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Restaurant lunch highlights:

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Gainesville Ale House

Lunch stop scores high grades all around

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

ALEHOUSE082018SFbLong time pal Andy Caldwell and I were invited to try out the new Gainesville Ale House restaurant now situated like an oasis of food, fun, and all things grilled. Located just West of Interstate I-75 just over the newly constructed four-lane yellow-brick highway joining Butler Plaza and Celebration Point dedicated to capitalistic spending.

This was a Friday night dinner invite and the impressive, newly built joint was jumping with happy foodies.

'Joint' is certainly the wrong term for this new lunch stop replacing a 23 year-old, 1st generation Miller's Ale House façade on Archer Rd. Most folks will agree the old building should have been torn down10 years ago.

"Have you tried the Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese Boneless Chicken Zingers," John Hodge asked Andy and I as he walked up to us with a Drill Sargent look in his eyes. "They are so good, loaded with cheese, sour cream, pico de gallo and delicious," the Ale House Regional Manager added seeking affirmation from the GLOB Master.

Mr. Hodge was on a roll continuing his dinner suggestions with dessert as he directed us to a table overlooking the restaurant. "Be sure you try the Captain Jack's Buried Treasure for dessert' Hodge said. "It is so good I tried eating it every day for two weeks hoping I would get sick of it," the intense food professional explained as if testifying at a foodie anonymous meeting.

Gainesville Ale House General Manager Kristin Scott introduced our Server Noel Davidson explaining how after working at the Archer Rd. Location for several years how the entire staff was excited about their new restaurant digs.

"You can't imagine how everyone is so excited, happy about coming to work after being in at the old building for so long," Kristin said,

 

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And they have a right to be feeling good about this new lunch stop GLOBers. Bright, and airy there is no feeling of clutter and dark spaces. Two giant bars in the middle of the restaurant offer quick lunches for those in a hurry. 68 TV Screens around the dining area making this a perfect location for weekend sporting events. This sporting event concept is enhanced by a full service bar with several of the local craft beers available as well as an extensive list of all the favorite liquors. Spacious outside seating looks inviting. However my suggestion sitting outside you should get your back to the Interstate unless you are the car counting kind of lunch outer.

 

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I can't believe the GLOB Master is talking about building a wall but a 10 foot wall on the parking lot perimeter adorned with passion vine climbing, filling up the grey area with beautiful flowers. Passion Vine is the Gulf Fritillary butterfly host plant. That will would would certainly be dramaticly ingaging, plus it would calm the Highway noise a bit.

The formalities were fun. The Ale House is certainly an excellent addition to the burgeoning complex of shops and restaurants bifurcating US Highway 75.

A look at the Ale House menu is no small task with page upon page of choices from Appetizers – STARTING LINE-UP, to salads – ON THE GREENS, entrees from the grill, the sea, or fajitas – MVPs, Sandwiches – TWO HAND GRIPS. A kids menu, The FINAL PLAY dessert menu and a SHAREABLE menu are also available. Check out the sharing the Tex-Mex Chile Chicken Nachos with Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses, white queso, tortilla chips, shredded lettuce, sour cream, jalapeños, pico de gallo salsa. OMG! This entrée is reason enough for a return visit.

(Are you picking up on the Golfing theme here GLOBer?) There is a complete Gainesville Ale House menu at the restaurant link at the bottom of this page.

 

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The aforementioned Zingers with Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses, sour cream, pico de gallo - $10.49 - did sound like a good idea for a starter. I added a side order of hot sauce from the fifteen plus list of Zinger and wing sauces.

The Zingers are very good. This pieces of chicken white meat were batter fried perfectly with an impressive assortment of goodies to add on, accompany, or to dip you're zinger into. These Zingers would make an excellent, tasty meal on their own.

I enjoy a good, serious, red meat protein from time to time. Overwhelmed by the myriad of choices I chose the Grilled Flat Iron Steak Fajita a second look with the sautéed bell peppers and onions, Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses, pico de gallo, sour cream, shredded lettuce, warm flour tortillas, and guacamole.

Andy Caldwell was considering a surf and turf dinner but decided on the North Atlantic Lobster Tails consisting of two 4-ounce tails, drawn butter, lemon wedge. The proximity of these Eastern lobster tails raised interesting conversation about the choice and flavor of up East lobster, as opposed to Florida Lobster tails. Like most conversations with Andy conclusions are typically irrelevant. BTW never ask Andy about the sun rising over the daily time zones of America.

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Our Server Noel was making my dinner feel very special. Our meals were served quickly and filled our table with an incredible array of delectable looking proteins and carbohydrates.

 

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Andy enjoyed his lobster tails and found the lobster tender, very moist and delicious with the drawn butter.  Andy ordered an awesome looking side of mashed potatoes and gravy of the likes I dream of at night. "This is really good," Andy said. "The two tails are the perfect size entrée, and presented in a dramatic way," he added.

I'm not a big fan of entrees I have to make, create, or compile which is why I normally shy away meals like fajitas.

That said the sizzling sound of a hot skillet arriving at our table with my assortment of bell peppers, onions, Monterey Jack, cheddar cheeses, pico de gallo, sour cream, shredded lettuce, and guacamole - $12.49 - looked way inviting. I quickly made my first fajita wrap trying to include all the ingredients.

 

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What a flavor explosions highlighted by the picco degallo, and guacamole. The small pieces of the flat iron steak were cut exactly the right size to ensure a charred flavor along with the chewy, surprisingly tender RMP bites. (that is Red Meat Protein).  The sauteed peppers, onions were delightfully fresh, crunchy, and simmering in a delicious au jus that had me wondering why I don't order Fajitas more often.

 

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All right readers, about this Capt. Jack's Buried Treasure dessert. This masterpiece of slow sugar death is a triple layered vanilla ice cream cake, Oreo cookie crust, Heath Bar crunch crumble, caramel and hot fudge sauce - $6.49 - is really something to reckon with.

That sounds yummy just reading it.

OMG! How good was it? Andy and I shared a slice certainly big enough for three. Unflinchingly, ignoring any chastising diabetes thoughts I might be hearing I happily dived directly into the chocolate cake and chocolate syrup gleefully.

After several healthy size bites Andy moved the dessert from the middle of the table declaring, "I think you have had enough GLOB Master."

Darn right I'm going back to the Ale House. Next time I will be there for lunch, at the bar. by myself, so I can eat, and enjoy whatever the hell I want.

The Pluses and Minuses of Gainesville Ale House:

Gainesville Ale House ( +) indicators: Fun, popular place for meeting friends. Tasty Zingers are worth your consideration. Something fo revertine in the vast Ale House menu.

Gainesville Ale House ( - ) indicators:  Celebration point is a continuation of the Archer Rd. Triangle.

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

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Arby's

No surprises in this fast food sandwich stop

By Mike Sanford. GLOB Editor

ArbysSFI was out in the SW13th St. area again today with the intent of trying a quick lunch stop and have a good sandwich for lunch.

I have lived in Gainesville for very long time and to my best recollection I have probably only eaten one Arbys roast beef sandwich while in Gainesville. So I was excited about experienceing the magic that kept this small fast food stand open for so many years.

Pulling into Arbys I noticed there was a line of customers inside ready to place their orders. There were several hospital staffers crossing 13th St. heading toward the same lunch destination that I was.

Yep, I must be in roast beef & cheese fast food heaven.

I went inside and took my place in line. Standing there I looked at the menu board and I could see all the sandwiches were made in small, medium and large sizes. In the silence of every one waiting for their lunch I blurted out the obvious, "What makes the large sandwich different?"

The manager behind the counter was quick to reply that there was more meat on the large sandwich.

The large cheddar cheese, roast beef sandwich was the answer to my lunchtime protein needs. A mountain of thinly sliced roast beef and cheddar cheese piled very high on a soft onion roll.

Add an order of tasty, golden brown, curly fries to the order and it is easy to see why this sandwich stand has been in business for so long, and in one place, the entire time.

The curly fries were a home run. I don't know how they spiral cut those potatoes -- where ever that might happen -- but there were very good.

The sliced roast beef and melted cheese sandwich was at best average. The paper thin sliced beef was ample but I thought the cheddar cheese could have been more generously applied to my sandwich creating a magical melted cheese and meat extravaganza.

I could taste the roast beef flavors in the sliced meat, however, there was also a lot if salt added to this sandwich marriage to the point of taking away from the other flavors of the sandwich.

Maybe it was because this was my second fast food lunch stop this week. perhaps my attitude about franchise food did not allow me an objective perspective for this food stop.

What ever the reason this Arbys lunch could only be labeled unremarkable.

The Pluses and Minuses of Arbys

Arbys (+) indicators: Excellent curly fries. I could drive through Arbys just to pick up an order of these spuds.

Arbys (-) indicators: I don't know, I had high hopes for Arbys, my lunch outcome was disappointing.

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

 

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Cracker Barrel Old Country Store

Lovely Laura, deer head trump the CFS special

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

The Cracker Barrel Old Country Store restaurants were never part of my family's travel plans when I was a child or when my kids were young. So my trip to the Cracker Barrel off of Archer Rd next to I-75 was my first lunch at this everything-you-could-possibly-need-to-eat interstate fixture.

Before lunch, I learned that in the late 6os, Dan Cracker Barre . . . ooops, sorry . . . Dan Evins from Lebanon, Tennessee, had this idea to upgrade his gas station into a friendly country store for people to "come in, sit down, take a load off" and maybe buy a few knick-knacks or some nostalgic candy.

Heck, while Dan was thinking, he also thought he could sell a few sausage biscuits and maybe a coupla orders of country fried steak since he had the highway refugees floating in his sea of curiosities.

The first Cracker Barrel Old Country Store opened in September 1969. Today there are over 600 open for business in 42 states. No franchising going on here. Every store is owned by Cracker Barrel, Inc.

CwagonDININGSo I'm sitting in Cracker Barrel #487 of 600 at a cozy table for two looking directly at a deer head perched high on the wall looking right back at me. OK, so I made up the Cracker Barrel store number.

This big box joint is jumping – and rocking. I hear tell that during busy lunch hours at many a Cracker Barrel, there are a lot of people rocking on the front porch waiting for their tables. According to Cracker Barrel cashier, Lovely Laura, Gainesville's Cracker Barrel has over 120 hard-working employees. Cracker Barrellers open this place up at 6:00 in the morning for early bird travelers and other hungry breakfast eaters. The night shift CBers close the doors at 10:00 pm.

Once at my table, I was handed a menu featuring 8 different food categories that included seasonal modifications. Let's think about this for a minute. I am sitting in a replica of a country store in Tennessee. I didn't need no stinkin' menu. My choice for lunch was automatic.

Everyone who thinks I ordered the country fried steak raise your hand.

That was a no brainer question wasn't it?

I would like to know how many country fried steak lunch entrees this corporation sells on Hump Day Wednesday.

CwagonFOODMy CFS entrée included two side orders plus mashed potatoes. I selected two Southern classic side orders: Turnip greens and fried okra. The turnip greens might have been in the cooking pot a day or two too long. They had good flavor, however, they were mushy and stringy, which turned them into a bad impersonation of turnip greens. The fried okra was good; obviously prepackaged, but still tasty.

The mashed potatoes were real, I think. They clumped together appropriately and created a nice palette for the thick gravy.

The country fried steak was alright. The crunchy crust was a nice complement to the creamy gravy. I was just able to detect some beef flavor from the cubed steak hiding within that country crunchy crust .

You know what? That CFS lunch was pretty good. It was good enough that my first thought on the way to the cash register was to check and see if they had a freezer in the country store part of this complex where I could buy a box or two of those fried steaks to take home with me.

The high point of my lunch visit was meeting Lovely Laura at the checkout counter. With a bright smile and customer friendly demeanor, Ms. Laura was quick to make sure the customers in her line were leaving happy: "Now you be sure to tell everyone that Lovely Laura says hello, and they should all come to the Cracker Barrel," Laura said, perhaps with a little too much emphasis.

ICwagonCANDY'm not poking fun at the Cracker Barrel experience. I understand big box, corporate units like #487 serve an important role in today's mass market food world.

However, I'm pretty sure I will not make it back to the Cracker Barrel. Unless maybe Lovely Laura sends me a personal invitation.

The Pluses and Minuses of the Cracker Barrel Country Store:

Cracker Barrel Country Store. + indicators: Fast service, customer friendly. The company gives back to the community through several interesting programs. Also, for the travelers, you can rent books on tape at one store and return it at any other store when you are done.

Cracker Barrel Country Store. - indicators:  I picked up a pack of candy corn at the checkout counter that was horribly bad. I understand that another Cracker Barrel Country Store just opened somewhere in America.

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

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