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Restaurant lunch highlights:

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Steak and Shake, 13th St.

Steakburger, $, attention to detail winners here

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

It's lunchtime and I am standing in the parking lot of Gainesville's 49 year-old hamburger stand.

Sshake13thThis burger palace has singles, doubles, and triple hamburgers and like all the other burger shops in town they think their burger is special, and different from the other hamburgers in the Urban GLOB.



I'm a sucker for presentation and there is a lot of it here with a distinct advertising look, and an atmospheric style that takes you back in time to another era of drive-in hamburger stands, the appearance of white, starched server uniforms, and a customer friendly attitude that separates them from their competition.

They do make a good hamburger. They call them steakburgers here. This burger patty does taste a little better than the usual burger patty you will find at other hamburger joints.

Plus they serve a shoe string french fry that is unique, crispy and very tasty.

There are only two of these burger restaurants in G'ville so this franchise has passed the GLOB rule of no more that two store fronts allowed to be included in the GLOB.


jalapenoNot only that the burger gets an 'A' for taste and price. They also promote one of the cheaper lunch specials by selling four different hamburgers and fries combo for four dollars.  I got change back from my eight dollars when I ordered the Jalepeno Crunch Steakburger™, a Double Steakburger seasoned on our fiery hot grill with pepperjack cheese, chipotle mayo, fresh salsa and jalapenos, all topped with French's® French Fried Onions. Served with fries.  I happily state that it was the best, double cheeseburger I've had in a long time.  I tasted all jalapeno peppers, and this burger was spicy hot. 

The Jalpeno Crunch Steakburger™ was good.  I could taste the peppers, the pronounced flavor of the steakburger patty was recognizable, and was tastier than the garden variety hamburger patty.



Have you guessed I am talking about the Steak & Shake restaurant on SW13th St.?

I think this burger palace will be close to the top of the 'best burger list' for a long time.

Like a lot of franchises Streak & Shake has a lot of different entrees if steak burgers don't satisfy your lunchtime desires. They serve an excellent chili and also have the typical selection of salads, chicken sandwiches, classic melts and hot dogs.

The very clean, obviously old timey Steak and Shake themed dining area was a little much for me.

The manager was attentive to his customers, and he did stop by my table to inquire about me being a happy customer. The harried look on his face and the speed in which he moved around the dining area -- assisting in the necessary housekeeping tasks  -- was a good indicator of his intent in making sure his customers left with a happy lunch experience.

His effort is paying off.

I was pleased with this lunch stop and their fast, customer friendly service. I was able to casually read my USA TODAY while waiting for my lunch and was still able to be out of Steak and Shake's front door in 40 minutes. 

The Pluses and Minuses of Steak & Shake, SW 13th St.

Steak and Shake (+) indicators: Very tasty hamburger, excellent service, reasonably priced.

Steak and Shake (-) indicators: This was an excellent, quick lunch stop and a very good price. I can't think of any negatives at this time.

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



Reggae Shack Cafe

ReggaeShackMayShrimpSandwichIt was another lunch at the Reggae Shack. I wanted jerk chicken but I am increasingly avoiding meat so I went with the tofu. The menu indicated this was very hot. I double checked with the waitress and she mentioned scotch bonnet pepper hot. I almost chickened out (ha ha), but decided I would give it try as I do like things hot. I'm glad I was brave. It was just shy of too hot, and excellent. The tofu was very soft but all the better to absorb the jerk sauce and it went great with the rice and peas (there aren't many peas), the cabbage – not too soft and not too crisp, and the ripe plaintains – sweet and caramelized. YUM. The GLOB Master had a fried shrimp sandwich. Knowing about soft crab sandwiches, I had to ask if the shrimp tails were removed. Yes they were. This entree came with Reggae Shack Dutty Fries. The Dutty Fries are sweetened and spiced up, which Mike asked the waitress to withhold if possible, but apparently it was not possible – or maybe she just forgot. Except for that, the fries were very good. The sandwich was good, but the jerk tofu was much better in my opinion. I gave Mike a taste from my plate but I didn't want half of his shrimp sandwich. There was a lot of food on our lunch table and I brought half of it home for the next day. YUM x 2!

- Lynn Dirk

Jamaican lunch turns into island adventure

 By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

"I just went Jamaica mon!"

The Reggae Shack Café in Midtown has been located on University Ave. just west of the railroad tracks since 2003. I finally made it to the shack for some jerk chicken wings this holiday weekend.

It's actually embarrassing that it took me so long to get to this very cool island oasis located in a sea of concrete and cars. There, I've said it, and now I can tell you that the Reggae Shack jerk sauce is as authentic as you will ever find.

ReggaeSwallA combination of the traditional jerk sauce flavors of allspice, brown sugar, cinnamon, scallions, nutmeg, a touch of soy sauce, and copious pepper combinations mixed together creates a marinade that will sit in your refrigerator for ever. In fact, the longer it ages, the better it becomes. The amalgamation of ingredients combines to build a molasses-like sauce for my wings that made my cheeks pucker, and my eye light up in a flavor sensory explosion that had me mopping up the remaining sauce with my last festival.

You don't know what festivals are?

Neither did I.

Looking at the Reggae Shack menu was like being Alice gazing through the looking glass. Brown stew fish, callaloo, and salt fish, Caribbean shrimp, Reggae Shack dutty fries, rice and peas -- all the menu items were screaming "EAT ME!"

Speaking of chicken wings, the choice are jerk, Caribbean, hot, tropi-q, spicy curry, and escoveich sauce. Escoveich is a sauce of carrots, onions, scotch bonnet peppers, thyme, and allspice berries.



Since Lynn and I were on an island lunch adventure we started with the jerk chicken wings and two deep fried hush puppies they called Festivals (see photo at right). Festivals are hush puppy-like cornbread sticks with just a taste of coconut. These hush puppies were very tasty, though the consistency was more cake-like than American southern hush puppies.

These mild tasting, just fried, bread yummies were perfect for mopping up the chicken wing jerk sauce and making sure there were no drops left behind.

I thought of GLOBer Pam H.'s comment about how, at Piccadilly Cafeteria, there are so many choices you take more items than you should.



By the time the server returned, Lynn had narrowed down her lunch choices to brown stew chicken, the Down by De Beach mahi sandwich, or the Boneless Curry Chicken.

I was thinking that the Down by De Beach sandwich with peas and rice sounded like an excellent lunch.

As we were making our choices our server looked at us with a knowing smile and said, "It's your first time, right?" With her good suggestions, Lynn chose the curried chicken which came with with sides of cabbage and rice and peas. The peas are kidney beans, which are not Lynn's favorite legume, but there weren't very many of them.

As usual with restaurant servings, there was enough for us to share. The curry was mild but the overall flavor was rich and was a perfect accent for the chicken and the accompanying sides of cabbage and the rice and peas. The curry sauce included little diced squares of sweet potato that added a perfect silky sweet taste and texture to the dish. The chicken itself was amazingly tender and moist.

The Down by De Beach fish sandwich was perfectly battered with a light flour mixture and fried to a thin, tender crust that allowed the flavor of the mahi-mahi fish filet to stand on its own. The surprise of the sandwich was the fried onions, mango-lemon tartar sauce and curry mustard melding my kaiser roll together with the sandwich ingredients like some Jamaican island edible glue.




The Dutty Fries didn't work for me. They have a signature dusting with a mixture of salt and sugar that was a little too sweet. However Lynn's cooked cabbage and the sweet potatoes and onions that accompanied her chicken and rice and peas were a lunch time prize winner.

I could keep writing about this wonderland of island cooking but right now I can see those large chunks of chicken breast covered with that savory, yellow Jamaican curry sauce, and all of a sudden I'm real hungry . . .

The Pluses and Minuses of Reggae Shack Café:

Reggae Shack Café (+) indicators: Wow! What a food adventure. Be sure to check the Reggae Shack Cafe menu out online before you head out to lunch.

Reggae Shack Café(-) indicators: We visited the Reggae Shack on a holiday weekend. Traffic can get busy on University Avenue in front of the Shack.


RshackBdayCAKEIt was a birthday celebration lunch for UF Entomology and Nematology’s Jane Medley and she decided to make her first trip to the Reggae Shack for her birthday lunch.  "That was an excellent idea for a host of Jamaican reasons Mon.  The food is excellent, the dining room has a distinct Jamaican feel, and you feel like you're in the islands Mon!"

Jane is on a mission to eat healthy, and she was pleased at the multitude of interesting veggie lunch choices.  The very friendly and professional server quickly told us that the spicy menu items were on the hot side.  “I like hot,’ was my response as I quickly decided on the Jerk Chicken sandwich with famous Reggae Shack Jerk Sauce, Jerk Lime Mayo with cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion plus a side of RS Dutty Fries.  Jane selected the Curry Palm Hearts Stew, which had hearts of palm, carrots, onions, red beans, and rice stewed in a most excellent, spicy brown sauce.  What a fabulously warm and hearty lunch to enjoy on one of Gainesville’s cooler winter days.  To celebrate Jane’s birthday, a giant slice of coconut cake was delivered to our table with several forks so we could share this delicious dessert.  The Reggae Shack menu is available at the restaurant link below this feature story.

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


Ballyhoo Grill

Seafood, black beans & rice get high marks

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

ballyhoosSFThe Ballyhoo Grill on Newberry Rd. is a popular lunch spot that I should have featured before now for many reasons:

zzGLOBbullet  Ballyhoo's has an excellent patio for dining, music, conversation and lunch outings when the climate gets cooler.

zzGLOBbullet  They have a varied menu of seafood, sandwiches, hamburgers and pasta entrees.

zzGLOBbullet  Ballyhoo's has the only Tim TREEbow ever created.

Ballyhoo's island get away theme works throughout this friendly, fun restaurant.

I have spent most off my adult life thinking tacos are those crispy, crunchy, deep fried corn meal shells that contain ground beef, lettuce, cheese, onions and Mexican hot sauce. YUM!!

BallyHooTacosJANUARYI recently discovered the wonders of what tacos can really be.

Shrimp. Fish. Duck. My Latin American food pyramid foundation has been shaken with the discovery of the wonderful proteins that a corn tortilla can be wrapped around.

Ballyhoo's shrimp tacos are very good, very large, and very flavorful.

You know about the good angel and the bad devil that sit on your shoulders when its time to make a decision? These lunch partners show up when the server asks, "And what will your side dish be?"

In my case, the devil screams "FRENCH FRIES" and usually wins the debate.

Like my mother used to do, the angel looks at me, hands on her hips, tapping her toe, expecting the correct answer.

"I think I want to try the black beans and yellow rice today," I tell Courtney, our server.

TimTreebow"Good choice," Courtney says nodding her head in agreement with my selection as I sit up straighter enjoying doing the right thing.

Ballyhoo's blackened shrimp tacos were top shelf, prize-winning lunch time entrees. I will be back to order those beauties again.

The best thing I ate at Ballyhoo's this lunch time, however, was the black beans and yellow rice.

There's a Maria Muldaur tune titled, 'It Ain't the Meat, It's the Motion', that I will paraphrase when I say, "It ain't the beans, it's what you cook them in" that makes them wonderful.

Ballyhoo's black beans are some of the tastiest beans I have had in some time. The island spices included in the cooking broth create a fresh, bright, flavorful back drop to these yummy black pods of protein.

There is a birthday club at Ballyhoo's that you should join -- Members receive a free lobster on their birthday.

Not to be outdone by all the deals and offers of the Archer Rd. franchise restaurant establishments, Ballyhoo's has four different food challenges: fish, pork, hamburger, and hot dogs. Click the restaurant web link below this feature for more food challenge information.

Ballyhoo's was a great lunch stop. I became an unofficial Red Hat BhoosPatioSociety member. I reaffirmed my love for fish and shrimp tacos. I have discovered what I think might be some of the best black beans in the Urban GLOB.

I'm going back to Ballyhoos!





I was meeting good friendKate Valdovinos for lunch at Ballyhoo Grill.  I was excited about ordering the Ballyhoo guacamole that is made at your lunch table.   You can't get any fresher than that. Courtney, our server, was adept at combining the cilantro, onions, herbs, garlic, lime juice and tomatoes into a BallyhooSaladcreamy, chunky, very tasty green conglomeration of goodness.  Avocados are one of the GLOB Master's favorite food and this guac was delicious.  Since this was my first face-to-face meeting with Kate I applaud myself for not eating all of the guacamole.  The guac was very good, and made a very nice additional topping to the shrimp tacos mentioned below.  BTW Kate V. is the Editor of Kate's Salad Blog, and you can read her assessment of her Ballyhoo lunch salad on her blog.

The Pluses and Minuses of Ballyhoo Grill:

Ballyhoo Grill + indicators: Excellent seafood, extraordinary black bean.

Ballyhoo Grill - indicators: I was disappointed it was too hot to sit outside on the patio.

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



Perkins Restaurant & Bakery

TV families would understand 'Timeless Favorites'

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

PerkinsI haven't been to Perkins Bakery and Restaurant in the Oaks Mall Plaza in a long time.

Way back when, I drove south to Ocala and then to Wildwood for my employment, and I would often start my day off with a quick Perkins breakfast. Frequently I was the hero at work

because I would bring a dozen Perkins Mammoth Muffins to the office to treat my workmates.


Yep, Perkins was a good way to start my work day as I, "head out on the highway," driving South in the early morning.

Entering Perkins for lunch, I quickly noticed there wasn't a lot of change since the last time I was at this stalwart, long-time Oaks Mall neighbor.

Success also comes from the predictability and sameness the Perkins customer will find regardless what shopping mall s/he happens to be in. People, eaters like routine. Perkins is routine driven. Another way to describe thePperkins charm is consistency. That is probably the major factor in the success of chain restaurants. It may not be great, but it is probably consistently good and if you order the same thing every time you go, it will be very similar if not exactly the same as the last time you had it.



The PB&R franchise modus operandi must work for the approximately 440 restaurants they have presently open for business nationwide. That number of restaurants, fellow GLOBers, has success written all over it: Founded in 1958, Perkins Restaurants offer consumers in 34 states and five Canadian provinces a full menu of over 90 assorted breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack and dessert items. All that and they serve breakfast all day.

For this lunch time visit, I was essentially a Perkins lunch time newbie. That's OK, I've seen this menu before, many times before, this lunch stop.

Shakespeare always says it best: "A rose by any other name . . ." Well, let me update the expression: "A Club Sandwich named differently by any other chain restaurant would taste as good." Thus, the menu items may have had a little different name, but the lunch items did not surprise this lunchouter.

There I was getting ready to munch down on a lunch that would have made the Beaver Cleaver TV family unhappy to eat at home, the Brady Bunch munch in unison, and the Full House family tone deaf with jealousy.

I'm talking about lunch items every GLOBer should know and love: On the Perkins menu under the Timeless Favorites category, they are Top Sirloin Steak, Harvest Salads, Better Burgers, Sandwich Board, Roast Beef Dinner, Grilled Pork Chops, Country Fried Steak, and Butterball Turkey Dressing.

Come on, what more could America ask for than, no matter where in the world you are, than a consistent, same-old-entree Perkins lunch?


I was feeling red, white, and blue sitting in America's lunch stop, so I selected the Butterball Turkey and Dressing for lunch. The menu let me know that my lunch consisted of "Oven-roasted and hand-carved slices of turkey breast, served on home style sage dressing with hearty turkey gravy and cranberry sauce."

I'm paraphrasing an epicurious-type response here: "The turkey dressing was good. What I would've done was add some onion, Anaheim peppers, pieces of dark turkey meat, and gobs of celery. My family would have loved this dressing and asked me to make it again."



The turkey breast was good, although a little dry, but isn't that why someone discovered gravy? The gravy enhanced the meat and accentuated the dressing. I even gave serious consideration to trying the gravy on my ho-hum cranberry relish. Yes relish; it was not the jellied-jelloed cranberry.

Do you think the turkey gravy comes to 'Perkins Store #27' in 5-gallon cans, or 25-gallon drums?

Lucky for the GLOB Master, the turkey dinner pictured on the Perkins website looked just like mine. In fact their picture is better than mine so I am using their photo.

I don't mean to sound critical. Perkins Bakery & Restaurant obviously serves a purpose that makes a lot of customers very happy. And the TFBT&D (Timeless Favorite Butterball Turkey & Dressing) worked for me.

When I paid for my lunch, I picked up a dozen of the Perkins Mammoth Muffins for old time's sake. I thanked the friendly server and as I left the dining room I told no one in particular, "I'm coming back!"

The Pluses and Minuses of Perkins Bakery and Restaurant:

Perkins Bakery and Restaurant + indicators: In know this is the a LUNCH blog, but I just have to say that a Perkins breakfast and a stop at the Perkins Bakery is an excellent way to start your day.

Perkins Bakery and Restaurant - indicators: I drove around the parking lot more than once for that lunch.

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


Applebee's Grill & Bar

I find myself thinking more about salads as lunch time possibilities. I'm not sure how that happened. But I do enjoy seeing my lunch is a crisp, crunchy. This salad as the perfect mid-day meal item to satisfy my food cravings. Of course a salad with absolutely no carbohydrates. Sure GLOBer, the challah croutons in my Applebee's Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad, ($9.99), looked really yummy. But the diabetes devil in me dares me to eat them :( The Romain lettuce in my lunch was special. Did you know most varieties of lettuce exude small amounts of a white, milky liquid when their leaves are broken. This "milk" gives lettuce a slightly bitter flavor and its scientific name, Lactuca sativa derived from the Latin word for milk. Maybe the 'milk' is what blends so well nicely with the delicious garlic Caesar dressing. The chicken breast strips were charred perfectly and added a sharp 'burnt' bite to the mix.  The elements of my salad complemented the creamy, subtle flavor of the dressing. The grated Parmesan cheese blend not only added a nice touch to my lunch time presentation I usually end up thinking – as I do when I douse my slice of pizza with P. cheese -- how much do I really taste the Parm cheese flavor. Speaking of Romaine lettuce one head of romaine lettuce contains 44% RDA of Omega-3 essential fats. Surprised? It's not just nuts, seeds, and fish that have omega-3s.

- GLOB Master



Restaurant ignores 'big box' persona

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

ApplebeesSFWhile working at the University of Florida several years back, Applebee's on the corner of NW 13th St. and NW 10th Ave. was a reliable stop for a good lunch.

When I recently entered Applebee's big red brick building for a quick lunch, I took a place at the bar in the center of the dining room, and I immediately felt like I was entering an old friend's home after a long hiatus.

I have to admit Applebee's possesses all the franchise, big box lunch opportunities I have pooh-poohed in other franchise establishments. However, Applebee's doesn't seat 350 people. I haven't seen their staff hurrying customers in one door and rapidly out the other.

Applebee's does have a menu that tries to supply customers a giant number of meal time choices they think will satisfy every lunchouter in Gainesville. I copied off of their online menu the entree choices you can find: Salads, steaks, ribs, chicken, seafood, pasta, burgers, sandwiches, and sliders.

Having just written what I think are negative comments about Applebee's, I do have a special fondness for what I see as a very nice neighborhood restaurant.

Applebee's has some enticing lunch specials including an all-you-can-eat soup, salad, and bread entree for $6.99. This isn't the typical salad bar approach to lunch. Your lunch is served to you and your server will happily supply you with all the roughage you can eat.

In the Applebee's sea of choices I opted for the Reuben sandwich and French fries. The AKS -- Applebee's kitchen staff -- did an excellent job of preparing my lunch.



I was presented a nice stack of thinly sliced, very tender corned beef. My protein was complemented with Swiss cheese and sauerkraut sandwiched between toasty slices of rye bread. I added my own spicy mustard to this sandwich to top off a lunch time flavor bonanza.

To put it another way: The tender, salty corned beef and sharp cheese played off the bitter flavors of the sauerkraut and mustard to create harmony between toasted book ends. From the first bite to my last bite, all the sandwich's flavors made my taste buds sing.

The French fries were crisp and lightly seasoned.

My Applebee's lunch didn't surprise this professional eater. I've always enjoyed my visits to this handy, neighborhood lunch stop.

The Pluses and Minuses of Applebee's:

Applebee's (+) indicators: Good food, nicely prepared with an excellent customer friendly approach.

Applebee's (-) indicators: Too many choices for this lunchouter.

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


Piesanos Stone Fired Pizza, W. Gainesville

Editor's Note: A Gainesville Lunch Out Blog feature of Piesanos Stone Fired Pizza can be viewed on the Piesano's Millhopper Area, and the University Avenue location GLOB page. -- GLOB Master

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



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