As home to the University of Florida, Gainesville is one of the state’s largest college towns that hosts over 50,000 students. And, what is one thing college students don’t do very well? Cook. As a result, there are tons of options for dining out in town. Cafes, Italian, Mexican, sports bars, and the all-hailed late-night pizza — Gainesville has it all. Here is a guide for the best restaurants in Gainesville.
Coffee and Breakfast
Curia on the Drag
Curia on the Drag is the token chic coffee joint you will find in most university towns, but this place has a bit more flair. First off, it’s situated on 2.5 acres of property, so boasts far more than your run-of-the-mill coffee bar. The whole setting is very intimate and relaxed, and you can find everything from coffee to tea, cider, beer, wine, baked goods, and desserts. There’s also a Curia Food Truck that offers plant-based and gluten-free options. There are even in-house art galleries and artist studios where you can host private events.
The vibe at Volta may come off to newcomers as a slightly exclusive, but that shouldn’t be confused with people just trying to make delicious coffee. The standards for coffee here are extremely high, and you can taste it with every sip. The staff is known to be super friendly and knowledgeable about every type of coffee they brew, so it’s as much of a relaxing sit-back-and-sip experience as an educational one. You should also consider making a trip to the coffee capital of the country with Where to Drink the Best Coffee in Seattle.
43rd Street Deli
There’s something heart-warming about no-frills breakfast diners. The food is delicious, the portions are large, the prices are reasonable, and the service is on point. All those things are true at the 43rd Street Deli. Menu items like the “Buster”, the “Big Boy Breakfast”, or the “One Heck of a Mess” are all worth diving into. They have two convenient locations in Gainesville and they offer catering services as well.
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Best Asian Cuisine
Dragonfly Modern Izakaya & Sushi
Located right in the heart of downtown Gainesville, Dragonfly is by far the best sushi restaurant in town. It has a kind of New York industrial-style loft concept, and the food is absolutely delicious. Much of the menu comes served as tapas style, so be prepared to share! Dragonfly is perfectly suitable for date night or a night out on the town with friends. Here are the Top 5 Cities for Asian Food to inspire you a bit more.
For quicker and more affordable Chinese food, opt for Yummy House. Even frugal college students know that with Yummy House nearby, it’s all too easy to bypass the on-campus Panda Express. Visit for lunch for the honey glazed pork buns, steamed dumplings, or fried taro cakes. Variety reigns supreme here, so dive into the dim sum menu and order an array of small plates and large plates to share.
A good handful of cities around the country are capitalizing on the ramen craze, and Gainesville is certainly one of them. If you haven’t made a heaping bowl of ramen one of your go-to dinner options, Crane will change your mind after one visit. The restaurant focuses on serving local ingredients that have been cooked slowly but served quickly. The hip modern dining room makes guests feel like Gainesville — or “the swamp” as it’s known locally — is one of the United States’ important culinary hubs.
Best Italian and Pizza
Manuel’s Vintage Room
Small and unassuming in the heart of downtown Gainesville is Manuel’s Vintage Room. The ambiance is exactly what you’re looking for in a traditional, hometown Italian spot. The food is superb with items like the Vintage Duck, Veal Porcini, and housemade Gnocci. Also, for all you budding sommeliers out there, Manuel’s offers a list of over 150 wines. This makes for a great date spot if you’re looking for something traditional.
Leonardo’s brings a little bit of New York down to the swamps of Florida. Pizza by the slice will always be a novel concept no matter where you are. $5 for a piece the size of your face and a drink is an excellent deal, so make your way over to Leonardo’s if you’re on a budget or just craving delicious thin-crust pizza.
Satchel’s is an absolute staple of Gainesville that is very deserving of a visit. The deep dish pizzas here are lauded by sloshed college students and proper old folks alike. Although the wait times can be quite long, there’s an array of seating and chilling areas that actually warrants a map. Grab a map and head to the two kids areas, the bocce ball court, the music lounge, the picnic area, and even the tree house while you wait for your pie to cook. Satchel’s is a cash-only spot that also hosts events like live music and stand-up comedy.
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Embers Wood Grill
Embers is Gainesville’s industry standard for upscale dining. At its core, it’s a steakhouse with all the components that make for a perfect fine dining experience. It’s a place where savory cuts of meat are paired with swanky lounges and ivy-laden outdoor patios. Visit to celebrate something special or just to treat yourself — no harm in that.
Best Sports Bar
The Swamp Restaurant
Located directly across from the University of Florida campus, the Swamp Restaurant is the go-to spot for Gator fans. Head here on gameday to get a true taste for the town’s sports spirit. The restaurant sits in a building once built as a professor’s house in 1914, and so today it’s fully equipped with a front lawn and lots of old-timey Florida feel. The menu has all your American gameday specialties like burgers, sandwiches, wings, soups, and salads.
Best Mexican Food
Florida certainly has its fair share of Tex Mex options, and Gainesville is no exception. La Tienda is a great option that’s pretty authentic and leans more towards the Mex than the Tex. Order any of the classics like carnitas burritos, al pastor tacos, and lots of seafood options. Pro tip: the sopa de pollo is an excellent item for curing a hangover and it comes with sliced avocados. Mexican food has truly taken over the world, so you owe it to yourself to discover the Best Mexican Food (Outside of Mexico).