Best Restaurants

Out of all the restaurants in a city, 10Best narrows the options to those places with the most appeal and the best reputations. We offer carefully vetted selections to let you explore Gainesville dining on your own. If time is really tight, though, and you don't have the leisure to look through all our offerings, we present our Gainesville Best Restaurants list. Here, we distill the best businesses down to a special selection of ten. These places promise a stellar experience and a taste of the city that you just can't miss.

10 Ember's
Ember's easily welcomes tables of two as well as larger groups of diners, so they're great for special occasions or a romantic evening. Come for the mains, but stay for the sides, which include mac and fours cheeses with truffle oil or lobster mashed potatoes. With a buzzing atmosphere, a great menu and fantastic service, you're sure to return after giving Ember's a try. (352-380-0901)

9 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)

8 Mark's Prime Steakhouse
Special-occasion dining reigns at Mark's, a top-quality, downtown steakhouse. Wood-grilled USDA Prime beef, sizzling and butter-basted, comes in a number of cuts, from an 8-oz. filet to a 20-oz. rib-eye. If that's not to your taste, opt for crab cakes, chicken breast, lobster tail, lamb chops, ahi tuna or pork chops. Family-style, a la carte side dishes include asparagus, mashed potatoes and a classic creamed spinach. For the complete Mark's experience, splurge on a rich dessert, and indulge in a good vintage from the wine list, which exceeds 600 bottles. (352-336-0077)

7 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)

6 The Top
A Gainesville favorite, expect fare that will please everyone in your party. From juicy burgers to peanut butter pie, each bite will confirm you made the right choice when you decided to dine at The Top. Even better, this restaurant offers vegan and vegetarian choices. (352-337-1188)

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 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)

3 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)

2 Leonardo's 706
Thanks to impeccable gourmet cuisine and upscale atmosphere, this restaurant has become one of Gainesville's favorites for impressing a date or visiting parents. Pastas garner rave reviews, whether you choose a traditional carbonara or go with the jalapeno-laced agave version. Chicken gorgonzola and filet mignon also provoke loyalty, and thin-crust pizzas are a delightful treat. On Thursdays, live music adds a classy touch, and Sunday brunch is just as good as you'd imagine. Desserts are superb as well. (352-378-2001)

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)

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Maps and Directions

Ember's 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American
Neighborhood: GAINESVILLE
New Deal Cafe 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American
Dining Options: Family Friendly, Take Out
Neighborhood: GAINESVILLE
Mark's Prime Steakhouse 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Steakhouse
Neighborhood: GAINESVILLE
The Yearling 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Local Specialty
Dining Options: Live Music
COST: $$
The Top 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American
Neighborhood: GAINESVILLE
Emiliano's Café 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: Latin, Puerto Rican
Neighborhood: GAINESVILLE
COST: $$
Paramount Grill 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, New American
Neighborhood: GAINESVILLE
COST: $$
Mildred's Big City Food 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American
Dining Options: Catering, Parties / Private Rooms
Neighborhood: Gainesville
COST: $$
Leonardo's 706 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: European, Italian
Neighborhood: GAINESVILLE
Dragonfly Sushi & Sake Company Inc. 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: Asian, Japanese, Sushi
Dining Options: Counter Seating