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Sweet Tea: CLOSED: 2018

Cafe is a breath of culinary fresh air

By Melissa Kahan, GLOB Correspondent

STstorefrontIt is so refreshing to have the light of the day caress your cheek through a neighboring window while colorful décor, simple furniture and cutlery create a non-cluttered, inviting dining setting.

Among many big-box, chain establishments, that simplicity is lost or shrouded by artificial lighting and tables squished together in an effort to maximize dining capacity and in the pages and pages of large portioned-meals. The Sweet Tea literally allowed me to take in a breath of fresh air. It may be slightly east of Main St. past downtown Gainesville on University Avenue, but the instantaneous feeling of separation from chaos that accompanies the arrival makes the Sweet Tea at Sweetwater Branch Inn reason enough to venture over, 'to the other side of Main St.'

Upon arrival at the inn, I was slightly confused in finding an adequate parking area, let alone exactly where the restaurant was itself, as I had never been prior. Pro tip: Parking in the back forces you to walk through the grounds of the sweetest picturesque inn around, with its outdoor gazebos and various quaint cottages scattered across the lawn. The restaurant, although it had a sign on the front lawn, was located in the Historicly preserved McKenzie House,



so I was slightly deterred. However, once inside, streams of light flood in from the windows and to the left you are greeted with a living room-size dining space with multiple sizes of wooden dining tables and decor. Colorful decorations hung all around adjacent tables, which due to the small space was a tad too close together for a too-private conversation. Nonetheless, I felt like I was about to join a tea party in the old South.



I met with GLOB Publisher Mike at lunch time on a Monday, as The Sweet Tea is only open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The narrow, two-sided menu had just enough variation to give multiple healthier, as well as more indulgent, choices, while keeping its southern flair in an attempt to keep the theme of the atmosphere. I felt it would be almost an insult not to order some sweet tea, but the special that day was a berry hibiscus tea, and I was not one to pass that up. However, much like Southern Charm Kitchen's hibiscus tea, it was a tad too sweet and syrupy on its own, so a half hibiscus, half unsweetened tea combo made for the perfect summertime treat.

Mike and I already know the drill: Order two entrees to share; maximizing every meal experience is what we are all about! As this was lunch, the delicious-sounding heavier entrees, namely the 'Oops! I Dropped the Chicken Pot Pie' and the 'Cracker Crumb Fried Chicken,' didn't sound quite as viable unless a post food coma could be managed. Apparently, the 'Sweet Tea's Fried Shrimp' is only available on Thursdays and Fridays, but is worth the trek, as this take on butterflied fried prawn is a unique rendition on a southern favorite, shrimp and grits.

Immediately, my eyes fell on the Grilled Watermelon Salad, image at the top of this reviw, which Nicole, our customer friendly server, mentioned was big enough to share in the small size, $7. A few rectangular-shaped blocks of watermelon with the charred look, although somewhat unremarkable, provided a fresh yet slightly smoky contrast to sweet vinaigrette over a bed of greens. The candied pecans and goat cheese were welcome additions, although I wish there was a more generous helping of each. The pickled onions and cucumbers were a nice, flavor-packed touch. The most unique aspect of the salad was using cubes of cornbread as a crouton of sorts. Unfortunately, it was so crumbly I barely got to each one piece before it fell apart. Note: I do hold cornbread to high standards, but this was lacking. It was a nice salad, but didn't blow me away as the description suggested it might.


At a Southern establishment, something fried also had to make its way to the table. This underdog of a meal choice ended up being this lunch hour's true winner: the Southern Catfish Po'Boy, $10. I will preface this by mentioning that I am very aware that this was not a true po'boy, which is all in the bread. A crustier French bread is the norm for this New Orleans-based staple, but The Sweet Tea's rendition used two thick slabs of Texas toast to hold in the fillings. In this case, I am so glad they did: The buttery, crunchy bread was almost addicting in combination with the slaw coated in Cajun pecan mayo and the fresh crisp of the pickles. The candied jalapenos made enough of a presence to pack a slight punch, but I was most impressed with how well it all meshed with the fried catfish. I am just as glad that Mike and I split this meal, as one half was a ton of bread...sweet, delicious bread. The side of mac and cheese, $2, came highly recommended, too, so a little teacup side of very cheesy bowtie mac and cheese with a spicy kick was an ideal companion to this heartier dish.



I steered Mike away from the desserts of the day due to being full to the brim, but I have to say that chocolate fudge pie and peach tart sound extremely mouth-watering, especially with a dollop of Bourbon whipped topping. They are so seasonal that they are not included on the menu, so be sure to ask before ordering your meal so you know if you should save room!  There is a complete The Sweet Tea menu at the restaurant link brlow this review.



Not only will the relaxing, homey environment away from Gainesville's typical manic hustle and bustle at lunch time entice a return trip to The Sweet Tea, but I have got to try the warm — yes, warm — strawberry salad with candied pecans and a hot bacon vinaigrette. Also, I am too curious as to whether the fried chicken there can rival my Gainesville favorite at Southern Charm Kitchen.

The best comment of the lunch was when Mike proclaimed, after commenting on the frilly, doily-esque place mats, "Now you see why I wouldn't invite a table of my guy buddies to join me here."



The pluses and minuses of The Sweet Tea:

The Sweet Tea (+) indicators: Friendly, informed service; Sweet space; Comforting environment; Nice menu variety; Southern flair with a twist; Outside the crazy congested areas of town; Good value for portion size and quality

The Sweet Tea (-) indicators: One server so not ideal for large groups; Limited hours open only during the week

Be the first to offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about The Sweet Tea. Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments. - THANKS!


Public & General

Neighborhood pub works for everybody

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

You know how some lunch stops just have that special look?

zzGLOBbullet Root & Pecker quickly has me seeing myself sitting on a grand veranda waiting for a picnic lunch.

zzGLOBbullet CHOPSpatioFormaggio's Bistro & Wine Bar has me on a beautiful patio with the sense of enjoying a very civilized lunch complete with tea and English cookies and eyeing crisp salads and a variety of scrumptious, petite, French bread sandwiches.

zzGLOBbullet Crane Ramen has me off to the Big Apple and downtown Manhattan N.Y. with my very own spot at a hip lunch spot happily discussing the finer attributes of bone broth compared with vegan broth.


PGstorefrontNortheast Gainesville's Public & General breaks all the imagination rules as I go through the wood and glass double doors into a new lunchtime experience. Upon entering P&G I am dreamily sent to a far away planet not very far in the future.

There are no aliens or jazz bands in this Eastside pub and grill, however it wouldn't surprise me to see Jar Jar Binks rounding the corner to belly up to the bar.

050317PGmenuBRDThat's what Public & General is all about GLOBers. It's a brew house, local diner, meet-up place with a Tuesday night burger special night and some really interesting lunch entrees from pork and brisket sandwiches to some very good chicken wings – 8 for $9.

And here I was. The GLOB Master. Standing smack dab in the middle of a lunchtime daydream.

The Public & General menu that is available at the restaurant link below is a handy reference to start this noon-day mealtime odyssey. Special lunch items are hand written in categories on the wall near the ordering counter. The Daily Specials may overwhelm your decision making power as you scan down the list of amazing food descriptions.

Captain Dirk and I decided to tag-team lunch and share our entrees with Lynn choosing the large Kale and Chard ($9) (image at top). This salad included beets and feta and was fantastic.



I selected the Chicken Wings, which consists of 8 wings with only 1 sauce – Dijon Buffalo sauce ($9). Eight is just the right number for me because it always seems when I get the 10-wings order, I have two left over on my plate. Also, those 8 wings were plump, very flavorful, and cooked perfectly.



What the kale, GLOBers! The Kale and Chard Salad was the high noon lunch star. This was my first experience with kale as a main salad ingredient and I found the crisp, curly, crunchy chard, beets, radishes, feta cheese and cilantro vinaigrette dressing a delightful surprise. The textures of the salad elements made for thoughtful chewing as I tried to account for the veggie flavors. The cilantro dressing and feta cheese wowed my taste buds!

I have been to P&G before and always enjoy the food, and once again, it lived up to my fantastical expectations on this lunch visit. The only thing that would have made lunch better was if Ry Cooder was singing UFO Has Landed in the Ghetto in the background.

The Pluses and Minuses of Public & General:

Public & General + indicators: Amazing daily menu choices; friendly staff; very nice tree-covered outdoor patio.

Public & General - indicators: The low-light atmosphere.



NE 'General Store' serves unique lunch

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

If you are looking for a different kind of lunch time experience Public and General at 1000 NE 16th Ave Bldg H in northeast Gainesville is a lunch stop worth your consideration. Open since September, this is a building, business sporting several unique characteristics. According to the P&G website:

"Public and General is a reference to a public house (a bar) and general store (a flashback to convenience stores of past). The eatery will offer a high-quality, house-prepared lunch and dinner along with local and international grocery items, a charcuterie and cheese counter, and a unique wine and beer selection."

Ya think it was some kind of synchronicity that I discovered that New York Times story on chartreuse as the supreme lunch or dinner entrée.

In a friendlier than usual, fast casual approach, a Public and General lunch starts with ordering your lunch at the counter that immediately greets you as you enter this unique neighborhood island of communal gathering.



Also, as you walk into Public and General, you will quickly recognize the "convenience" idea of the building with deli-like cases of cheeses, cured meats, and a varied selection of wines, craft beers, and sodas. This can all be experienced while waiting to place your lunch order.


Walking into the separate dining and bar area adjacent to the general store area is a very nice, wide, natural wood bar allowing for comfortable, friendly conversation I imagine much like it was done in the neighborhood pubs of old.

Also, a door on the far side of the dining area opens up to an outdoor patio dining area, and P&G has a acquired a fan club of local patrons who enjoy the idea of outdoor eating and letting their children enjoy themselves playing under their feet as well as at the play area in one corner of the patio while you enjoy lunch.



It was refreshing to see a menu with a smaller list than usual in an uncluttered format and detailing interesting lunch time entrees that are standard daily choices. The lunch options consist of sandwiches, including brisket, a BBQ Mushroom, and a very good hamburger. There are always three salads available, including a Roasted Cabbage Salad with sautéed breadcrumbs, anchovies, and Parmesan buttermilk dressing that deserves your consideration. Fried beets with horseradish mayo for $6 and fried turnips with honey herb vinegar highlight a list of side orders that are big enough to share. There is a complete Public and General menu at the link below.

While the limited menu of standard options is smart and easy to peruse, kudos to the P&G staff for also including daily specials that will surprise and please many lunch outers. You can check out their FaceBook page for several images of prior menu boards that include things like bucatini with Brussels, bacon, butternut squash, arugula, and parsley and the popular DiMarco Classico with Italian loose meats, spinach and provolone for $10.

I recently had lunch with the GLOB's Content Editor Lynn Dirk and the three taco special caught my eye with 'double wrapped' soft shell corn tacos of pork, chicken, and a surprisingly tasty bacon, egg, and cheese and onion taco that was delicious with a complementary dollop of hot sauce. The house cut fries with a side of house mayo were very flavorful. I'm OK with fries not being cooked to a deep crunch. My friend Jules Gollner would have sent these fries back to be "extra well done."



Captain Dirk has become a big fan of Public and General and adds the following: "The food has been fantastic every time. Turnips and beets? I'm sold. The soft tacos, which are mainly available on Sundays I think, just might be the best town. Had one of the pasta dishes and it was delectable. The outdoor patio is perfect with lots of trees around. This is now one of my favorite lunch spots."

There are a lot of yummy good reasons to make a few more trips to this friendly, pub-like lunch stop. I am going back just to check out the menu board for lunch time surprises.

The Pluses and Minuses of Public & General:

Public & General + indicators: Friendly atmosphere, a neighborhood sense of comfort. Interesting, unique entrees. I could sit at the P&G bar for a considerable amount of time. FYI: Saturday night is Bingo night.

Public & General - indicators: Unique 'family pub' experience could be disconcerting to some GLOBers.

Be the first to offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about Public & General. Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a NEGATIVES SIGN (-) for critical comments.


Pop A Top

The Pluses and Minuses of Pop A Top:

Pop A Top (+) indicators:

Pop A Top (-) indicators:

Be the first to offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about Pop A Top.  Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments.  - THANKS!


Omi's Playa Azul: CLOSED, March,2019

'Miami Latin' flavors at Playa Azul

By Melissa Kahan, GLOB Correspondent

OMISsunCENTERsfOmi's Playa Azul restaurant started as Omi's Kitchen and Elegant Catering before moving across Hogtown, from the Tower Square Shopping Center to the Sun Center -- in the daily hustle and bustle of downtown.

Except Omi's is unlike any other downtown dining establishment; in fact, it is unlike anywhere else in Gainesville. This is about as close to the Latin cuisine Miami-natives and anyone else with a love of authentic Latin food are accustomed to.

Omi Risco herself not only oversees the restaurant, but caters multiple events each week with her "Elegant Catering" service, which has always consisted of an ethnic-fusion menu.

My first trip recently to the small space with covered plaza seating and a very nice bar area with a few large TVs followed very belatedly after the initial opening on Labor Day weekend. Nevertheless, the menu, staff, and service were still in fluctuation. I was even presented with a temporary menu, which didn't have all of the same items as a previous one they had used, so it seemed that the restaurant was using the 6 months since opening to experiment with which Cuban, Mexican and Latin flavors/dishes worked — and sold — the best.

I did appreciate each dish being presented in its original language with an explanation in English beside it, which added authenticity.

Originally I had my heart set on ordering the Tabla Campecina, $12, an ethnic plate of chorizo, serrano ham, and manchego cheese.  As if that didn't sound tantalizing enough, the addition of olives, tomato, and garlic spread sent it over the edge. However, the kitchen was apparently out of chorizo. Luckily, this menu item will be on the new menu and in my next order.



The two appetizers I ordered are on the current menu and will also be on the new menu, which the restaurant manager allowed us see. The first appetizer, Berenjenas Fritas, $7, was four very sizeable, fried eggplant slices presented on a beautiful dish that was also a slice -- a slice from a log. The eggplant was well-breaded, and cheese sauce, the beset part, was spread generously  on top. Tostones, $7 (fried plantains) were ordinary, but perhaps I am not a fan. The spicy mojo dip that accompanied them was tasty, though.

One thing the new menu will have the current one didn't that I want to try is the Pulpo a la Gallega, steamed octopus. Although the Ropa Vieja looked tempting and I had heard great things about this slow cooked beef brisket dish in a red wine sauce, the restaurant manager claimed the paella was a newer addition and a must-try addition. The Paella Mixta (image at top) $25, was the option available, but the new menu will have three renditions of the classic Spanish dish.


As the name implies, it was certainly a mix of ingredients: Chorizo is also usually in the dish, but as mentioned, Omi's was out of chorizo this visit. Nevertheless, dark meat chicken was thrown into this hearty rice dish alongside shrimp, scallops, mussels, squid, and clams. It was enough to split between two people, and all the flavors melded together as if it had been cooking for some time. I am not a fan of dark meat chicken, but the seafood was prepared well.

The most memorable aspect of the meal besides delicious white wine the manager selected was the flan. If previous reviews haven't revealed yet, I have a second stomach and a sweet spot in my heart for dessert any time of the day. This was a great sweet custard dessert: Omi's rendition is soft and very sweet; the creamy texture is offset by strawberries and blackberries, which also provided an enjoyable tart contrast. This was the one plate of the night I completely cleaned.


While there are certainly some kinks to work out, Omi's has her hands full with a well-established catering service and a restaurant that is gaining in popularity. Certain nights you can catch some live jazz music (previously on Friday night but switched to Thursday), and different specials pop up sporadically. Your best bet to keep up with Omi's happenings and which dishes are on the menu is via Facebook. I found it interesting that the lunch dishes on the kitchen menu were listed separately as American, Cuban, and Mexican.

I am looking forward to ordering from the new menu, as there will be both a salmon appetizer and entrée and an octopus dish. I can appreciate that presentation was a key factor in the meal experience, a component that I feel is essential to food's appeal to the senses. Although I will certainly return to Omi's Playa Azul, this meal didn't blow me away. However, the manager claimed they make the best mojitos in town, so I may need to put that to the test next time.

The Pluses and Minuses of Omi's Playa Azul:

Omi's Playa Azul (+) Indicators: Owner well-established, good quality ingredients, pretty good value for quantity of food, friendly manager/staff

Omi's Playa Azul (-) Indicators: Downtown parking, out of some items, still have kinks to work out, inconsistent menu

Be the first to offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about Omi's Playa Azul. Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments. - THANKS!


Art & About: RUR Rossum’s Universal Robots

RUR Robots challenge man's authority

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

In Karel Čapek's, RUR Rossum's Universal Robots now in its last week of production at the Acrosstown Repertory Theater, there is a variation on a theme. The example could have been the famous story of John Henry taking on the steam-driven railroad pile-driving machine. Or better yet, what about The Terminator movies where the all-powerful terminator runs roughshod over all of us.

080415KapekČapek's play gave birth to the term robot and is about robots winning a chance at world domination. The play might not have the sexiness of a steel-driving man or the awesomeness of a glazed stare from a giant among men like Arnold Schwarzenegger, however the setting of the play, an island where robots were being manufactured daily, was about to undergo a world-changing emanicipation.

Written in 1920 by a Czech playwright, Rossum's Universal Robots or R.U.R examines the dark side of what could go wrong if robots do all the work, and humans are completely free to pursue other things "such as perfecting themselves rather than toiling long days just for bread." This sounds good in theory but of course, the deeper sentiments behind this play are a statement about society, humanity, genetic engineering, industrial efficiency, and even governments and war.

Enter Helen Glory – played by Heather Uuk – sent by the Humanity League on a mission to gain better living conditions for the robots. Helena knows that when the robots begin to act strangely, as they sometimes do, they are destroyed and their parts are used to make new robots, but she is dismayed to find that the robots she meets and talks with in the factory do not care whether they are killed or are starved. They think of nothing but their work.

It was somewhat unclear but it appeared Rossum Factory Manager Harry Domin - played by Loic Robertson - must have slipped a little robot juice in Helena's drink because, just like that, all of a sudden we are swept ten years into the future with the robots uprising to get their revenge and take over island and rule mankind and the world.

A Diabolical Helena is still on the island with the appearance of just another obedient machine, er, uh, woman. But not so quick -- Radius - played by Hunter Finley -,  a robot that has challenged the island's robot masses to take over the island to finally claim what is rightfully theirs. Helena buys into the robots plans and conspires to help overturn the fundamental manufacturing processes to free the robots.

Phew, it took a while for me to write that synopsis. It took even longer for RUR's plot line to work toward an ah-ha moment for me.

080615RURposterA bare bones set of chairs and small stage implies the play is set in the tallest tower of the island headquarters of Rossum's Universal Robots. Director – Gabriel Hughes-Trinity -- was left with literally nothing but dialog to convey the plight of the humans in this man vs. machine allegory. It was a tough assignment with few plot points and most of them appeared after the intermission.

RUR General Manager Harry Domin was presented as a confident, self-assured administrator driving his corporation toward world supremacy only to have his dreamr destroyed by his own greed and ambition.

All the stereotypical personas of success, wealth, power, and dominations were clearly demonstrated in the other characters of RUR from the bean-counting accountant Consul Busman – played by Mandalyn Fugate – who was unconcerned with the end of the world as she knew it because she had a plan to escape the island, to 'mad scientist' Dr Gall – played by Chuck Lipsig -- Rossum's resident 'psychologist' who understood the needs of the robots that conflicted with all of his human ideals and upbringing.

The ending of RUR is a reconciliation of all the rights and wrongs delivered by several longer than necessary soliloquies

Kudos to Heather Uuk for allowing her female protagonists to keep this play moving forward. Helena was the character with the play's life-changing action. Sure her motives might have been diabolical, and of course I was pulling for Helena to win the man-against-machine battle that was the main plot. But I did like the irony of not really knowing which side she was on until she sets fire to the basic tenets of good, bad, right, wrong, man, or machine otherwise known as the RUR Robot Recipe.

Thom Dunn's review at synopsizes RUR much better than I: "The central philosophical idea of the play is whether or not these 'robots' are in fact less than human, simply because they were born (or created) under different circumstances. This of course remains a popular theme in more recent stories involving robotics. But in the case of RUR, the question seems to be less about artificial intelligence and more about issues of class."

RUR Rossum's Universal Robots continues at the Acrosstown Repertory Theater with shows through August 9. FOLLOW THIS LINK for more show information.



Weekend Events, July 31, 2015


10am-4pm: Marmalade Cooking Demonstration on Wood Stove, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park. A demonstration of woodstove cooking of marmalade made from oranges grown at the historic park using Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' recipe from "Cross Creek Cookery." This event brings alive Rawlings' kitchen for the last time before the house is closed from August to September for its annual restoration. ALSO: House tours will begin on the hour at 10AM, 11AM, 1PM, 2PM, 3PM and 4PM. The kitchen cooking demonstration will be a portion of that tour.

6-9 pm: Local Arts & Crafts Show, next to the Hippodrome Theater. Showcasing the artistic expressions of the many creative persons in our community. Pop up musical performances as well.


6:30 pm: A LEGO Brickumentary - Opening Night, Hipp Cinema, various days, times. LEGO bricks aren't just for kids, and some take them very seriously. Adult Fans of LEGO around the globe are unashamedly declaring their love of the brick; brick artists are creating stunning and surprising creations; and LEGO master builders are building human scale and larger structures. FOLLOW THIS LINK for more information.

7-10 pm: Artwalk, Downtown Gainesville. The last Friday of each month, take a free monthly, self-guided tour around downtown that combines exciting visual art, live performance, and events. FOLLOW THIS LINK for July venues.

7 pm: The Ezee Band, Tioga Concert Night, Tioga Town Center. Bring your lawn chairs and blankets to enjoy, country, R&B, and big band sounds. Food and drinks available for purchase. FOLLOW THIS LINK for more information.

7-10 pm: Dinosaur 13, UF Creative B Movie Series, Florida Museum of Natural History. Free movie screening and exploration of the balance between science and art with an expert panel. UF students receive free admission to A T. Rex Named Sue with their Gator 1 card. The panel discussion starts at 7 pm. Parental discretion is advised. FOLLOW THIS LINK for more information.


7:30 pm: Sam Pacetti, Thomas Center Jewel Box Concert Series. With special guest Gabe Valla and opening act The Obscure Bothers celebrate a special, long-awaited CD Release of Sam's new CD. FOLLOW THIS LINK for more information.


9 am-4:30 pm: Morningside Nature Center. 278 acres featuring a spectacular wildflower display and diverse wildlife including deer, wild turkey, box turtles, gopher tortoises, skunks, and numerous birds. The Living History Farm re-creates a single-family rural home in the year 1870 and centers on an Irish immigrant family, the McCarrolls, who built the Hogan Cabin.

10am-6pm: The Repurpose Project, Non-profit community-based effort to divert resources from landfills through creativity.
> ReUse Art Store – A warehouse full of reclaimed art materials -- Come and explore!
> Repurposed Art Gallery – A gallery of art made from creatively reused materials.
> Fix It Café on Wednesdays, 4-6 pm


Fri. & Sat. 7:30 pm, Sun 2 pm: SWAMP DANCE FEST! 2015, G-6 Studio, Nadine M. McGuire Theatre and Dance Pavilion. A rigorous schedule of classes, rehearsals, performances and artist talks culminate in performances of works created during the festival by students and guests. FOLLOW THIS LINK for more times and information.


8 pm: R.U.R. – Rossum's Universal Robots, Acrosstown Repertory Theater. The End of Mankind by the Hand of Robots was originally written in 1921 by Karel Čapek and quickly became a sensation, introducing the word "robot" into the world's lexicon." Dark but not without hope, and treading that fine line between intellectually engaging and viscerally thrilling, R.U.R. explores the concepts of sentience, human rights, wealth disparity and the pursuit of profits at any cost. FOLLOW THIS LINK for more times, and information.


O'Leno State Park
> 10 am: The Buzz About Bees. Discover the fascinating world of bees and beekeeping with Dr. Ellis, a professor at the University of Florida. Learn how bees help humans and the environment and "Get the Buzz" on honey bees and beekeeping. Discover what is happening to honey bee populations and what can be done to help them. Learn how everyone can become a beekeeper by providing nesting habitat and food resources for a multitude of bee species.
> 2 pm: Snakes of North Florida. Learn about the snakes of North Florida and how to tell the difference between venomous and non-venomous snakes. You will also have the chance to meet at few of the snakes that call our Nature Center home! Meet at the Nature Center.



Sat 10 am-2pm, Sun Noon-4pm: Historic Haile Homestead at Kanapaha Plantation. A 6,200-sq-ft home built by 56 enslaved laborers, this historic homestead is unique in the nation for its "Talking Walls." For a reason lost to time, the Haile family wrote on the walls of their home - over 12,500 words. FOLLOW THIS LINK for more information.


8 pm: Jeff Jensen Band with Bridget Kelly, North Central Florida Blues Society Quarterly Concert, High Dive, 210 SW 2nd Ave. This band is known for collaborations with Brandon Santini and Victor Wainwright. FOLLOW THIS LINK for more information.


16th Ave. Diner

You're going to love Chef JP's lunch

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

16thAveDinerAI was out purchasing a Gainesville Sun paper, when I decied it was time to give the 16th Ave Diner a try. The ghosts of Karol and Bill, the former owners of this lunch stop on NE 16th Ave, could very well be floating around in another dimension inside the diner, but make no mistake GLOBers, 16th Ave. Diner Chef JP is now in charge of this lunch counter.

Chef JP is an Xtra-large individual with a tell-it-like-it-is, matter-of-fact attitude, and he takes extreme pride in the NE 16th Ave. Diner Daily Specials surprisingly called, "Chef JP's Daily Specials -- $8.99."

With true diner authenticity these mid-day gems never change, so you might want to make a copy of these five luncth time prizes:


MONDAY - Meatloaf
TUESDAY - Chopped Steak
WEDNESDAY - Open-Faced Roast Beef Sandwich
THURSDAY - Country Fried Steak and Gravy
FRIDAY - Fried Cod, Fries, Hush Puppies, Coleslaw ($9.99)

The Daily Specials are served from 11-2 with two sides and a biscuit or cornbread. There are 8 side orders to choose from for your JPDS: Coleslaw, corn, fried okra, green beans, lima beans, potato salad, and mashed potatoes and gravy.

Since it was Country Fried Steak and Gravy day I was thinking a side of lima beans would be a perfect complement to the crunchy steak crust and creamy gravy.



"Are the lima beans really good?" I asked JP, who was towering over the lunch counter looking a lot like Mr. Clean with his shiny bald dome.

The Chef leaned over closer to me with a fierce look of consternation, and with the sound of utter conviction in his voice, he said, "They're the best you've ever had."

That was good enough for me. I like this Chef JP. The 16th Ave. Diner was bustling with serious homecooked- lunchtime lovers appreciating hearty, stick to your ribs lunch entrees, and i was feeling right at home enjoying my paper and hearing JP orchestrate breakfast among this clan of hungry eaters.

I was grooving to the fact that the oldies station on the sound system was playing Elvis singing Blue Hawaii right after John Lennon's Instant Karma tune. I was enjoying a very good piece of crispy fried steak with some most excellent brown gravy when JP saunters over to make sure I was a happy customer.

"So whaddya think of the limas?" he asked.

"They are really good," I said. "I love the pinch of sweeteness the baby limas possess, and the tender texture along wihth the fresh, green crunch shows me you obviously know your lima beans Chef."

The 16th Ave. Diner is a good, fast, quick 'n tasty lunch for lunchouters in a hurry. I'm going back to the 16th Ave. Diner. That Wednesday Open-Faced Roast Beef Sandwich Special is screaming out my name. The 16th Ave. Diner also serves breakfast starting at 7:00



CH-CH-CHANGES:  A few days later, I stopped at the 16th Ave. Diner for breakfast hoping to get a better image of JP for this feature and I couldn't resist the Uot-Mex 3 Egg Omlette on their breakfast menu.  The cholesterol delight included onions, ham, cheese, jalapeno peppers and a very spiccy salsa topping.  My breakfast plate was beautiful, suitable for framing.  16TH Ave. Diner waitress Chelsea checked to see if I was a happy customer when I asked if JP had the day off.  "JP doesn't work here any more. He's moved on to other things," she said indifferently. And so it goes Grasshoppers, in the fluid world of the restaurant/food service industry the only thing that remains the same is constant changes.

The Pluses and Minuses of the 16th Ave. Diner:

16th Ave. Diner + indicators:  Serious home cooked goodness, never changing lunch specials.

16th Ave. Diner -  indicators:  Perhaps a few knicks knacks, images for the walls, and/or a giant photo of former 16th Ave. Diner Chef PJ could add to the curret limited ambience.

Offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about the 16th Ave. Diner. Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments. - THANKS!


Metro Diner

MD surprise: Breakfast Pizza, Pumpkin Waffle

By Melissa Kahan, GLOB Correspondent

MetroDinerLOGODiner restaurants have certain stereotypical characteristics that I have found to be true: large, hearty portions, bustling servers, and busy booths, but the atmosphere has to be the defining feature, and I have been in diners from Orlando, FL, to New York City. Gainesville's Metro Diner is no exception--many booths and standalone tables with a casual, comfy décor.


With 17 Florida locations, Metro Diner, a Jacksonville-based regional chain that started in a 1938 building transformed in 1990, has made quite the name for itself. In addition to being a family-owned restaurant started by Chef Mark Davoli and family with 80 years in the food industry, Metro Diner is famous for its appearance on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on Food Network. Fieri dubbed the meatloaf one from which "diners need to take a lesson." I was mainly excited about the all day breakfast menu, which adds another spot to my brunch rotation that is close to home.

At 7 am on a Thursday morning, Metro Diner was almost vacant. I have scooped up a breakfast sandwich or two at that time at other places, and I can say that going to breakfast early is the way to ensure immediate service. The John Sr. breakfast sammie was large and in charge, two runny eggs coating Swiss cheese, bacon, and tomato. It may be sizeable, but don't wait too long to devour it, as the 8-grain toast quickly got soggy.



Conversely at 9:30 am on a Saturday morning, empty tables were harder to come by; thus, for the brunch crowd, a.k.a. my usual compadres at the usual time--after 11 am, there will likely be wait. At 9:30 am on Saturday, however, a 20-minute wait was not too painful, and it gave my dining companion, Greg, and I a chance to peruse the menu for efficient ordering. The daily rotating-specials chalkboard proudly displayed on the back wall and on the web added three very tempting options to the already abundant menu of delicious breakfast goodies. This would be a complicated decision.



After two very sad cups of coffee were ordered--why most breakfast places don't serve local coffee is beyond me, Greg, who is health-conscious, decided to try Metro Diner's Huevos Rancheros, $11.49: Scrambled eggs cooked well and topped with salsa and green onion slivers laid over a huge colorful plateful of black beans and chorizo under melted cheese and jalapenos. The "fried tortilla shells" were like a cross between crunchy pita chip and tortilla chip, essentially the best of both addicting worlds. Greg ordered sour cream on the side, which the server had to be reminded about. Despite his cleaned plate, Greg felt it was average for this dish he typically orders at breakfast. The couple of bites I had were very flavorful, the thick chunks of chorizo and jalapeno slices packing an enjoyable punch for a dish I am not usually inclined to order myself.

I was sold on the Breakfast Pizza, $10.99 image at the top of this review, the moment I laid eyes on the two words placed together. It's as if the brunch heavens opened and placed two of the best food items together in succession for one harmonious, epic brunch option. It had a little of everything I would want to order... in pizza form, down to the "crust" being made from biscuit dough. That aspect almost made me do a happy dance it was so good. Piled on this delicious biscuit bed, was a thick layer of mozzarella cheese blanketing flavorful chunks of bacon, ham, AND, if that weren't enough meat, some Italian sausage. I opted out of the onions, but the peppers and jalapenos provided a texture that tossed my taste buds around. I also love eggs Benedict, so the layer of Hollandaise sauce was a welcome addition, which, alongside two runny eggs, made for a sop-off-the-plate eating experience. The biscuit, under all those ingredients, did not get soggy. That is impressive.



I almost chose the Southern Benedict daily special, since it is a favorite of biscuits and gravy in addition to eggs and hollandaise, but I could not pass up the Biscuit Pizza. I also wanted to order a sweeter entrée for contrast: The Pumpkin-Stuffed Waffle. I think I speak for Greg when I say it was worth the food coma that followed: Each fourth of the waffle was used to make a sweet breakfast sandwich of sorts, complete with a marshmallow drizzle and cinnamon butter.

True to name, the sandwich filling was none other than copious amounts of pumpkin-flavored fluff. It was almost a combination of fluffy icing, cream cheese, and some kind of aerating agent. Whatever that pumpkin-flavored confection was, it played into the crisp, light waffle perfectly. I almost thought the cinnamon butter would be overkill, but then I tasted it, and it was too good not to use despite all the other flavors going on.



The breakfast menu includes everything from omelets and steak and eggs to Benedicts and breakfast sandwiches to a variety of French toast and pancake options. The Yo Hala on the Square French Toast is highlighted on the menu for a reason: It is stuffed with bananas, brown sugar, cream cheese, and Hazelnut sauce (!) and smothered with fruit compote. I am very intrigued by the Monte Cristo, a sandwich I have yet to experience, and by the Spicy Honey Chicken Biscuit, mainly because I heard Metro's fried chicken is very tasty and because it includes a biscuit. Oh, I can't forget about the grits.

The Diner has an extensive lunch/dinner menu as well, considering it is open from 6:30 am until 8 pm Sunday through Thursday and 6:30 am to 8:30 pm Friday and Saturday. Judging by Guy Fieri's review of the meatloaf, I'd say that is a priority item, but the wide array of sandwiches and burgers provides something for everyone. The Charleston Shrimp and Grits looks like a solid rendition of the classic Southern dish. There is a complete Metro Diner menu at the web link below this review.

The restaurant was busy, and servers forgot things in the hustle and bustle, but overall the Metro Diner did exactly what it should: Provide a hearty, yummy meal to satiate the taste buds and fill the belly. Health-conscious Greg was less a fan because of the lack of healthier options, but you go to diners for the hearty, comfort-food, and Metro delivered.

The Pluses and Minuses of the Metro Diner:

The Metro Diner + indicators: Good value to portion size, large servings, varied menu, cozy diner atmosphere, friendly service, plaza parking leaves options.

The Metro Diner - indicators: Long wait time on weekends

Offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about the Metro Diner. Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments. - THANKS!


Applebee's Grill & Bar, Newberry Rd.

Applebee's opens 2nd location on Newberry Rd.

FOLLOW THIS LINK for  a Gainesville Lunch Out Blog Applebee's Gril & Bar review.

May 4, 2015 - Applebee's Gril & Bar has branced out with a new lunch stop heading West on Newberry rd. just past Iintersate 75.   With eight new entrees, and a completely new Bar Menu touting 19 news appetizxers, this big box lunch stop is serious about being your mid-day meal house.  FOLLOW THIS LINK for more Applebee's information.


The Pluses and Minuses of Applebee's Grill & Bar:

The Applebee's Grill & Bar + indicators:

The Applebee's Grill & Bar -

Offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about Applebee's Grill & Bar. Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments. - THANKS!


Outback Steakhouse

The Pluses and Minuses of Outback Steakhouse

Outback Steakhouse + indicators:

Outback Steakhouse - indicators:

Be the first to offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about the Outback Steakhouse. Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments. - THANKS!

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