I ordered the Stuffed Lobster (lobster is my favorite food) and it sucked, violating rule #1. My friend ordered the duck, and it sucked too. We ate about a quarter of the food, and later gave the rest to street people who declared it the best food they'd ever had. My lobster tasted like freezer, the stuffing was boring and bland, it was over-cooked, and the side dish of over-cooked over-salted rissoto looked like a rice-crispy treat. Have you ever eaten over-cooked over-salted rissoto while thinking of a rice-crispy treat? The results are perplexing. The duck was cold and flavorless and poorly seasoned. The drinks sucked. They were served in the wrong glasses. There were spots on the table service, the glasses, and the plates. The words, 'I'm Sorry' were often uttered by our waiter. Many excuses. Speaking of plating, it looked like Dr. Suess did the design. Pretentious, silly plating. Ugly plating. The staff was beautiful to look at, and dumb as a gaggle of chickens. They didn't know the food. They didn't know anything about wine. There were inedible garnishes on the plate. I won't even provide a link to to this stillborn failure. Went back on another visit and failed to enjoy burnt sirloin tortillas, overcooked over-seasoned lamb presented on a nest of fried crunchy inedible spaghetti. They killed the lamb and then slaughtered it. I want to vomit when I'm there and I felt ripped off when they presented the bill. Now we've covered all 6 rule violations. The head bartender's hair is absurd. Looked like Phil Spector was working a side job. He thinks he's amazing. He's not. Sadly, many young people think this fake restaurant is great because it makes a fine night club. So I recommend they should stop serving food, cut the bartender's hair, set up a DJ and reopen as a dance club. I absolutely hate it as a restaurant, and will probably only return against my will. UPDATE 4/20/09 Now has earned a place under The Poop List. See this new review... at the bottom.

Tom's Top 4 Near Misses

Dragonfly Sushi Co.
Sushi means, rice. If the rice isn't right, the Sushi isn't right. From there, it's the freshness of the fish and other ingredients. Sometimes the rice is good here and sometimes it isn't. The service during lunch is spotty. Some of the presentations of certain items, like the seared beef appetizer, are weak. The best time to go and get this place at the top of their game is ironically when they're slammed busy. The service will surprise you and the food is generally good during their peak serving hours. Reservations recommend towards the weekends. Get the rice uniformly perfect and it follows all other problems will iron themselves out. Love the atmosphere and the owners are very personable fellows. Glad this is a home grown business and glad of its huge success. I want to put it on the A list, but I just quite can't. UPDATE: DRAGONFLY SUSHI MUCH IMPROVED. I STILL DON'T SEE WHY IT TAKES HALF AN HOUR TO GET A TO-GO SUSHI ROLL. IN CHICAGO, YOU WALK UP, SIT DOWN, AND THE CHEF HAS ALREADY SENT YOU A FREE APPPETIZER. YOU ORDER YOUR ROLL AND HE SLAPS IT TOGETHER ON THE FLY IN ABOUT A MINUTE, AND THAT'S WHEN THEY'RE BUSY.
Liquid Ginger
This is a great place for lunch. For around 8 bucks, you can get sushi quality seared tuna, a salad, a spring roll, rice and soup. Order it medium so you'll get it rare. If you order it rare, it will be swimming. Dinners are uniformly good. Lunches vary from day to day. Sometimes it's top notch, and other times, you feel like someone didn't put their heart into it. Usually the service is good, not great, but I've had several experiences waiting and looking around for someone to notice me. In fact one time, I waited at the front desk watching my to-go food get cold for 11 and a half minutes before ANYONE appeared in the restaurant to help me. And once, my friend and I arrived at 5 PM and waited at the locked front door for over 20 minutes. Then we called. "What time do you open?" we asked. "5 PM," said the host. "Well then could you unlock the door so we can eat?" Tighten up and fly right, and Liquid Ginger can easily move into the top spots. It's getting better. The steak dinners rock. The specials rock. I still think it's a bit over priced for dinner, but go on 4 dollar martini night and make up the difference. Speaking of... I had this wacky Martini: Tao-Tini. It sounds so gross... Stoli Vanilla, Sweet & Sour, and brown sugar muddled with Thai basil. Let me tell you, this thing made me hard. Order your steak Medium Rare, if you have any balls. Nice work, LG! I may soon up the rating. UPDATE: 4/20/09 - Had a Ribeye recently that was not a quality piece of meat. Was unusually tough, and this is not their norm. Don't lose it, LG.
3. Bistro 1245
"Gourmet Fare at Student Prices". So they say. True for some items. Other items are just as priced as the big fancy places. I have had some great things here. The fish sandwiches are a winner! The lamb was pretty darn good. Mostly, the crab cakes are winners... mostly. Avoid the beef filet. They don't know how to cook a fillet as of my last visit. Sorry. And the quality of beef in that filet was not a winner. The plating? Placing a fillet atop mashed garlic potatoes is a smushy idea. The squash bisque is very highly recommended. The chefs tend to over-season. Let the ingredients shine. Bistro is a good choice to taste wine and share food in a casual environment.
4. Alessandro Ristorante
High end classical Italian. The Lobster Francaise is to die for. Oh oh, heard some things in a salon where I was getting my hair cut. Heard they committed a cardinal sin: 'I'm sorry, we're out of olive oil.' Out of olive oil in an Italian restaurant? This is still a rumor. I tentatively place Alessandro Ristorante here on the near miss until I investigate. Havent been there in like 2 years. NEW: I heard there's a new chef now (a punk-ass friend of mine who shall go nameless for the moment) and he's known in Gainesville to kick a considerable amount of high-quality food ass. This is exciting news. I'm due for another go. Stay tuned.

15 Food Related Gainesville Experiences You Must Try

Louis' Lunch
Wonderfully weird hamburgers. They fry them in oil. Brilliant milkshakes.
Wise's Drug Store and Soda Fountain
In honor of this great legendary soda fountain that closed during trying times in the US economy, this listing shall remain. Gainesville shall forever miss you, Wise's Drug Store Soda Fountain. You were so cool and wonderfully old-school.
Food, from so-so to rough. The sushi frightens me. Service... eh. BUT THE VIEW!!!
Burrito Bros.
Classic Gainesville. These burritos are ordered from all over the country. It's next to a church now. God bless Burrito Bros.
The Melting Pot
Three hours of bliss. Do everything; the bread, entree, salad, dessert. Use the Court Bullion with dinner. They don't run the oil hot enough to properly fry. If you use the oil, your fried food will be soggy and unhealthy. Court Bullion is the way to go. Usually, there's enough food in one entree to satisfy two people if you do the whole spread. Order one entree to share and save a buck or two. You will lose your money here, but it will be worth it for a very special occasion.
Leonardo's 706 Brunch Buffet
An international buffet with dozens and dozens of home made items. Drink mimosas.
Gelato Company
A sinfully delicious treat. The sandwiches are good too. The tuna salad is weird. Not bad... weird.
Terra Nova Catering
The best in vegan and vegetarian items. The squash and Guerre pastry is astonishing.
Jenny Cakes
Legendary. Diabetic coma, here I come. New digs for Jenny 1202 NE 8th Ave, Gainesville, FL 32601.
10. 2nd Street Bakery
Wine & Cheese Gallery
Beautiful little hidden treasure. Dine outside. Order the cheese plate and wine. Sandwiches!
Adam's Rib Company
Best ribs in Gainesville. It's all good here. Hell, it's almost biblical.
Tim & Terry's
Groovy little music store with a porch. Live music. Hippies, folk musicians, drunks, students. Awesome sandwiches. Many vegetarian offerings. Cheap beer.
Mr. Han's
A work of art. Set in a dark 1980s room with a Raymond Chandler noir. The freshest Chinese. Have Mr. Han make you a Zombie. If you drink it all, as you exit he'll say, "Fly low." UPDATE (May 12, 2009): I am very sad to report that Eric Han has passed away in an automobile accident. My condolences to his family and friends. I will miss him very much and I hope Mr. Han's restaurant, which serves some of the finest Chinese food to be found, will continue in his honor. Highly recommended!
15. Shooting Star Restaurant
Shooting Star is often open into the 1am plus hours, and their prices are surprisingly reasonable. They have a Chicago-style vibe; DJ music in an open patio, a tank with artificial white jellyfish gently floating on currents of water which probably shouldn't be viewed on acid or heavy drink. Speaking of drinks, a nice drink menu including a few choice Sake options, martinis, even Absinthe, etc. Service remains variable, but Shooting Star has finally found unique place in Gainesville cuisine and comes recommended at this time, especially late night. I suggest you go with what your server tells you is the best thing happening that night. Go on Friday nights when the wildest sushi/blues/folk/weirdness crowd decends to get drunk and crazy. It's a ride and a half.
And For Drinks...

Stubbie's T-Shirt Pub
Hide-away beer joint disguised as a T-Shirt store. Only the finest beers here. Knowledgeable staff. Try beers you've never tried. Ask for recommendations. I don't think anyone really buys the T-shirts. Stubbie's and Stein's, a restaurant and drinking expansion of Stubbie's Shirt Pub now lives next door with the same offerings, plus traditional German offerings for dinner. Heard great things and have great expectations from Stubbie's and Stein's.
Wine & Cheese Gallery
Friday happy hour. Lively, friendly & fun. Wine tastings on occasion. Go to them.
Lillian's Happy Hour
Find Tom, the silver-haired well dressed bartender and enjoy classic Gainesville and the absolutely BEST martini you'll ever have in a casual setting. Smoking permitted... even cigars.
4. Volta Coffee Tea and Chocolate
Welcome to the neighborhood. I'm thinking the best coffee in town here, because they care. Great chocolates, desserts, quiche, but the focus is coffee and tea. The baristas here make the Starbuck's baristas look like shit. Highly recommended!!! HEY COOL! NOW SERVING MACHA, THE TEA CEREMONY TEA! NOBODY ELSE IS DOING THAT IN TOWN. NOBODY.

Special Mention...

1. Ivey's Grill
Slow service, extremely crowded for a small place, and the best Eggs Benedict in Gainesville. A great choice for breakfast.
2. Sun Center Kabob House - 101 SE 2nd Place, Suite 114 - Next to the Hippodrome Theater
So new, they don't have a web page yet. Here you will find 10 authentic straight forward no nonsense Kabob dishes. They all are served with Tandoori bread (a Tandoor is a clay oven - Tandoori means pertaining to the Tanadoor). The bread is perfect. Chicken, lamb or beef elegantly seasoned in various ways, delicate aromatic saffron basmati rice , and a small salad side with lettuce, shredded carrot, onion, and tomato. The dish is complimented with a delicious yogurt sauce. Get a couple extra. There's never enough of that good stuff. Most items range from the $9 to $10 dollar range, but it's a good amount of food. If I had any complaint, I'd like to see more done with the side salad. Maybe don't chop the lettuce so fine and as I always say, would a piece of parsley kill you? Having said that, the meat is absolutely top quality, prepared to order, and only cooked properly and perfectly in the Tandoor or grilled. I wish it much success. The staff and chef are delightful people. I recommend the Pista Murg Tikka and the Lamb Kofta. There's no flash here. Just down to business classic Indian kabob. UPDATE: New decorations and expanded menu. I'm liking this place more every day.

Tom's To-Do List

MT's Chophouse
2. Mildred's Big City Food
3. Hell's Kitchen - A Division of Goddess Catering

Do you have a restaurant in Gainesville that you'd like me to review?
Mail to:


The Review: Located in an historic home, the Fat Tuscan Cafe exudes charm by the buckets. Of that, there is no question. Of the food, there is also no question that the quality of ingredients and a pledge to use ingredients which contain no artificial color or preservatives is true. What is done then with the ingredients remain the primary issue. Let us begin!

What I have heard: Comments said personally to me and what I read online indicate the following: The food is terrific. The space is cramped. The prices are too expensive. The place is charming.

What I Saw: The food contains high quality ingredients. The space is cozy, filled with many examples of colorful local artworks, and not cramped a bit. I think some particular reviewer was there at the beginning when The Fat Tuscan Cafe had only the front two rooms. The prices, for the quality of ingredients, are just right. If you don't want a quality sandwich in this day and age for ten clams, find a double deal at Burger King or McDonalds and stop doing food reviews. And again, the place oozes charm.

Come on, Tom. Let's get to it! Okay, okay. Here's the thing. I really love this place, and I think it will do well. Most people know how prickish I can get when I hate a place. When I love a place and want it to succeed, I'm much more prickish, verging on completely dickish. I want to feel passion and not simply a business solving hunger pains. I've actually had a Krystal Burger made with passion, and for what it was, it was great. Here at the FTC, we have the quality ingredients, but what else do we have going? How are they handled? How are they found, prepared, presented, and garnished.

Tom, for Christ's sake! How was The Fat Tuscan Cafe? Let me sum up first and then pick at the bones. I truly enjoyed my experience there. I have no doubt that the sandwiches are all terrific. It's a beautiful charming little bistro-style place that I would highly recommend to take a friend for a simple delicious healthy meal and a nice conversation.

I began my experience with the wine list. The first wine I saw, Il Bastardo, was $3.95. That's a really cheap glass of wine. Decanted in a basic red wine glass which thankfully was spotless, it smelled a bit like ass and tasted the same. Dry, strong cherry tones, made from Sangiovese grapes, which are weird anyway, I had this thought: For $3,95, this is great bad wine. And plus, it's called Il Bastardo, and I'm a bastard, so I was good to go on the start. They pour a healthy "Restaurant" dose, so I didn't feel ripped off whatsoever. Other wines on the list indicated that not too much though was put into the wine list. Here is a first point of contention easily remedied.

I chose the Lima Bean Soup, which was prepared with bits of ham and a nicely strong garlic flavor. My waiter informed me that the $1.95 cup I ordered would be quite small, and recommended I upgrade to the small bowl. There is also a large bowl. Just to see how small it was, and because I was impressed with the modest $1.95 charge, I went with my gut. When it arrived, it was small as promised, but not so small as to be worthless. I'd call it a French portion and I eat French portions anyway. Hot, flavorful, not too rich, not too thick, nicely seasoned, and served with two little pieces of bread in a Fiestaware cup (YAY Fiestaware!). Classically comforting, in a French portion sort of way. With a salad or sandwich, it's a perfect dose. As a meal, go with the big bowl.

Given that I've heard great things about the sandwiches, I decided to mix it up and go for the Eggplant Caprese Salad. Arriving at the table came a matching Fiestaware plate on which slices of alternating eggplant, fresh mozzarella, and tomatoes arrive with bits of mint and basil tossed in. A spiral drizzle of what was said to be the house vinaigrette decorates the salad, and this is primarily the problem with the dish. I don't like or quite understand the house vinaigrette.

The Vinaigrette: Verging on Aioli, this particular house vinaigrette suffered from the following problems: 1. Bitterness and 2. The portion of vinaigrette to salad elements. Why? Vinaigrette is not a sauce, it is an accent. It "wets" the salad and brings out the flavors of the ingredients. If it overwhelms them, we have a problem. Why is it bitter? For any one or more of the following reasons: a. There is too much vinegar and/or a poor quality of vinegar, b. The extra virgin olive oil has been overworked (olive oil goes bitter if beaten too hard, used in a food processor, or over blended in a blender.)

A note on Extra Virgin Olive Oil: For tasting of oils, bitterness is a welcome component in a high quality olive oil. Having said that, the bitterness referred to above is bitter over bitter, or as I like to call it; Extra Virgin Bitter Bitter.

A possible way to go here is to use corn or vegetable oil, and then at the end of the process add Extra Virgin Olive Oil just for flavor. As for the individual ingredients, the Eggplant was perfectly seasoned and cooked. The tomatoes were deep red, rich, perfectly ripe, and flavorful, and the fresh mozzarella was very near to some of the best I've ever had. So my conclusion here is that anything touching that house vinaigrette with any abundance will go a notch down instead of up. I finished my entire plate however. It's not as bad as I'm making out, but why not take it to the limit. It's an easy fix to what was otherwise a terrific salad.

I concluded my affair with a cup of the French Press coffee after a very pleasant and informative exchange with co-owner and head of the kitchen, Marianne, about The Fat Tuscan Cafe and how it came to be. When I asked her what the coffee was, she hesitatingly expressed she was using
8 O'Clock beans and grinding them fresh. I replied, "8 O'Clock coffee is what I used to drink every morning in Chicago and properly prepared, there's nothing wrong with it." I mean it's not Civet or Jamaican Blue, but it's a damn fine cup of coffee.

A Foody Food Secret Revealed: Some of the sandwiches at The Wine and Cheese Gallery are made with bread from Publix Bakery. Properly warmed as they do, it's actually one of the best sandwich breads I've had in this town. So don't knock the
8 O'Clock.

My capable waiter can rest assured that when pushing the plunger down on a proper French Press, a slow steady hand produces better results than a quick downward thrust. That will solve the grounds in the bottom of my cup problem, and enrich the already terrific coffee even more.

In summary, I really love this place. I think it is within the bounds of belief to say that with some deep and passionate tweaking, it could be a top bistro in town which would attract folks from as far as
Ocala, Melrose, and who knows, maybe Orlando. That is why I spent more time on this review than any other; to illustrate MY passion that Gainesville can be a good place for great food. This restaurant is at a point where it is better than most of its kind. Will it become the best, or will it slowly dip to the usual Gainesville standard of mediocrity that many restaurants do here, and simply be "Good Enough for Gainesville"? Time will tell, and I will no doubt return.

Final Note: A lady who was dining at the table next to me said her sandwich was, "...really really good."

UPDATE NOV 3, 2009 - Had a great sandwich, a great cup of coffee, and a tasty, well cooked, but kind of boring penne pasta side. The chef she had a bad batch of olive oil, hence my experience. I tasted the new stuff and still found it bitter, but much much better. I was impressed they care about what customers have to say, and that's a high mark. See my review on their page here of my latest experience: Fresh, Quiet, Charming escape!

The Watch-Your-Back List (a.k.a. The Poop List)!

I'm putting 101 Restaurant Downtown on the Poop List with my latest lunch review of 4/20/09 which follows:

101 Restaurant Downtown Re Duex

In for lunch at 101 Restaurant Downtown to see why this horrible restaurant is still thriving in the middle of downtown Gainesville, Florida. It's a nice sophisticated looking place inside, with ornate marble-looking decor and a big round woven globe light hanging in the middle of the dining room.

Ordered a glass of $5 Merlot. Drinkable. Don'tt know what it was, and frankly, didn't care. I was waiting for something to impress me. My young waiter's enthusiasm was exponential. He told me about brunch, dinner, informed me that it "...turns into basically a night club at night." He must have read my earlier review because that's exactly what I indicated. I said they might have some success in that arena in that review. They have.

I Noticed the bartender had finally cut his hair. A step in the right direction, perhaps? Keep in mind this all occurs just after Phil Spector is found guilty of murder. And Phil Spector should have cut his hair for the trial . He might have gotten away with it.

The owner describes the place as an "International Fusion Restaurant." And what they've managed to do is to infuse a frat/sorority night club with a bad restaurant. I mean, let's be real. If I'm the only guy in there for lunch, other than staff, isn't that a tell? This is a place that values money as the highest priority. I feel absolutely no passion from their food. In fact, the owner -- after loudly professing during the lunch rush of how delicious olives are, but that they murder you on cholesterol -- sort of snarled at me as he walked by. Good! He should snarl, because I'm going to call the shot I see. No matter how well you dress, sir, olive oil will always reduce 'bad' cholesterol and increase 'good' cholesterol. Business-wise, I have to give him kudos. He's making bank on drinks and ignorant nightlife. Even I paid $21 dollars for a crappy lunch and a glass of so-so wine. If I may say, $21 fucking dollars for a meal I could cook far better with my dick.

Is the waiter enthusiastic because he's fooled too into thinking he's in one of the great Gainesville restaurants? Or is he so ashamed that he overcompensates with extra effort? I hope it's the latter and he finds a good place to go work soon. He was one of the pluses. By the way, my wine glass had spots; a clear violation of the rules set forth on this review page. But happily, I can report that the silverware, with which I ate less than half my meal, was polished and unique. I did notice also that the menu has hardly changed in over two years. So it's clear they're not in any way, seasonal.

The Food: I ordered the Chicken Florentine described on the menu thusly; Grilled Chicken with sauted mushrooms and spinach. Served with a side of pasta Alfredo Vermicelli." Wow! What an amazing international fusion! I have never heard of such a thing!

The Results: What arrived was a big square cold plate on which was a sort of deconstructed dish with all the ingredients mentioned above. A mound of Alfredo Vermicelli on which was place three (looked pan sauted to me) "grilled" tenderloin cutlets, lightly breaded. They were over-cooked to a regretable dryness, and certainly not tender. Couldn't you just drizzle a little olive oil over poor things? Oh yeah, I forgot. Heart attack city!

To the side, almost presented as a side, was the uninspired "Florentine." It was a saute of mushrooms and spinach that tasted like neither, for the overpowering flavor of a poor cooking wine permeated. I am going to further a guess that the spinach was blanched before cooking, thus reducing rather than concentrating the flavor. White button mushrooms don't have much of a flavor to them anyway. And because it was set to the side and cooked separately from the other ingredients, it was a tepid temperature in comparison to the chickan and pasta.

My first bite of the Vermicelli indicated that 1.) It was not freshly made, 2.) It was overcooked, and 3.) Stouffer's Chicken & Noodles is so much better on the Alfredo flavor.

What can I say? I came in with the lowest expectations and even those couldn't be met. I was right in my first review and I am right now. 101 is a good place to spend a lot of money and get drunk and possibly laid if you are in a fraternity or a sorority and you like DJs and late night socializing. If you'd like a good meal for a reasonable price where the food compares, try the frozen department at Winn Dixie. Thumbs up or thumbs down? Both thumbs up my ass.

Final Note: All the reviews on this restaurant online are 4 and 5 star reviews. All of them! I find that very suspicious.

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