Going out to eat isn't always about cravings. Often enough, mealtimes dictate our choices, limiting restaurant possibilities. When circumstances narrow the options, let 10Best help. We'll direct you to the best Lunch restaurants in Gainesville and save you the hassle of calling around for business hours. 10Best readers find much to enjoy at Emiliano's Café thanks to its all-around good offerings. It's also hard to beat Chop Stix Cafe, which serves just what you're looking for when you're in the market for a great Lunch.
7 Mildred's Big City Food
Mildred's has built a stellar reputation on sublime food crafted from only the best and freshest local and organic ingredients. Everything is homemade, and quality and flavor are painstakingly maintained. The menu changes daily, but you can expect dishes like braised rabbit, grilled pork chops, prosciutto-wrapped black grouper, seared duck breast and Black Angus filet mignon. An exceptional wine list promises apt complements to any meal, and topnotch desserts are made in-house. The lunch menu offers gourmet salads and hot and cold sandwiches along with a few main courses. Next door, the New Deal Cafe is great for quick, casual dining, thanks to sandwiches, burgers, salads and scrumptious, one-dish entrees. (352-371-1711)
6 Paramount Grill
Chef-owner Clif Nelson, by all accounts, has a way with food. His insistence on fresh, premium ingredients and his talent for combining flavors and textures is always spot-on. The inviting, carefully edited dining room lets the menu shine whether you select pan-roasted pork tenderloin with its hint of horseradish or something like an herb-infused rack of lamb. If cheese couscous is available as a side, it's an innovation worth sampling, as are desserts, which get treated to Nelson's creativity and skill in presentation. (352-378-3398)
5 Emiliano's Café
Distinguished by a striped awning, Emiliano's offers fabulous outdoor dining and a menu of zesty pan-Latin dishes. Make a meal from the tapas, which include steamed mussels, empanadas, ceviches, fried plantains and chorizos. For heartier dining, consider ropa vieja, luscious paellas, Cuban sandwiches, signature black beans, grilled filets, sumptuous soups or delicious fresh seafood. An a la carte brunch is served till 3pm Sundays and is an ideal way to laze away the morning. Whatever you choose to order, make sure to top it off with Emiliano's sinful chipotle brownie cake. (352-375-7381)
4 Chop Stix Cafe
An extensive menu of pan-Asian fare, complete with plenty of vegetarian options, brings folks back to Chop Stix on a regular basis. It doesn't hurt that prices are happily affordable or that the restaurant sits lakeside, offering amazing views and even glimpses of lazy, sunbathing gators (the reptilian ones). Among the dishes you'll discover are vegetable tempura, steamed dumplings, noodle and rice bowls, sushi and curries. On weekends, the place can get quite busy, so plan accordingly. (352-367-0003)
3 The Yearling
Located near Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' rural home and inspired by her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, this appealing restaurant is a wonderful throwback to Florida's early days. Florida Cracker fare, a variation of soul food, capitalizes on local ingredients and the culinary heritage of farming settlers, as evidenced by venison, steamed crawdads, fried catfish, alligator tail and frog legs. They're joined by USDA Prime steaks and a variety of other seafood options and accompanied by hush puppies, turnip greens, cheese grits and the like. Within the knotty pine-paneled restaurant, a fire blazes and memorabilia adds character. Plus, a staff of locals makes sure that everything's authentic, from citrus-tinged desserts to live blues music played by a talented one-man band. (352-466-3999)
2 New Deal Cafe
Located next door to Mildred's Big City Food, the New Deal Cafe offers the same great quality as her sister restaurant but with a lighter fare. Check out the 12-oz. burgers that they say are "the best anywhere!" Go with a classic burger, or try the blue cheese and bacon burger to wake up your taste buds. For the vegetarian, a delicious meatless portabella burger is offered. If a burger is not what you have in mind, other scrumptious eats are available as well. (352-371-4418)
1 Dragonfly Sushi & Sake Company Inc.
Undoubtedly one of Gainesville's hippest establishments, Dragonfly is also one of its most popular. In fact, diners frequently flock to the restaurant for inventive, top-quality sushi and for cooked Japanese fare like noodles, seafood, fried dumplings and short ribs. Rich colors, a touch of neon, local artwork and an industrial slant set the scene for the bustling restaurant, which offers table service as well as perches at the sushi bar. In late 2005, Dragonfly expanded its domain, alleviating long waits for customers. (352-371-3359)