Thursday, February 25, 2010

GAINESVILLE'S EAST SIDE RESTAURANTS SERIES: Civilization, was "a" bomb, not "the" bomb

While starting a series in my blog on the quality/value of east Gainesville restaurants,we decided to start with one that I had not yet patronized. What a mistake!

Our dining experience at Civilization was grueling, painful, and tasteless. The only redeeming points to the restaurant were the industrial chic design of the place and the well-intentioned staff. Oh....and the toasted bread was crisp.

Basically, we spent an hour and half waiting for a table and waiting to be served. 90 minutes! When the meal finally arrived (Coq au Vin), it was pretty much tasteless without any depth of flavor.

A dish often put in the category of comfort food, this version coupled with the horrendously long wait rendered our visit to this restaurant a total bomb. If I had cooked this dish at home I would have considered what I was served to be a complete failure. My wife's flank steak was just OK and the chimichurri sauce was barely apparent.

Upon our arrival, the restaurant lot did not have many cars in the lot and we decided to give the restaurant a try. We went in and found two parties ahead of us. The hostess said we could be seated in about 15 minutes. With no place to sit, we stood at the door for about 20 minutes. We were finally offered some seats at a booth set up for waiting patrons, not diners.

Many of Civilization's flaws begin with poor table management. The restaurant needs to add more two person tables. There were many four person tables seating two people. One six person table that had been configured by sliding together one or more tables had two people seated at it. While the restaurant is small, better tabling is needed to maximize the numbers of people that can be served and the number of settings per table per evening. They will surely fail if this problem is not solved.

Several tables had customers with glassy eyed looks of having waited way too long for their food. One of the two parties ahead us, upon being seated, were quick to tell the waitress they were very ready to order. They seemed exasperated too at the long wait and had too ample an opportunity to review the limited menu.

At no point did anyone ask how our meal was etc. I had to flag down someone to request......a napkin. Finally, after we were able to pay our check, we left the restaurant passing the main counter and the hostess and manager/owner. There was not a word uttered. Nothing like "thanks" or "good night" or "we hope you enjoyed your meal."

I will not return. Why would I want to go to a restaurant where the wait is long/painful and the final dish served is tasteless and unimaginative?

Civilization needs to re-examine how they move people through their establishment comfortably and gracefully. Their food needs considerable improvement. If you are looking for good restaurants on the east side, there are many other excellent choices: Satchel's, Ruby's, East End Eatery, The Jones.

If you go to Civilization, be forewarned. I hope they can turn their restaurant around, but for now I can not give them a passing grade.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


To begin my series on east Gainesville restaurants, I am re-posting my review of Ruby's Restaurant. Day in and day out, Ruby's food is my favorite restaurant in town. Her cooking hits it out of the park every time.


Ruby's Restaurant located at 308 NW 5th Avenue (378-0490)is flat out my favorite restaurant in Gainesville and I recommend that you rush over and support this local business. I guarantee you will love their food. The first time I visited Ruby's I felt like Columbus when he first eyeballed the New World through his hand telescope. I was on to something very important. I felt like I had struck gold.

Once in a very, very rare while, I taste a dish in a restaurant that is so good on return visits I am incapable of ordering anything else on the menu. That experience has happened not once, not twice, but three times at Ruby's. Three of Ruby's signature dishes (there are more I have not tried yet) are Dirty Rice w/ Shrimp, Blueberry De-Lite, and their Gator Burgers. "Mercy," and a shake of the head is always my reaction after the first bite of each.

The Dirty Rice with Shrimp is a Louisiana inspired plate of rice and meat with beautiful seared and seasoned shrimp on top. I may never get past this dish when presented the menu. It is tasty and no one else in town has undertaken it. I will go back again and again for this spicy rice dish.

I am not really a dessert person but a taste of the Blueberry De-Lite is as fine a dessert as there is on the planet. New Orleans' Commander's Palace's bread souffle with whisky sauce has a challenger. The De-Lite has a crunch crust on the bottom with layers of pudding, cream cheese, blueberries, whipped cream and nuts. I try not to lead you into sin, but dive in on this one.

The Gator Burger is a show stopper. I was expecting your basic good small restaurant burger. Instead I saw them put the one pound patty on the grill. It looked like a frisbee. The burger came out perfectly cooked on Texas toast. I immediately knew that it was beyond my capacity so I cut it in half and saved the other half for a buddy at the office who loves fine burgers. I can not even imagine what the Double Gator Burger must look like.

Ruby's is owned by Ruby and Johnny Moore. Both come from families of fine cooks. If I were to label Ruby's, I would call it progressive home cooking. The Moores have put together a menu that pulls from African-American cooking traditions (the motherlode of Southern foodways) and takes that cuisine to the next level with unique twists and turns that make their dishes always tasty and often intriguing. Imagination and love are clearly at work at Ruby's. Their son, Johnny Jr., works in the restaurant and charms each customer with his enthusiasm for his parent's cooking. Give Ruby's a try. You will not be disappointed.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Hogtown Homegrown

Local and Seasonal Recipes, Menus and More 

A periodical produced in Alachua County, Hogtown Homegrown, is well worth reading regularly. Their sidebar, What's Fresh Right Now, and other information about local food sources and production are valuable contributions to our local food community. Check it out at

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Try out Thomasville's Sweet Grass Dairy cheeses at Union Street Farmers Market today

Today 02-17-10
Sweet Grass Dairy at
Union Street Farmers Market

Sweet Grass Dairy will be at the Union Street Farmers Market today. Lila will have the following cheeses with her . Greenhill, Crossroads Blue, Lumberjack, Harvest and Thomasville Tomme.
We hope you get the chance to come visit the Sweet Grass Dairy booth later today. As always, the hours will be 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm. See you this afternoon.
The Sweet Grass Dairy Gang

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


My wife is out of town for a week and, as much as I love to cook, cooking for one person is a pain. I have been venturing out for lunch a bit more than normal and have found little to nothing in my neck of the woods (University and 34th Street area) that suits my tastes. Sometimes I just turn around and settle for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at home.

As I have searched in vain, it quickly has become obvious to me that my favorite restaurants in Gainesville are all on the east side of town, east of 6th Street. Starting with my favorite, Ruby's, on 5th Avenue (east of 6th Street) there are many fine restaurants waiting to serve you tasty and memorable meals at great prices. A number come immediately to mind: La Fortuna, East End Eatery, Terrell's Barbecue, The Jones, The Top, Juniors, Mac's Drive-Thru, The Sandwich Inn, Blue Water Bay, along with several fine restaurants in the city center's dining district.

While it is a bit of a trek for some of you who live on the west side, Gainesville is NOT that big of a town. A drive east takes a few minutes extra and the locally owned restaurants there will welcome you with open arms. Liberate yourselves from the Chain Restaurant Jungle that clutters Archer Road and most high traffic routes on the west side. Take a ride east and your will never go back. I guarantee you will marvel at the variety of restaurants that are trying to provide meals that are closer to home-made, show their ethnic roots, and do a better job of patronizing local food purveyors.

So... I am going to begin reviewing my favorites to spur you to action. Stay tuned and I will add a new review weekly until I run out of east side restaurants to recommend. That may take longer than you might think!