706 brunch: Still tasty after all these years
EDITOR'S NOTE: This column combines reviews of both Lynn Dirk (LD) and Melissa Kahan (MK), because, as everyone knows, two heads are better than one!
LD: I can hardly believe it has been 4 years since I wrote my first review of the 706 Sunday brunch. Time flies whether you are having fun or not – but I have been back for that brunch buffet many times since 2010 and it is a delicious experience every time . . . EVERY time!! Consistent excellence like that is priceless no matter what you are talking about, but when it is a restaurant, it is a very special treat.
My most recent visit to the 706 brunch was a celebration bonanza with the GLOB Master and the Gainesville Lunch Out Blog's Eating Adventurer, Melissa Kahan. It started out as a birthday gift to me instigated by Melissa, but then Mike added Melissa's birthday, which had been a little before mine, plus – more interesting and important – a celebration of Melissa starting her new job as a marketing person at E-ONE in Ocala. I was very impressed to hear this company is a "made in the USA" success story. Wow.
I have been lamenting for at least 20 years how everything seems to be made in China. I even decided at one point to give up complaining and just appreciate how those Chinese can do ANYTHING, and a lot of it is very clever. Even so, when I hear about things that are actually made in the USA, that is a real reason to celebrate. Plus, in this case, it is a local success as E-ONE is located down the road in Ocala and is an industry leader in first responer apparatus, and, yes, they actually have factories! I am hoping that Melissa will do a GLOB Local Digest feature about this unique, ideal company, where employees don't leave because it is such a great company.
So, we had a LOT to celebrate, and the 706 Sunday Brunch was the best possible place for the celebration.
MK: Now that I have to wake up so early to commute to work, I have to make myself eat early or I burn out mid-morning, but I am not an early morning food person typically. I will reiterate to the point of a broken record, I am enthralled with the concept of a mid-morning or even early afternoon brunch. It represents ease, a stress-free special event; overall, brunch represents something magical.
Few places in Gainesville measure up to Leonardo's 706, from the ambiance to the live music and impeccable food. The first time I went, which coincidentally was for the first celebration of my birthday a couple of months ago -- it lived up to the hype. When GLOB Master, Mike Sanford, mentioned that GLOB editor, Lynn Dirk, was also having a birthday soon, I thought a nice dining out experience at a great place would best celebrate the occasion. When he told me Lynn's favorite spot was Leonardo's 706 for brunch, I nearly leapt for joy. Any day I go there is a great day; any day with good company at such a great place is almost sinful.
LD: We arrived about 11:30 and had to wait briefly. IMPORTANT NOTE: I learned you can make reservations for the brunch, and I highly recommend it as this brunch has become so popular. As we waited, Melissa and I compared notes about our favorite brunch dishes. She raved about the French toast and I raved about the fruits.
I have to admit that the 706 brunch French toast was something I had never tried before. I'm pretty fussy about my FT – I do not like it soggy, but since Melissa recommended it so highly, I decided to give it a try. Plus, why would I think that the 706 brunch FT would be anything but perfect? It was. So now I have one more thing to eat – and it is a pretty filling thing. So from now on, only one triangle of FT will do so I can fit in everything else I love off the brunch table.
MK: I truly cannot stress the quality of food. After trying a bite of each salad, the standard breakfast options, and the meat selection, I have raved about and highly recommended all of it. This is not an exaggeration. In addition to the complimentary brunch punch concoction of assorted juices, the mimosas are delicious and very shareable in a carafe--which we had to splurge on for such a multi-purpose celebration.
In addition to the brunch-related goods from unique eggs Benedict to amazing French toast, you can order off a menu, but Mike, Lynn, and I all opted for the brunch, and we could not run fast enough to the buffet line.
LD: After all these years (at least 4 as mentioned above), my favorites are still there – the fruits that are baked or braised, the shirred eggs with tarragon, the baked garlic, the tomato and balsamic vinegar – which Mike was also quite fond of, and the variety of other exotic salads. There is always salmon and a meat, previously always ham, but lately it varies. Sometimes there are surprises – special additions for that day. This time it was kale that was cooked and seasoned perfectly. All three of us raved about it.
MK:: I knew I would be going back for a few plates, so the first consisted of my typical breakfast fare: cheese eggs, boiled and glazed fruits, fluffy grits, and of course my 706 brunch favorite, the delicious French toast. I am not joking when I say it is the perfect combination of crispy edges and a fluffy center, a generous pool of syrup-banana-sugary glaze resting below each toast triangle making syrup obsolete. Everything on the first plate was too good, and then I had my second plate with assorted salads and lunch dishes, including the macaroni and cheese, a mushroom dish, Spanish salad, a purple wild rice, balsamic tomatoes, okra and essentially any kind of salad you could think of. I truly loved it all. The tomatoes were not soggy, but so flavorful; the purple rice and Spanish salad had such amazing, unique flavors. Although I am usually very picky about mac and cheese, I really liked it. The third and final plate included the meats, which, due to being close to Thanksgiving, included turkey, along with the usual cooked and raw salmon. Lynn said she had a tender pork dish one Sunday, which I am curious to try.
It is rare that every bite of every type of food available is tasty, but I could not get enough. Even the complimentary mini muffins and potato pancakes, which I didn't get any of on this trip unfortunately, are a real treat. If you haven't been, find a friend with a birthday and suggest one of the best brunch establishments in Gainesville!
LD: I absolutely agree with Melissa - If you have a friend and you want to do something special for his or her birthday or to celebrate ANYTHING at all and that friend appreciates really good and varied food, you can't give a better gift than the Leonardo's 706 Sunday brunch buffet. Lucky me to have friends like that. That is something to be very thankful for.
International Sunday buffet, celebration of taste
By Lynn Dirk, GLOB Correspondent
Editor's Note: Lynn Dirk, an editorial and communications assistant at the Brain Rehabilitation Research Center of the US Department of Veterans Affairs, is a devout enthusiast of all food things healthy.
This review is about a Sunday lunch at Leonardo's 706 Sunday International Buffet. And what a buffet it is. I guess they are making up for the fact that they don't serve lunch during the week.
This is it – the only opportunity to have lunch at 706 is the Sunday brunch from 10 to 3.
I have been to many brunch buffets– the Mother's Day and T-Giving brunches at Holiday Inns, the long gone buffet of . . . I think it was called the Magnolia on University Ave just down the road from 706. Buffets on a cruise ship, admittedly it was a Carnival cruise, which has been called the Walmart of cruises. OK, so maybe my experience of buffets is not the widest or most sophisticated. Nevertheless, you can bet your bottom dollar that no matter how many buffets you have been too, the one at 706 will be one of the best you have ever experienced.
In fact, this is the perfect place for celebrations such as birthdays. So this past weekend, I was treating my green neighbor, Go Green Nation girl and Cinema Verde Director, Trish Riley, to a birthday buffet. I lucked out -- she had never been there. I knew this would be a perfect edible BD gift for her. And she loved 706 as much as I do: "What an incredible treat I enjoyed last Sunday morning, when my dear green friend and neighbor Lynn Dirk treated me to a birthday brunch at 706. I still can't believe I hadn't visited this mecca of international culinary delights before. It is like an escape to a European vacation."
The moniker "international" is truth in advertising. The dishes range from middle Eastern with spicy chicken or lamb dishes to Scandinavian with lox and all its trappings to English with tarragon shirred eggs, to all American with macaroni and cheese, albeit not your momma's mac n'cheese.
I have been to this buffet many times so now I have a system that follows the layout of the tables and groupings of the food:
> A little bit of just about everything. And there are a lot of different plates!!!
> First plate focuses on foods that complement the shirred eggs, which is most foods on the east side of the main table, but includes ham from the meat table on the west side of the buffet.
> Second plate focuses on vegetable dishes and salads on the west side of the main table.
> Third plate focuses on the delectable fruits made special by sauces, spices or both that are on the east side of the south table. This is the second section you come to if you did a straight left to right sequence, so I think I hit this table later than the average bear, and that's because I think of it as dessert.
But wait, there is food that is not on the buffet tables. You get little muffins on your own table and, for a very special treat, one of the owners, who is a fantastic host, comes around with potato pancakes . . . oh, sorry. I guess they are latkes. Yum!!!! The buffet is also served with a beverage that is wonderful mix of fruit juices. And if you are there around at 1 pm, you can order mimosas.
Some of my favorite dishes out of the very many to choose from:
> I've already said the shirred eggs are great – baked eggs that have a very light texture and a light freshness from tarragon.
> Tomatoes with balsamic vinegar and basil.
> Roasted garlic (or maybe I should call it baked garlic?) – OMG. The best ever.
> The fruit!!! Pineapple baked with some kind of sauce that must have brown sugar in it, mango that will make your taste buds tango, baked blueberries, fresh spiced applesauce – I mixed the blueberries and applesauce. YUM again.
> The potato pancake, or maybe it's a latke. Whatever it is, I love it.
The food is so good, and by that I mean tasty AND healthy, that even though I eat way too much, generally I'm not in pain for very long. Apparently, however, the 706 International Buffet is not for everyone. My sister and her husband found it a little too spicy I think. So, this wonderful taste experience is best appreciated by people who . . . have international tastes!
Sadly, with this review, I have covered all the Leonardo's restaurants (oops, the GLOB Master reviewed the bistro next to Leonardo's by the Slice, which is technically a Leonardo's restaurant). Each one is special and unique and very satisfying. I love them all – for the food, the character, and the history. If you don't frequent one or more of the Leonardo's restaurants, you can't claim to be a Gainesville resident.
The Pluses and Minuses of Leonardos 706:
Leonardos 706 (+) indicators: A wide variety of excellently prepared food. I have been there many times and never been disappointed.
Leonardos 706 (-) indicators: Nada!!!
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- Phone Number: 372-2001
- Address: 706 W University Ave., Gaineville, FL
- Urban GLOB Location: Midtown
- Web Site: Leonardos 706
- Latitude: 29.652447
- Longitude: -82.3318989