Gainesville, Florida is famous for its University of Florida, but it’s also filled with museums like the Museum of Natural History with its amazing Butterfly Rainforest, Harn Museum of Art, and Matheson History Museum all part of the college campus and free except for special exhibits.
The university also is home to the UF Bat Houses, where between 450,000 and 500,000 bats emerge every evening just after sunset and consume up to 2.5 billion insects during their nightly hunt.
There’s two state parks, Dudley Farm Historic State Park, and Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park. Kanapaha Botanical Garden showcases Florida’s native flora and Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation showcases exotic animals. Of course, there is no shortage of great restaurants. Here are a few of my favorites.
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The 9 Best Restaurants in Gainesville FL
1800 NE 23rd Ave Gainesville, FL 32609 // +13523357272
Satchel’s Pizza where you dine amid an old hippie style setting, complete with a 1960’s hippie van, on made-to-order pizza and their own homemade colas. You can eat your pizza in the van or under the old airplane perched over the back outdoor seating area and gift shop. Satchels is a Gainesville icon. It’s unique pizza is a legend. Its owner, Satchel Raye, is a story in himself.
He began working at a Jacksonville Pizza restaurant when he was 16. In his spare time, he was a graffiti artist spray can painting around town. In 1986, he attended University of Florida in Gainesville. He bounced back and forth a bit between working at pizza parlors and attending UF.
At times he was homeless and living in his van. He attended Atlanta College of Art. After all, cooking is a form of art so he was in similar niches all the time.
By the time he married and had a child, he realized he needed his own restaurant. Since he had inherited his grandmother’s house in Gainesville, he had enough collateral to bankroll buying an old pizza place on NE 23rd Avenue, bought the equipment, rented the space and Satchel’s pizza restaurant in Gainesville began.
Then, in the back half of the building, there was an auto detailing shop called Lightnin’ Salvage. As Satchel’s prospered, he bought that and converted it to outdoor seating, a gift shop and place for weekend entertainment. His artist side kicked in and he filled the entire place with folk art.
Strung together soft drink caps, hub caps, beautiful stained glass, tables with the tops made of old cell phone covers, even plastic fruit baskets, and a random parking meter. And then there’s the airplane he somehow has parked on top of the gift shop. Satchels had some fires over the years but it’s still that same iconic spot.
His pizzas are a work of art with crisp crust and a choice of over 30 toppings. You can even have it by the slice with your choice of toppings. Satchel brags that his pizzas are “Not charred but crispy. You can hold up a 16-inch pizza, and it’s stiff.”
You can add one of his salads to get your veggie fix with red and green mixed lettuce, apples, carrots, cucumbers, diced tomatoes, sunflower seeds, almonds, and a walnut or pecan. It’s topped with Romano cheese and the house vinaigrette.
His handmade sodas are a work of art. I had his Lola Cola, and it was much better than the average fountain coke. There are five flavors of cola.
You can have a calzone if you want. Desserts are a big temptation. Our server brought us a printed menu and a little 3D Viewer where we saw the Key lime pie slice, caramel apple cheesecake and cannoli. Whoa! I wasn’t hungry after that big pizza slice, but cannoli? No way could I resist that. Make it chocolate and that’s even more irresistible.
110 SE 1st Street, Unit A Gainesville, FL 32601 // +19048247765
If you are looking for excellent dining with a touch of Louisiana, Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille, housed in Gainesville’s historic old Opera House, is the place for you.
The three story red-brick building is filled with history as well as great food. Gainesville, Florida, was a flourishing tourist mecca in the early 1880s. In 1887, local J. Simonson built a new two-story brick building to replace the old opera house, Roper Hall. J. Simonson’s Opera House occupied the second floor of the new building while the first floor housed a saloon and cigar shop. Simonson later sold the property to J.F.
Edwards and it became known as the Edwards Opera House. In 1906 it sold again and became the New Baird Theater. Mr. Baird added the present third floor as a balcony for his theater. It staged operas and later vaudeville and movies.
The old theater couldn’t compete with new movie palaces being built like the Florida Theater just a few blocks away that opened on September 10, 1928. It was able to show sound movies.
Baird Theater closed around 1929. Various other businesses came and went over the years until Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille bought it in 1994. Today there are a few touches of the old building’s history still remained, like the “Cox’s” embedded on the entryway flooring. Outside, a plaque tells that it is placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
There’s nothing old about the food. It’s fresh and delicious. You can start with traditional Louisiana Boudin Balls made with Cajun sausage, rice and creole seasonings. Deep fried and served with house-made Remoulade.
You could try Harry’s Original Gumbo with shrimp, crabmeat, fish, smoked sausage, and crawfish, one of my favorites. Or if you’re really hungry have a Shrimp Po’boy.
Their French bread is as close as you come to New Orleans bread anywhere else. It’s filled with fried shrimp topped with lettuce, tomato, and pickle. It’s served with your choice of a side dish. I always choose the Red beans and Rice.
Since it was close to Mardi Gras, I had the Banana’s Foster for dessert. It’s not quite the Broussard’s recipe flamed at my table, but still delicious, with sliced bananas sautéed in dark rum and banana liqueur, poured over vanilla ice cream. This is definitely one of the best restaurants in Gainesville.
5141 NW 43rd Street, Suite 101 Gainesville, FL 32606 // +13523714848
Cedar River Seafood serves up delicious seafood many with old family recipes. All dinner entrees are served with hush puppies and a choice of two sides. There are lots of choices, mainly seafood, but a few others. You can get the Alfredo with chicken.
The Cedar River Trio is a good choice and enough for two unless you are really hungry. You have a choice of three items from shrimp, deviled crab, fish fillet, clam strips, or chicken tenders, plus two sides. I
f you’re feeling swampy, there are frog legs and gator tails. My choice this time was the two stuffed shells of Blue Crab from an old family recipe.
4th Ave Food Park complete with an outdoor biergarten is where you find the next seven. The biergarten has entertainment most weekends.
Fehrenbacher’s Artisan Sausages serving up something different every day. All are Old World classics combined with some new twists. Even the hot dogs are special, and they make their own sausage right in front of you. Owner, Adam Fehrenbacher, is a world class chef. He has cooked in Paris, London, Vienna, and Munich but returned to Gainesville to open a combination deli, butcher shop, and retail store.
I stepped inside and faced a small counter, but what was going on behind that counter was amazing. About 15 different sausages and meats were displayed in a refrigerated glass enclosed case.
One man was making sausage at a meat grinder. He fed in the meat and filled the sausage skin, tying it off at intervals to make serving sizes. There was an assortment of spices used to flavor the different types of sausage, ranging from Bavarian bratwurst, ginger and sage sausage, sweet and spicy Italian, Andouille, and so much more.
The deli menu changes daily and has a broad range from some of the sausages, to a charcutier board to vegan or gluten-free choices.
I chose a double hot dog with homemade chili topped with cheese and fresh peppers. I enjoyed it out back in the biergarten.
317 SW 4th Ave Gainesville, Fl 32601 // +13525626126
Sublime Tacos offers fresh Mexican food with a twist. Choices range from tacos, burritos, and quesadillas. Drinks are sodas, beer, water, or juices. The décor is peaceful, with a glass wall in front and hanging plants all over. You can eat inside or out.
A taco salad with beef and filled with lettuce, tomatoes, onions and topped with sour cream on a soft flour tortilla was filling. Add golden nachos and two cheese choices and it is a touch of old Mexico in the biergarten out back.
405 SW 4th Ave Gainesville, FL 32601 // +13525544484
Satch Squared serves up square Detroit-style pizza. It’s sort of a stepbrother to Satchel’s Pizza. Satchel’s owner, Satchel Raye, had heard a lot about Detroit pizza. In 2019, he took a trip to Detroit and loved the juicy square pizza. By 2020, he teamed up with Satchel’s former day manager, Mark, and they opened Sach Squared.
Since Satchel had a favorite waffle recipe, he often used as a treat for guests, and after all waffles are square too, he added his amazing waffle recipe from the Fanny Farmer cookbook to the Sach Squared menu. Since it opened in 2020 and is still going strong, the mix must have worked.
Since Satchel always made waffles on the classic Sunbeam CG-1 waffle iron, I wasn’t surprised to find an old waffle iron mixed in the folk art and garden combination in front of Sach Squared.
407 SW 4th Avenue Gainesville, Florida 32601 // +13525147372
BakerBaker is like the old-time neighborhood bakery. Amanda Bowers got her start when she was in the Navy stationed in Italy. She learned from cookbooks and got a lot of tips from her Italian friends, so many of her desserts taste like European rather than American ones. Items change often and include donuts, cookies, pastries, and bread.
307 SW 4th Ave Gainesville, Florida 32601 // +13526471613
Humblewood Fire Bagels carries baking a little farther. You get hand rolled organic bagels with a variety of spreads or a bagel or English muffin sandwich.
The choices are almost limitless ranging from simple single bagel made with organic flour to Mushroom Muffaletta Melt with olive cream cheese, olive tapenade, sautéed criminis, shiitake “bacon,” and arugula topped with Swiss cheese and served open face or Nova Lox with house made cold smoked and beet cured nova lox, pickled red onion, capers, cucumber, and local sprouts served open face on a toasted bagel with your choice of cream cheese.
They serve beer from the local First Magnitude Brewery or your choice of fruit juices. Definitely one of the top restaurants in Gainesville.
Opus 1976 Airstream is the brainchild of brothers Tim and Bret Larson. It’s parked under a covered pavilion at the Food Park where you have a large selection of coffees or teas, both hot or cold.
There’s the Mayan Mocha, created with a generous serving of Mexican chili chocolate or the Oh Canada, which features Canadian maple syrup. Want to go cold?
Try their Costa Rican Cooler made with nitro cold brew, grenadine, lime, sparkling water, and maraschino cherry, or The Panama Go with nitro cold brew, lemonade, cherry, and a slice of pineapple. There are also a lot of different teas ranging from black, green, and yellow. Not your typical restaurant in Gainesville, but still worth visiting.
Best Restaurants In Gainesville FL
In conclusion, Gainesville, Florida boasts a diverse and vibrant culinary scene that caters to a variety of tastes and preferences. From mouth-watering barbecue to authentic international cuisine, the city’s best restaurants provide a memorable dining experience for both locals and visitors.
By blending fresh, locally-sourced ingredients with unique culinary techniques and innovative presentation, these establishments have solidified their reputation as top dining destinations in the area.
Whether you’re in the mood for Southern comfort food, vegan fare, or exotic flavors, the best restaurants in Gainesville offer something for everyone. So the next time you find yourself in this charming city, be sure to explore its culinary gems and indulge in a gastronomic adventure that will leave you craving more.
Visiting other destinations in Florida? Check out our other guides:
- 9 Must-Try Marco Island Restaurants
- 13 Fun Things To Do In San Marco Island
- The 9 Best Amelia Island Restaurants
- 13 Best Disney Springs Restaurants
- 7 Best Kissimmee Restaurants
- 7 Must-Try Clearwater Florida Restaurants
- 6 Must-Try Indian Rocks Beach Restaurants
- 6 Best Ft. Myers Beach Restaurants
- The 8 Best Downtown Ft. Myers Restaurants
I’m Kathleen Walls, former reporter for Union Sentinel in Blairsville, GA, currently publisher/writer for American Roads and Global Highways. I live in Middleburg, FL but travel extensively, mainly in the U.S. I’m the author of travel books, Georgia’s Ghostly Getaways, Finding Florida’s Phantoms, Hosts With Ghosts, and Wild About Florida series, and several novels. All available at my site, katywalls.com/.
Publications I write for include Travel the South, Roadtrippers, Travel Awaits, World Footprints, Snowbirds and RV Travelers, Family RVing, Deep South, Florida Country, and more. My photographs appear in many publications. I also do videos. I’m a proud member of International Food, Wine, and Travel Writers (IFWTA), Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), and North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA).