Best Food & Drinks in Gainesville, Florida
Updated: May 6, 2021
Home to the University of Florida, Gainesville will always hold a special place in my heart. If you ever find yourself passing through, visiting for a Gator game or whatever else the case may be, you have to take a look at this guide to the best restaurants in Gainesville, Florida.
Best restaurants in Gainesville, Florida
Dragonfly Sushi—Dragonfly has, hands down, the best sushi in Gainesville (and everyone will agree). Not only do they have an amazing sushi menu but also a list of shareable Japanese plates. If you're looking for a deal, they have a drink/food happy hour from 5-7p.m. Sunday-Thursday and a drink happy hour from 4-5p.m. Friday-Saturday. My favorites on the menu: the Black n' Bleu roll, the wontons + the Mango Tango roll.
Leonardo's—Leonardo's has garlic knots unlike any other. No other words necessary, just go try them (also the pizza is amazing, obviously, but the garlic knots, seriously, try them).
Boca Fiesta—Boca Fiesta is a fan-favorite for sure. This downtown Gainesville, Mexican restaurant has plenty of outdoor seating and a backyard, where several local events are hosted from film festivals to converts. Plus, they share the area with Palomino Pool Hall, so you can go back and forth between the two!
Daily Green—A lesser known spot, Daily Green is also located in downtown Gainesville, less than a five-minute walk from Depot Park. This place is full of vegan, vegetarian and, all together, healthy options that you won't want to miss (just look at that Thai Waffle Cone picture above).
Mojo Hogtown BBQ—Another sweet downtown spot, Mojo Hogtown is your classic BBQ joint. The food is absolutely amazing, and it's located in a great area.
Afternoon—Across the street from Cypress & Grove Brewery (who also hosts weekly farmer's markets), Afternoon is an amazing brunch/lunch spot that recently started serving Bandit Coffee. My favorites on the menu: Porchetta Sandwich + Dutch Baby.
Covey Kitchen + Cocktails—One of Gainesville's newest restaurants, located inside Hotel Eleo, Covey Kitchen + Cocktails is not your average "hotel restaurant." The area has beautiful views, stellar cocktails and amazing dishes. Some of my favorites were the short rib, brussel sprout salad, jus de poire and jalepeno muddle, but you really can't go wrong with anything here!
Satch Squared—Owned by Satchel's Pizza, Satch Squared makes a great addition to the 4th Ave Food Park. They have, by far, the crispiest waffles I've ever eaten and the squarest pizza I've ever seen. The pizza is good, but the waffles are where they really shine, in my opinion. Plus, the are accompanied by a cute Opus Coffee truck next door to pair with your breakfast.
Dick Mondell's Burgers & Fries—This Gainesville classic is right across the street from the 4th Ave Food Park. Dick Mondell's is the cutest little drive-thru burger shop you'll ever see, and every local will tell you the same. You've got to get "The original" burger, sweet potato tots (with dick sauce) and the ginger half & half (lemonade, sweet tea + ginger syrup).
The Leaning Pig—Located in downtown Gainesville, The Leaning Pig makes the perfect spot for brunch/lunch. They specialize in sandwiches but also have a unique breakfast menu, cheese board menu and beer/wine selection. My favorite has been the roast beef sandwich.
Embers—Located just off Archer, Embers is definitely a "special-occasion" restaurant, but man, their food is good! For holidays like Valentine's Day, they'll create pre-selected menu options for a multi-course meal, and none of the options will disappoint you. I will say, for such an expensive restaurant, their cocktails are very well-priced!
OAK GNV—This solid southern/comfort food restaurant is a fan-favorite for birthday parties in Gainesville because they can accommodate large groups of people and the birthday person gets a free drink or dessert! OAK GNV is also located downtown and while they seem to change their menu fairly frequently, it always has a southern theme.
Best breakfast/brunch in Gainesville, Florida
If you're getting brunch on the weekend, get an early start because most of these places will have waits by the time you're hungry.
Peach Valley Cafe—An amazing take on a classic-diner, Peach Valley is a great stop for comfort food brunch. Whatever you order, you must start with the apple fritters.
East End Eatery—East End Eatery brunch is always my favorite on a Sunday. They usually have special Sunday brunch options, and blueberry waffles often make an appearance. Note that this is a cash-only restaurant.
Halo Potato Donuts—These are, by far, the best donuts in town. Halo Potato Donuts opens at 7 a.m. and closes when they sell out, so it's best to get there on the earlier side! My favorites on the menu: Cinnamon Toast Crunch + Cookies & Creme.
Uppercrust Productions—One of the best bakeries in town, Uppercrust always has an amazing selection. My favorite on the menu: Guava Chausson.
43rd Street Deli—Every town needs a fan-favorite classic diner, and while Sugar Creek is pretty darn good, I'd have to say 43rd Street Deli probably takes the lead because they always have amazing rotating specials.
Bagels & Noodles—Though a seemingly odd combination, you'd be surprised how good both their bagels and their noodles (dishes like Pho) are. Bagels & Noodles is a student-favorite, from sunday bagels to late night asian cuisine, you can't go wrong with anything on the menu.
Luke's New York Bagel Shop—Located on Main St., Luke's takes bagels so seriously that they have a New York Water Maker. They're best known for their breakfast sandwich, but you really can't go wrong with anything; I love the homemade onion & chive cream cheese. Note: get there early, especially on weekends! I went most recently at 11 a.m. on a Sunday, waited in line for an hour and was one of the last 10 bagels of the day.
Best bars in Gainesville, Florida
Crybaby's—Located on University in downtown Gainesville, Crybaby's is the sister bar to Afternoon restaurant. Not only do they have an amazingly eclectic menu of drinks, but they also have some great snacks and plates as well. My favorites on the menu: Ban Mi Hot Dog & Hot Chicken Sandwich.
Madrina's—Just a couple doors down from Crybaby's, Madrina's is an excellent craft bar stop in downtown. They've taken the art of bartending to the next level and serve some seriously awesome stuff. Plus, in December, the bar hosts a holiday-themed pop-up concept: Miracle at Madrina's.
Sidecar—Located inside V Pizza, Sidecar is an awesome bar with both classic cocktails and unique drinks and crazy talented bartenders.
Dime Bar—Tucked in between Pop-A-Top downtown and Barcade, Dime Bar is tiny but mighty with a killer craft cocktail menu.
The Top—I didn't know whether to put this in the restaurant section or the bar section, but I ultimately decided "bar" because you just don't go to The Top without ordering a drink. Not only do they have an amazing dinner menu but their bar menu is great as well. My favorites on the menu: corn nuggets & the cucumber gimlet.
Cypress & Grove—Across the street from Afternoon, Cypress & Grove is such a fun brewery. There's plenty of outdoor seating, room for events and even a popcorn machine! The often have a farmer's market in their lawn area once a week as well.
Frist Magnitude Brewing—This brewery is super close to Depot Park, but they usually have fun events going on and a wide selection of craft beers. The picture shown above (the beer with the blue background) is actually a peach sour beer that my lovely friend, Savanna, created with First Magnitude during her masters in food science at UF!
Social—This is the only bar at midtown I can give a shoutout to here because the rest are truly just "college bars." My favorite part about The Social, by far, is the rooftop. There's not really any rooftop locations in Gainesville, so this is a fun addition. Plus, the buffalo mac & cheese is amazing!
Downtown Wine & Cheese—I wouldn't necessarily call this a bar but perhaps a cozy little wine lounge. Downtown Wine & Cheese always has a fresh, hand-selected collection of (you guessed it) wine and cheese, and it couldn't be a more relaxing way to spend an evening. There's a dinner menu as well!
Barcade (Arcade Bar)—A rather unique bar in downtown Gainesville, Barcade is much more about the activities than it is the drinks. This three-story bar is filled with arcade games, pin ball machines and skee ball machines, making for such a fun night.
One Love Cafe—Though a bit of a drive from central Gainesville, One Love Cafe is an awesome spot for brunch, dinner, live music and the occasional food truck rally.
OAK GNV—Not only is OAK GNV a solid southern/comfort food restaurant, but it also has a full bar and several fun house cocktails and happy hour specials. It's also located downtown, and while they seem to change their menu fairly frequently, it always has a southern theme.
Alpin Beer & Wine Bistro—Located in downtown Gainesville, Alpin brings classic french cuisine & wine into the area. They're widely known for their creme brûlée flavor of the day, and the lavender one was a dream (plus, I've heard amazing things about the coffee one). Of course you can't go wrong with a cheese board and bottle of wine here either!
Best coffee in Gainesville, Florida
Wyatt's—Wyatt's holds a special place in my heart, so it will never not be on one of my "favorite"coffee shop lists. Not only was it my favorite coffee shop all throughout college, but I was also a barista there during my senior year! You truly can't go wrong with anything on the menu, but if you're not sure, just ask—the baristas are super friendly and will help you find what you're looking for. Plus, there's always fun seasonal drinks like the orchard matcha (in the images above)!
Volta—Not too far from Wyatt's, Volta is another downtown coffee shop favorite. While they do have some great espresso options, my menu favorite is actually the Mayan Hot Chocolate.
Doxa—Doxa's only con is that it's a little bit out of the way. Technically in Alachua, Doxa is a great place if you need a quiet spot to study/work for the day or the stop on a road trip. Their space is huge, and they use Bandit Coffee, so their menu is absolutely amazing.
Karma Cream—A great spot on University, Karma Cream has some of the best diary-free and vegan options around (so good, that you truly don't know they don't have diary in them). They offer a wide selection of coffee options, pastries and ice creams daily.
Concord Coffee—Concord Coffee is a newer shop right across the street from UF's campus. Their espresso blend is amazing, and the shop's interior is so bright and welcoming.
Curia on the Drag—Situated on a couple acres of land, Curia on the Drag is has its main coffee shop, a vegan food truck, the AUK market (boutique/thrift store) and a beer + wine garden. Not only do they make a mean oat milk cappuccino, but they also have some pretty amazing vegan food! Check out their website for upcoming events like drag brunch, but be sure to buy tickets quick as their events tend to sell out early on.