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Restaurant lunch highlights:

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Keke's Breakfast Cafe

Customer friendly staffer makes lunch special

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

KEKEsf250I'm not a big Butler Plaza fan. I need a good reason to dive into a shopping area that probably rivals in size a lot of the cities, and towns that comprise North Central Florida. The Traffic in the parking lots are closer to every man for himself bumper cars, than folks looking to park their automobile. Driving lanes be damned.

Everybody is in a hurry for one reason or another.

Interesting company, excellent conversation sends me to the land of SUVs, compacts, 4-wheel drives, trucks, mighty big cars, trucks, and Hybrids every time.

Once a month I venture to the BP Walmart for another prescription of insulin because it is extraordinarily cheaper at the Walmart Pharmacy. Adhering to the two-birds-one-stone idea I decided to walk across the paved parking lots to check out what has become a very popular breakfast house for lunch.

 

KEKEwebpageA

Keke's has 30 restaurants canvassing Florida. The Florida chain was founded in 2006 by brothers Kevin and Keith Mahen, hence the name Keke's. According to the Keke's website there are seven more Keke's in the planning stages.

Apparently this is a franchise formula that is working. It also explains why students, and visiting out of towners, possess a strong comfort zone feeling for breakfast at this big box location all day, every day . All Keke's Café breakfast is served all day, every day Cafe and all the keke's locations are open daily 7:00am to 2:30pm.

The GLOB Master enjoys a good breakfast.

So I was ready to see what makes this Breakfast/lunch stop popular for the morning meal.

It was a late lunch for me which turned out fine because there were not that many customers in the restaurant. Keke's has an interesting 'booth seating only' concept where everyone can enjoy the privacy of high cubicle walls eliminating extraneous noise. That said it did leave me with a feeling of waiting in my library cubicle for my Keke's experience.

KEKESkylie200I was quickly greeted by the friendly Keke's Server, UF college student, and Bunnell citizen Kylie Jeesmer who joined me for some conversation. Kylie is finishing up SFC and is ready to transfer into UF's a College of business with plans for Marketing degree and was very helpful in answering my questions and deciding on lunch.

Keeping the franchise spirit in mind they have a giant menu of of choices including WAFFLES, PANCAKES, CREATE YOUR OWN COMBOS, FRENCH TOAST, STUFFED FRENCH TOAST, OMELETS. POACHED EGG MEALS, EGG FAVORITES, SIDEs, KID'S BREAKFAST, and BEVERAGES. And that is just for breakfast GLOBers.

I guess to some the Keke's Lunch menu would appear unremarkable with the usual PANINIS, SANDWICHES, BURGERS, WRAPS, SALADS, SUBSTITUTIONS & SIDES, KID'S LUNCH, and BEVERAGES.

I'm not counting how many choices that makes for a meal.

I do find it daunting, eye crossing that I must spend thirty minutes before lunch querying food data for a good lunch.

This is where a smart, expert on the menu server like Kylie becomes invaluable to my mid-day consumption.

 

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"If you like spicy the Southwest Turkey Club with turkey breast, tomato, pepper jack cheese, Texas petal sauce and bacon is one of my favorites, (10.48)." Kylie said.

Ms. Jessmer agreed that since this was my forts visit to the breakfast house I should include an over easy fried egg to my lunch to make this an official breakfast/lunch visit.

KEKESpetasauceIt was a good lunch highlight by interesting Keke's Texas Petal Sauce that included horseradish, paprika, salt, oregano, black, and cayenne pepper. The pepper Jack cheese was notable and added flavor. The roasted turkey plank had a modicum of flavor. However I wish they asked me whether I wanted the turkey with, or without grill marks. Do you think there are boxes of turkey planks in the fKeke's reezer that are marked "WITH, and Boxes marked "WITHOUT GRILL MARKS?"

The Pluses and Minuses of the Keke's Breakfast Cafe:

Keke's Breakfast Cafe (+) indicators:  Popular, wide ranging menu, friendly service, interesting menu suggestions. Eating a meal, sharing conversation with friends, trying out new menus, there are a lot of reason to enjoy lunch. A big GLOB thank you to Kylie Jessmer for making my Keke's lunch special.

Keke's Breakfast Cafe  (-) indicators:  Breakfast houses are becoming more popular all the time. Long lines, frantic experiences, waiting to order eggs? To me it seem like a good reasons to eat local . . .

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

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Paramount Grill

The 'little somethings' spoil great lunch 

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

paramountstoresfThe question I hear the most when I introduce myself as Gainesville's GLOB Master is, "What is the best restaurant in Gainesville?"

After saying there are 243 restaurants in Gainesville with many unique 'best restaurant' choices, I quickly say if my mother were coming to town I would take her to the Paramount Grill downtown.

My friends and I were in luck with an early arrival there for lunch with only one table of six ordering ahead of us. The PG ambiance, service, and uniquely interesting menu never fails as a great lunch experience. This lunch stop is special if for no other reason than to gaze out the PG windows onto the old Gainesville brick streets and historic preserved buildings.

I was with long-time friends and previous UF Entomology & Nematology colleagues, Jane Medley and Kathy Milne, to celebrate Ms. Milne's birthday.

 

ParamountBurger

Ongoing adventures with my diabetes led me to choose the Paramount Grill Southwestern Hamburger with fried green tomato, avocado, goat cheese, and chipotle aioli for $11 as an excellent option, YELP image above.   I could easily leave behind the bread (and thus keep my carbs down) by treating the sandwich as an open-faced dish.

I find my cerebral logic wires working more often since I am trying to marginalize bread, white ingredients from my diet.

To start the meal, our server described a soup special of Indian-spiced, roasted garlic and tomato soup with cilantro that sounded divine down to the cilantro that had me thinking outside my lunch box for a side order of soup.

PGrosanneWhile we were catching up on Kathy's birthday, and Jane Medley's retiring from Entomology & Nematology, our server returned with the news there was no more hamburger meat in the kitchen. I was surprised by that – how do you run out of an important product like that so early during the lunch interval? As a second choice, like my pals, I too ordered a panini sandwich and lamented the toasted bread thinking Giilda Radner's very cunny character Roseanne Roseannadanna is correct saying, "If it ain't somethin', iIt's something else."

The Portabello Panino with asparagus, roasted red pepper, caramelized onion, spinach, brie and pesto for $7 did sound good, image at top of this review. In fact I had even given the Panini serious consideration before deciding on the red meat protein.

 

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There is a link to the complete Paramount Grill menu at the restaurant link at the bottom of this page.

Our order arrived in a timely manner and I eagerly tasted the soup for spices and flavors. The soup was delicious with a very small tinge of Indian spices which made me happy since I am not a big fan of curry. I did manage to squeeze in a little bread during this lunch as the soup came with a tiny homemade basil roll. Yum.

 

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"This is really good soup," I said to the server. "But I'm not tasting the cilantro," I say to the server disappointed about missing my favorite spice.

"Oh, the Chef decided he wasn't using any cilantro today," the server stated matter-of-factly. Another missing ingredient!

The Portabello Panino was a very good alternative to my red meat dream. The bits and bites of red pepper, onion, and spinach were delicious in the melted brie. The pieces of asparagus jumped out off the flavor palette literally making me stop to smile at the delicious, crunchy asparagus flavor. The accompanying side order of a light salad with navy beans and a tangy vinaigrette dressing was my substitute for the waffle fries.

 

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As always lunch with friends from my bug/insect working days is an enjoyable lunch hour and the food served was delicious. Unfortunately this trip created a quandary as far as my recommending the PG as one of the best lunch stops in the future. Should I mention the ingredient missed steps in my evaluation or should I think of the missing cilantro as a grain of salt?

The Pluses and Minuses of the Paramount Grill:

The Paramoung Grill + indicators :  Excellent cusisne, atentive service.

The Paramount Grill - indicators :  With attention to detail falling off is the Paramount resting onit's laureals?

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

 

ParramountMEATLOAFpannini 

A wonderful, 'old Gainesville' lunch experience

zzGLOBbullet Paramount Grill one of Gourmet magazine's best Valentine's Day dinners.

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

Would it surprise you to learn that the fine dining establishment, the Paramount Grill (PG) in downtown Gainesville, is serving up a sandwich at lunch?  It's an incredibly tasty, pressed sandwich called "Grilled Chicken with Havarti, Bacon, Plum Tomato, Organic Greens and Avocado with Garlic Aioli."

PmountPICThat's quite an inventory of ingredients combined in this toasted, pressed-to-perfection, melted cheese flavor extravaganza.

When it's my turn to suggest a lunch out spot to friends I am happy to pick the Paramount Grill because I like to think of the PG as one of my special lunchtime discoveries.

The Paramount Grill is a great friendly lunch gathering spot for your biz meeting. The tables are spaced out evenly enough that you don't feel like you're invading the space of lunch outters at the next table.

There is no sense of being in a hurry at the Paramount Grill. Located on a side street just off of Main St, the PG has a large front window with a great view looking out on one of the oldest streets in Gainesville. Directly across the street is a beautiful, red-brick rustic building that once housed what may have been the first hardware store in Gainesville (Rice Hardware, now American Apparel -- which retained the original well-worn wooden floor).

 

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You can imagine yourself in a Gainesville from another era as you sit amidst a gracious decor at a table traditionally laid out with a white table cloth and cloth napkins, and an attentive, quick-to-please wait staff eagerly anticipates your needs.

The Paramount Grill lunch menu is an interesting variation of their dinner menu and features salads, soups, and wraps.

They have also included a nice collection of burgers, some veggie items, and a very nice assortment of special lunch entrees like Almond Encrusted Crab Cakes, Salmon Saute' with Portabello Mushrooms, and Pesto Roasted Chicken Roulade.

From the perspective of this professional eater, if you are looking to impress, to close a big business deal, or just to stop, step back, and take a breath away from every day madness, the Paramount Grill might very well be your designated destination.

So fellow GLOBers, if you are out to impress where's your best lunch out spot?

 

ParamountTOPPERa

Plans had been made for a Paramount Grill Sunday Brunch for quite a few weeks.The PG's menu of excellent choices made decision-making very hard but eventually entrees were chosen. Gold stars go to the Crab Cake Benedict with lots of crab, plumtomatoes, roasted garlic and basil hollandaise, and gooey poached egg yolks over all, despite the curiosity of crab cakes sitting atop a slice of sourdough bread. The Chicken salad crepes with brie were a close second with tasty chunks of chicken over baby spinach, asparagus, and plum tomato salad tossed with fig vinaigrette and finished with walnuts. The thick slice of Almond Crusted French Toast served with fresh blueberries, raspberry coulis and sour cream was very good. Two friends took advantage of the all-you-can-drink mimosas. How good was our Sunday brunch?  Our plates were cleaned spotless, we had enjoyable extended conversation, and I'm going back!

-- Mike Sanford, GLOB Master

The Pluses and Minusesof The Paramount Grill:

The Paramoung Grill + indicators :  A superior lunch experience in beautiful, old Gainesville.

The Paramount Grill - indicators : Lunch can quickly work up to the pricier side of a good lunch deal . . .

 Be the first to offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about the Paramount 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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Jason's Deli

jason3I was counting on Jason's Deli in the Oaks Mall Plaza to have an interesting meatless entrée for the GLOB Master. It was like the meatless lunch gods had a meeting and decided to send me a message -- there my lunch was on a giant sign just as you enter Jason's Deli: ZUCHINI GRILLINI ON 9-GRAIN ARTISAN BREAD. The picture of the sandwich on the poster looked good. I like zucchini, but I've never had a zucchini sandwich. The idea of toasted bread and Muenster cheese had me smiling. Along with the gooey cheese were sliced grilled zucchini, organic spinach, red onions, roma tomatoes, kalamata olives, and roasted red pepper hummus – this sandwich has it all!  The meatless lunch gods did their job. Not only that, this sandwich is worth a try, GLOBers (above). The olives added a little punch to the mix. This sandwich would have been spectacular, however, with a little horseradish or some other spicy sauce. For the side that comes with the sandwich, the GLOB Master ordered fruit medley. The lunch was satisfying and tasty -- and I felt so darn healthy I could hardly stand myself. GLOB Emeritus Lynn Dirk joined me for lunch and she was raving about JD's very impressive salad bar – several times she said "It has EVERYthing – even artichokes!" There is a vegetarian section of the menu available on the web with 12 items listed: 2 sides, 5 kids items, 3 soups one of which is organic "vegetarian vegetable" (assurance there is no meat broth in the mix!), and 2 sandwiches – a Spinach Veggie Wrap and the Zucchini Grillini. I'm going back to Jason's Deli for another Zuchini Grillini but not for another seven days . . .

- Mike Sanford

Big box deli fulfills expectations

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

I was excited about my Monday lunch plans to go to the Jason's Deli (JD) in the Oaks Mall Plaza off of Newberry Rd.

Before lunch, I had reviewed the Jason's Deli website and was aware that JD wants to break the everyday deli mode with a new, contemporary, gluten-free, no trans fats, no fructose, calorie-counting, healthy, somewhat organic place to feed your lunch habit.

In fact Jason's Deli must be succeeding at that since it was recently recognized by Parenting Magazine as the Best Restaurant in America.

So why wouldn't I be expecting the best deli lunch I have ever had?

 

JDsaladBar

Jason's has earned a reputation for many good qualities including healthy food awareness, a good menu for families and children and a very impressive salad bar.  The salad bar can be included at half price when ordered with a meal.

SaladLINEatmThis big box deli does have a nice touch for those in a hurry -- an express pay "kiost" where you can swipe a credit card to skip the lunch line cashier and go straight to the salad bar to create your lunch.

Walking into JDs a little after 11:30, I realized this lunch stop was going to be busy as customers were already lining up at the door from all directions.

A Jason's Deli host standing outside the deli was distributing menus to customers much the same way you would receive orders before going into battle.

Walking inside the deli, it was quickly apparent that the lunch line started right inside the front door. Yep, I was standing in a lunch line.

It appears that if you are in the mood to go for a healthy lunch, you better plan ahead and have your healthy diet data handy.

The menu issued to me outside did not have all the healthy, smart-to- eat lunch information I saw on the Jason's Deli web site.  You can find that information on the restaurant web link below this feature

JasonsDeliSince I had no earlier experience by which to assess the 50-plus entree choices listed in front of me, I quickly focused on a Specialty Sandwich that sounded like my kind of lunch grub: "The Big Joe," which is named for the father of the Jason's Deli founder. This sandwich contained turkey breast, asiago cheese, roasted tomatoes, basil-pesto with pine nuts, and mayo sandwiched between toasted herb focaccia bread slices. When it was my turn to order, I was ready.

The lunch line I was standing in looked like it was as long as a bowling alley. However since I ordered from the menu and didn't choose the salad bar or build-my-own sandwich lunch special, I was able to quickly move past all the stops necessary in the "building" process.

I found a nice table at the back of the dining room and placed my ORDER NUMBER 56 card high off the table where it would be noticed.

There were a lot of North Florida Regional Hospital )NFRH) staffers in the dining room. This looks like a handy, obvious alternative to NFRH cafeteria food.

 

042912JasonsSANDWICH

My Big Joe sandwich appeared at my table in a reasonable amount of time, and it was a good sandwich. The creamy asiago cheese melded very nicely with the herb focaccia bread. The roasted turkey breast was, well, unremarkable and thinly sliced. I couldn't spot any roasted tomatoes in my sandwich, but the flavor of the basil pesto was pronounced and enjoyable.

The Jason Deli potato chips were an ordinary crinkle-cut variety. I'm betting they have a scale somewhere to make sure I got just the right number of potato chips on my plate.

All that said, the sandwich was pretty good. However I'm not really sure what made my Big Joe a Specialty Sandwich.

Thinking about it -- I received two sandwich triangles of the Big Joe sandwich. Three sandwich triangles would have been better. That would have at least made my sandwich appear special.

Maybe they were thinking Specialty Math Problem, not Specialty Sandwich:

"The GLOB Master orders the 'The Big Joe' Specialty Sandwich, which is comprised of three tasty sandwich triangles. Unfortunately the Professional Eater only received two sandwich triangles on his plate. Using only fractions -- no whole numbers allowed -- how much of the GLOB Master's sandwich was missing?"

The Pluses and Minuses of Jason's Deli:

Jason's Deli PLUS (+) indicators: Handy location, a ton of food choices.

Jason's Deli MINUS (-) indicators: I'm sorry, these franchise deli food lunch stops are unremarkable in my opinion.

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

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