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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.

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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.

 

SpecialBOARD

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.

 

112015Rancheggs

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.

 

dessert

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.

 

metrodinerHORIZ

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!

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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!

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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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Road Trip: Palatka, Magnolia Cafe

MC perfect 'tweener stop' for beach trip

By Alison, GLOB guest Correspondent

EDITOR'S NOTE: Alison returns from GLOB's dusty archives ready to report on her favorite breakfast/brunch/lunchstop in Palatka, Florida.

I'm sure people will think it cannot be done in Palatka, but there is an awesome restaurant on St. Johns Avenue downtown, a block or two south of Hwy 19.

 

121114MAGdowntownVisitFlorida.com speaks highly of Palatka: "Nestled within a bend of the St. Johns River ... Palatka is a historic Northeast Florida city that proudly showcases its past. You can experience Old Florida charm in Palatka while you celebrate Florida's heritage at the Florida Azalea Festival, St. Johns River Catfish Festival, Blue Crab Festival or Bostwick Blueberry Festival."  It continues:  "Also camping, canoeing, kayaking the area's eight blueway trails, playing golf, touring historic homes and churches built in the 1800s, hiking or bicycling, and visiting birding sites listed in the Great Florida Birding Trail. Also, don't miss the Palatka Mural Tour, featuring more than 30 artistic renderings that depict the historical, cultural and natural riches of Palatka and Putnam County."

I live on the St. Johns River a few miles north of Palataka, and what I like about this old Florida town is the small town friendliness, a great Publix, plus quick access to St. Augustine.

121114MAGsfMagnolia Café is open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday 7 am - 3 pm and Sunday 8 am - 2 pm. It has been open over a year, and I have never had a bad meal there. The service can be a little sketchy, but the staff are beginning to know us there and take good care of us.

A large open room, which is decorated with some local paintings and such, can get very noisy due to bad acoustics. The kitchen is open to view from the dining room. Everything looks clean and in place. This place fills up very quickly at peak breakfast and lunch times, but even later in the day guests are still arriving.  Many of the lunch guests are business professionals from downtown Plataka.

The Magnolia Café kitchen is very fast, albeit with a few minor mix ups here and there. Having worked in the restuarant business, I understand how these things happen with the growing business this lunch stop experiences.

MagnoliaDINING

I am sold on the Pressed Chicken Datil Sandwich, image at top of this feature, with caramelized onions, or any eating experience. What I like about this sandwich is it has plenty of Datil pepper sauce and cheese. The PCDA is served hot, and this lunch is always on the mark.

Although the PCDS is my go to sandwich almost every visit, there is also a great BLT. It is available with egg salad added to it, which makes for an interesting sandwich adventure.

 

121114MAGburger

The MC also has a fabulous Fiesta Burger that certainly deserves your lunch time consideration. This burger, which features a grass-fed beef patty, cheddar cheese, and house salsa of black bean, corn and cilantro, is served between grilled soft-shell tortillas!

Lunch time sides items include potato salad, pasta salad, or chips. There is no deep fryer in the house for French fries and such but I don't miss them. The Magnolia Café potato salad, with a little salt, always works fine with my pressed sammie. FOLLOW THIS LINK for a complete Magnolia cafe lunch menu.

Iced tea is freshly made, not the cloudy, day-old brew you will find served in so many places.

Magnolia Café Breakfast menu offers a Magnolia Café BLT with egg, several omelet choices, pancakes, and French toast.

 

121114MAGgrits

Now let's talk about grits. In my opinion Magnolia Café serves the best grits I have ever had in my life. They have a very coarse texture and are served in a large bowl. I must have them every time I visit this lunch stop gem of a cafe.

The restaurants that charge $2.99 for a mini bowl of grits really burn me. Peach Valley and Flying Biscuit do you hear this? It is a .25 cent item.

I usually finish up my breakfast with one pancake. Real butter, of course. And, OK, Log Cabin syrup. Not the real maple syrup but who serves that anymore anyways?

All right, I admit I sometimes bring my own maple syrup.   Really.

This place is a must stop for Gainesvillians for breakfast or lunch, in between the adventure trips to and from the beach.

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Piesano's Stone Fired Pizza, Midtown

A little while back I asked GLOBers what restaurant made the best Philly Cheese Steak. Of course we received a lot of good suggestions, and Piesano's Stone Fired Pizza's Philly Cheese Steak was right at the top of the list. I make an excellent Philly cheese steak sandwich myself. But growing up in Melbourne, Florida, my favorite go-to place for food and hanging out was Charlie's Pizza on U.S Highway 1 near the Eau Gallie Causeway. It might have been the aged grill that Charlie used to cook the mushroom, peppers, onion, garlic, and chopped steak conglomeration, but to this day I haven't enjoyed a steak sandwich as tasty as that great high school memory. All that said, Piesano's Philly Cheese Steak is an excellent sandwich with perfect sautéed onions and peppers topped with a delicious coating of yummy, gooey, melted provolone cheese. The steak is thinly sliced steak and pulls together all the other flavors. The Philly Cheese Steak rolls are not too thick but easily wrap around all the ingredients. I would have no problem suggesting Piesano's Philly Cheese Steak to a hungry lunch time carnivore.  Thinking about it GLOBers, back in the day before thin sliced, pre-packaged steak protein, the grill cook would chop his meat for the sandwich from a nice cut of sirloin steak resulting in cubed, diced pieces of delicious red meat.  This created a unique texture, bite size taste of spicy protein.  That's how I cook my cheesesteaks at home. Maybe that's what's missing from todays' steak thin sliced sammies . . .

- Mike Sanford

Italian lunch stop works for this Piesano

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

PIESANOsffMIDTOwnIt was shortly after Lynn Dirk and I sat down at the bar at the new Midtown Piesanos on the corner of University Avenue and 13th St that I knew this new additional location for the local, well-regarded pizza restaurant was going to do well.

"Check this out Mike," Piesanos's General Manager, Ryan Zachow,  said waving at a long line of beer taps behind the Piesano's bar. We have 40 taps available connected to 40 different kegs back in our cooler. Ryan was quick to point out that selections from Swamphead and First Magnitude breweries, the newest Gainesville craft beer are proudly included.

 

PIESANObarThe Piesanos crew spent a lot of time and money remodeling the old Beef O'Brady's pub into a stylish restaurant ready to handle the pizza-pie eating, beer-drinking gators of all varieties.

"Sure we expect to do a big student crowd late in the evening, but we also want to let people know this is an excellent family restaurant too with lunch specials and awesome dinner entrees," Ryan added.

 

PIESmidtownTAPS

Along with a very impressive bar, Piesanos has booths, tables, and a customer-friendly high-top table that can accommodate larger groups of 12 or more.

Since I consider myself a lunch-time eating professional, as I looked over the Piesanos menu, I quickly realized there were a multitude of lunch and dinner choices -- the menu is not for the faint at heart with an extensive menu of Italian and American cuisine entrees, appetizers, baked breads, soup, salads, pizza, calzones, subs, burgers, sides, a kids menu, and desserts. Oh, they also have veggie selections, gluten-free crust, and 30 different pizzas on their Gourmet Specialty Pizza Category. The Piesanos menu is available at the link below.

The GLOB's Content Editor and I were ready to see what Piesanos had to offer. We decided to share a personal pan pizza and an order of Eggplant Parmesan.

 

PIESANOpizzaEP

The affordable Personal Pan Pizza made sense since we were also ordering an entree. The pie was cut into four slices. Lynn and I had broccoli and spicy Italian sausage topping our pizza, and we were pleasantly surprised that there was left over eggplant and side spaghetti to take home.

The Piesanos red sauce had a certain identifiable spiciness that was pleasing. The Italian sausage enhanced the heat and added a savory flavor to the pie that had the GLOB Master smiling. The crust was very crunchy and somehwhat yeasty and Ms. Dirk detected corn meal in the somewhat crust, which was slightly thicker than a typical thin crust.

The pizza was very good, and I look forward to returning to Piesanos with pals so I can taste the MANY different pies over time.

 

PIESANOspecials

I had to smile when the Eggplant Parmesan entrée arrived with my share of pasta and red sauce in separate plate. I'm sorry, if you have read any of my other Italian lunches you already know noodles and tomato sauce, with or without a spoon, are wasted on the GLOB Master. I guess I will be going to my grave missing the savory, home cooked joy of these two ingredients that I believe need bountiful assistance from almost any other other ingredient to get me a little excited.

Remembering that we started lunch with a nice helping of warm, complementary garlic rolls and with an oil dip that was more like Italian dressing, we were eating a lot of food at Piesanos.

My share of the Piesanos Eggplant Parmesan was ample and cheesy with large pieces of eggplant in every bite.  It was a very good entrée, however I did add my remaining pasta and red sauce to the mix as the eggplant needed a little more sauce.

 

PIESANOtable

This was fun lunch experience. The Piesanos bar is a very cool, friendly place to enjoy lunch and watch the light show reflecting off the countless wine glasses about the beer taps as rainbow colors, one slowly after the other, lit up the glasses.  It's probably even better at night.

I'm going back to Piesanos. I just checked their menu and they have Shrimp & Mussels.  They also have Fra Diavolo: "Garlic, white wine, and spicy marinara." Come on -- any lunch stop that talks about Diavolo certainly gets the devil in me.

Follow this link for another piesanos lunch feature.

The Pluses and Minuses of Piesanos:

Piesanos + indicators: A lot of lunch time choices here. Excellent pizza, 40 beer taps!

Piesan's - indicators: I'm thinking this larger than the average lunch stop for midtown could get crowded really quickly/

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

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Dairy Queen, Archer Rd.

 

The Pluses and Minuses of Dairy Queen, NW 39th Ave.

Dairy Queen + indicators :

Dairy Queen - indicators:

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

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Dairy Queen, NW 39th Ave.

 

The Pluses and Minuses of Dairy Queen, NW 39th Ave.

Dairy Queen + indicators :

Dairy Queen - indicators:

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

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Mission Epicurious, Food Adventurer birthday dinner

Birthday adventure discovers Sweet Mel's cuisine

082613MissionEpicurious1> Follow this link for a Sweet Mel's lunch time feature

By: Melissa Kahan, GLOB Correspondent

My birthday was supposed to be simple: cheering on the Gators at The Swamp, heading downtown to meet up with friends, and sharing a nice dinner just me and my beau. But every other year I have a birthday dinner of sorts; it's the one aspect of my typically drawn out birthday celebration that is the most low key. We eat good food, catch up on what's new with each other and celebrate another year of Melissa. This year I did not want the hassle of planning and coordinating another birthday dinner to fall on my tired shoulders. But after much inquiry of "Why not?" it seemed giving in was just easier.

After multiple failed attempts to seat eight of us in a restaurant in downtown Gainesville on the Friday before game day, the search seemed futile – let's face it, I walked right into that. It wasn't until stumbling upon Sweet Mel's on the corner of University Ave. and Main Street that hope was restored. I had been inside the restaurant one other time but had not eaten there. It was the raves over the eclectic and uniquely assembled burgers that sparked my interest – that and they would seat all of us without wait.

 

sweetmelsGROUP

The restaurant was pretty full with tables of mostly two, three and four. Our table was by far the largest with the bar lining the length of the small restaurant and encompassing about half of the dining area. Everyone immediately scoured the burger menu, but seeing as how it would be somewhat of a wait until we could order, the staff being sparse compared with the number of hungry customers, we first ordered two appetizers for the table. Now, I've never heard of Philly Cheese Chips, but who could resist ordering basically the nacho version of a classic Philly cheese steak? Alongside that, the Battle of Rings complete with multiple warm, breaded onion rings and a spicy dipping sauce left us at the beginnings of full stomachs.

As far as the main attraction was concerned, everyone ordered a different, equally interesting-sounding masterpiece of flavors. It was quite a challenge for this food adventurer to narrow down just one option, though. Each plate brought to the table was nothing short of a piece of art. Luckily I asked about the rarity levels of the meat, and I was told my usual medium-rare order was to be a slab of meat pretty much still "bleeding." The medium was cooked to my liking with a slight pink center, and everyone else seemed pleased with how their burger was cooked, too, which has definitely not always been the case in previous dining out experiences.

 

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I'm getting sidetracked. My Smokey Mountain "mouth-watering" burger with a side of sweet potato waffle fries (right) was an all-around tasty treat. Complete with the usual fixings, minus onions, of lettuce, pickles and tomato, it distinguished itself from the other 17 listed burgers with a smattering of BBQ sauce on the inside of the buns and crispy bacon and onion rings atop a cheddar cheese-coated Angus beef patty. Each bite oozed with flavor: the cheese rich against the crispness of the lettuce and tomato while the sweet and smoky BBQ sauce complemented the hearty bacon and onion rings that sizzled in the middle with the other burger fixings. It took all that I had to even finish half of the burger, as I felt the sweet potato fries deserved some attention as well, although I feel these typically sweet and hearty fries merit a thicker form than the thin lattice of waffle fries Sweet Mel's prepares.

 

sweetmelsMouth

sweetmelsMANfriendI was very proud of my fellow diners' adventurous burger choices, allowing me to sample a little more of the vast burger menu. Mariel's Guido burger, a heaping bite about to be had (image right), was an Italian's dream of fried cheese, parmesan and marinara atop a juicy patty. Thomas, my boyfriend, about to enjoy another bite of burger, image right, ordered the Baby Bella burger. I was considering this option for myself as well despite it veering on the safer side of the menu, complete with sautéed baby portabella mushrooms, caramelized onions and Swiss cheese sandwiched together in a rich combination of flavors. Even my friend's Bacon Mac, complete with a heart-stopping combination of fried Mac and Cheese, bacon and even more melted American cheese atop a beef patty, sounded like a burger worth the feat, image at right.

All in all, good burgers were promised, and good burgers were received. The server was not knowledgeable of what was in most of the alcoholic drinks, let alone which were being served/on tap, but the food was great. The company, I must admit, was better. I think this sweet Mel will be back at Sweet Mel's for a go at maybe one of the other many food options, from pastas to open-faced sandwich "Stuffers" and pita pocket sandwich "Humps."

The Pluses and Minuses of Sweet Mel's

Sweet Mel's + indicators: Well-made, unique burgers, large portions for the price, quick seating for larger group, variety of menu items.

Sweet Mel's - indicators: Staff not very knowledgeable of menu.

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Mother's Pub & Grill

Sloppy Joe, make Mother's special

By Melissa Kahan, GLOB Correspondent

mothersdoor

If you are a game day lunch out sports fan you may have dined — or just drank if that is your game day procedure — at one of the city’s pubs, bars or any place with a large televisions, screaming fans and good food and drinks. At least, this is what I envision the ideal game day set-up to be.

To watch some FIFA World Cup Soccer, I wandered to local watering hole Mother’s Pub and Grill, 1017 W. University Ave., nestled in between Karma Cream and Gyro Plus. I have ventured into this small pub previously for the popular $.40 wing Mondays, and $3 burger and $2 Yuengling pint Wednesdays. There are always seats filled at the bar and tables filled in the main dining area and extra upstairs dining areas.

The popularity of the joint persuaded me to arrive at 11:00, an hour before kickoff, and even then just about every table was filled. We snagged one of the only available tables, which was perpendicular to the large TV screen - definitely not the ideal seat to watch without some serious neck straining.

“We need food.” That’s all my friend Julia had to say when the server, Zach, arrived at the table. The staff is always so chill and casual, as if just another friend joining the group. I can only assume this welcoming casualness sets the tone for the customers who frequent the establishment, too.

mothers5Zach suggested the Bloody Mary for starters, although it was anything but typical. This breakfast drink had bacon, sausage and cheese skewered on a toothpick, dangling into the spice-filled drink. How could this culinary adventurer not dare try this twist on a classic? It also came with a free small beer, so there’s that, too.

The breakfast menu — available from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. — appealed to Julia, while I had heard nothing but raves of the Pub Favorites on the standard menu, from Shepherd’s Pie to Pub Style Fish and Chips. There is a complete Mother's pub menu at the Mother's P & G weblink below this featute.

MOTHERSsloppyJoeJudging by my previous food adventures, it is no secret that I try new foods whenever possible: The more exotic, the better. This may sound silly, but my big food venture of the day was the Sloppy Joe on Texas Toast. This sandwich lover has never had this particular sandwich before, and honestly felt a bit silly.

“What kind of childhood did you have?” Zach was just as taken aback as Julia upon hearing that I have never had a simple sloppy Joe – a fall-out-of-the-bread sandwiching of meat, lettuce and good messy fun. In the pub’s case, it boasted “Pat’s famous homemade sloppy Joe from a secret family recipe” for just $5.

mothers1As the match started my sloppy sandwich was brought out with a side order of tater tots. I’ve had this side dish before at Mother’s, and I have to say that they are always served hot, cooked well and with just the right amount of crisp. My sandwich, as shown by the pictures, overflowed with tender seasoned beef atop a layer of lettuce from in between the two slices of Texas toast. After enjoying a few tots, I slowly picked up the well-packed sandwich as pieces of marinated beef slid down my hand and onto the tray. Although hesitant to dive in, one bite provided a mouthful of crispy, thick bread contrasting the hearty beef chunks dripping with flavor and spice – and by spice I mean this sandwich had a kick. It took a few messy bites to really taste the spiciness of the meat, but I wasn’t complaining.

I felt as if I were reliving a child-like scenario of stereotypical kid food. It had everything from the fun of a mess to the simplicity of meat and bread and even the tater tots dipped in ketchup, which are a pretty kid-friendly addition to a meal.

The server checked on us constantly throughout the roughly three and a half hours of agonizing, edge-of-the-seat game watching that consumed the entire pub. Everyone cheered together, everyone booed together, and what was the most appealing aspect of the pub, other than the well-prepared and reasonably-priced food, was the family aspect that everyone could interact together as if at just another tailgating event.

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

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4 Rivers Smokehouse

The last time I tried 4 Rivers BBQ for lunch, the line was out the door. I'm not big on waiting in line for anything, especially lunch. There are just too many good places to eat quicker, faster, and just as tasty. So I was pleased when I walked into this popular 'Que shop and was able to step right up and place my order. Alright, so I felt a little out of place as I craned my neck upwards looking at a lunch menu that was 10 feet off the ground with a yellow background. 'Geez," I thought to myself. I could stand here for 20 minutes looking up at all these choices. Looking straight ahead, three 4 Rivers servers were standing in front of me with blank faces, serving tongs at the ready, waiting to hear my lunch selection. Yes I was intimidated. I wasn't about to hold the lunch line up. "Let me have the Quarter Bird and a side of collard greens please," I said in a knowing manner like I was a 4 Rivers regular. Two pieces of chicken (three with the wing) and two sides for $6.99 sounded like a decent lunch time deal. Shuffling down the line, I spied stuffed jalapeno peppers. OMG! What a pleasant surprise. I ordered a serving of that too.

You know how sometimes things just don't work for you, though, GLOBers? I've come to expect BBQ meat to be fall-off-the-bone cooked and ready to enjoy. Maybe it was because it was shortly after the lunch hour. Or perhaps this bird was at the end of the cooking line and didn't get the attention the other cluckers received. When I tried to separate the wing from the chicken breast, I couldn't pull it apart. Reaching for my handy, black plasticware my knife, I was still unsuccessful at cutting the tendons holding the parts together. So I did what any good ole southern boy would do: I grabbed each part with both hands, and twisted and pulled the wing off the breast. It would have made a good image, this larger than most carnivores wrestling a second and third joint piece of chicken. I won, I guess. I must have been a sight with sloppy BBQ covered hands biting off the almost done chicken. Being the fifth of six children, I know better than to complain. I would hear "Shut up and eat" as often as "Pass the gravy." As I reached for the still connected drumstick, I noticed a puddle of red liquid collecting on my plate. That was it for me. I enjoyed the jalapeno peppers even though most of the flavor and heat had been baked out of the pepper pods. The collard greens were excellent, really crunchy, flavorful, and delicious with generous pieces of 'cue meat nestled among the greens.

bakeryThe criticism I hear most about my restaurant reviews is that I am too easy on the restaurants, but I get the pressure of preparing a meal for customers as fast as possible. Being an old newspaper guy, I appreciate the ability to work under pressure, but sometimes things just don't come out as planned. Who would know it would be my luck to get the almost cooked white meat. I'm going back to 4 Rivers Smokehouse. Next time I will be clear I want my 'cue cooked to the bone.

I couldn't resist walking by the 4 Rivers bakery on the way out. Wow! Yum! You don't know how good I felt ignoring my palette as I dashed outside before my sweet tooth won the inner battle of self-denial.

- GLOB Master

 

4RsgreenTOPPER

Archer Rd. Q-stand has E A's attention

By: Melissa Kahan, GLOB Correspondent

4RIVERSstorefrontPerhaps it was the fancy logo or the immaculate website that led me to believe that 4 Rivers Smokehouse was to be a more formal dine-in barbeque option than the average. Honestly, it was my friends' raves even before the Texas-style smokehouse opened here that peaked my interest long before the franchise landed in Gainesville. What I finally encountered on arrival to the highly touted barbeque eatery was beyond the typical experience -- I was not disappointed.

4RiversSWAMPlifeIf you haven't had the good  fortune to visit a 4 Rivers Smokehouse, whether in Gainesville or in the other four locations across Florida -- Winter Park, Winter Garden, Longwood, or Jacksonville --you have not seen a restaurant at the threshold of success and expansion. 

The location of the Gainesville 4 Rivers, at 3562 SW 35th Blvd. in Butler Plaza, adds to the pleasurable occasion of dining there. I would even say that the pleasure of the experience is almost undermined by calling it "going out to eat." That just doesn't sound special enough.

I was particularly happy it was the fast-casual, go-through-the-line-and-pay-at-the-register approach to dining because, when you think of the stick-to-your-ribs, down and dirty home-style barbeque cooked in your backyard that you grew up with, was there a server and a nice dining room? Heaping helpings and outdoor/rustic seating? That's what I thought.

4riversLINEJoining me on this dining venture was none other than the Gainesville Lunch Out Blog GLOB Master himself, Mike Sanford.  "I've done this food thing for a long time; I don't want to wait in this line," he said.  I understood his feeling:  The line was spilling outside and wrapping around the outdoor sidewalk. I assured Mike that taking in the full experience — long line and all — would be well worth it, as it would give us time to browse the unfamiliar menu and learn first hand the level of craving this establishment was creating in its hungry audience.

Being the "professional eaters" that we are, it only felt right to order a variety of dishes, namely the Texas Destroyer, the Smokehouse Sliders, and the Six Shooter. The side dishes looked too appetizing to pass up, so we added mac and cheese, fried okra, Texas cornbread, collards and— after being offered to try them first —smoked jalapenos to our trays. The entire 4 Rivers crew was accommodating throughout, checking on us at the long, crowded, rustic wooden tables spanning the length of the dining area.  We wondered if our eyes were bigger than our stomachs (image at top of this feature).

The sliders proved perfect portions of each of the meats: chicken, pulled pork, and brisket. Needing no other topping than the  smattering of 4 Rivers sauce, the chicken was tender and refreshingly different; the pulled pork smoky and hearty; and the brisket chewy and thick. The sliders were winners for both myself and Mike, although he thought the smoked jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese and 4riversBRISKETencased in a blanket of crispy bacon sealed the deal and certainly the spice.

I'd heard remarkable things about the brisket that took 18 years to perfect, so the Texas Destroyer with smoked brisket, onion rings, jalapenos and melted provolone cheese was what I was most anxious to try. After an extra dollop of 4R sauce, I eagerly took a very big bite to experience every flavor at once. Although I am not typically a brisket eater, this proved to be a smoky change from the kind my mom makes, it had some different flavers that melding in a welcome way. The Six Shooter was a feat in itself, composed of cheese grits topped with pulled pork, pickles, southern slaw, jalapenos — starting to see a trend — and of course that 4R sauce that Mr. Rivers himself concocted. This proved to be the most interesting array of ingredients - the tender, juicy pulled pork combined with the cole slaw, thick grits and heat from the jalapenos to create a tantalizing sensation on my taste buds.

4riversDESSERTWith all the sides, from the cake-like cornbread to the crisp fried okra and the pot licker-immersed collards, we were satiated, perhaps a tad too much in fact, as I could barely roll off my stool. I couldn't let the barbeque defeat me just yet, as no 4 Rivers experience is complete without a trip to the Sweet Shop where Mike and I ventured to the S'more Brownie, Double Chocolate Cake, and a Gainesville specialty orange and blue cake surrounded by orange and blue sprinkles. One bite of the rich Gator cake, moist mousse-filled chocolate cake, and marshmallow-topped thick brownie — I'm a sucker for a good brownie — and the 4Rivers extravaganza was complete.

4riversCARAAlthough the amazing array and combinations of food left this foodie in awe, it was the friendly and accommodating service and the warmth radiating from owner and chef John Rivers that really distinguished this already one-of-a-kind smokehouse from other places in Gainesville and, dare I say, across Florida. It's this personal touch from 4Rivers staffers like Cara Smith that sealed the deal for so many loyal customers, myself now included.

The Pluses and Minuses of 4 Rivers Smokehouse

4 Rivers Smokehouse + indicators: Stuffed jalapeno peppers, brisket sandwich.

4 Rivers Smokehouse- indicators: Popularity could create long lunch lines.

Be the first to offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about 4 Rivers Smokehouse.  Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments.  - THANKS!

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