Sunday, March 22, 2015

Gainesville Eats: The Gelato Company, Satchel’s Pizza, Swamp Head Brewery & Bento Café

Wednesday we drove up to Gainesville for a very special occasion.  A few weeks back, my friend Gaurav let me know that he was planning a surprise proposal for his girlfriend, Padma (who is one of my closest friends!). 

I met them in college – Padma was my suitemate when we lived in the dorms.  Now they live in New Jersey, where Padma is doing her residency.  Their first date was at The Gelato Company in downtown Gainesville, so Gaurav decided this would be the perfect place to propose.  They were in Florida on vacation visiting family for the week, and he “spontaneously” decided they should take a day trip to Gville. 

Gaurav also had Padma’s old roommate Stephanie (who lives in Georgia) and his friend Ingrid (from South Florida) drive there for the day as part of the surprise.  He hired a photographer who acted like she was just a normal gelato-eating patron.  And the owner of The Gelato Company sneakily took a video of the whole proposal on his phone (which he posted on their facebook page.)


We got there early and hid in the back of the restaurant (every time someone came in we thought it was them…so much anticipation!)  When they arrived, Padma looked at all the different flavors in the case, and her favorite one, cake batter, said “Padma, will you marry me?” on the label.  She of course said yes, then was even further surprised as we all came out from the back to congratulate her.     


Afterwards we all went out to lunch at Satchel’s Pizza – which is probably the restaurant I miss most from my days at UF.  It takes eclectic to the extreme - decorated with some of the funkiest junk art you’ve ever seen.  You can even dine at a table in a graffitied van in front of the restaurant!  It’s really a fun experience.  This place would do so well in Seminole Heights – I wish they’d open a Tampa location. I have a lot of pictures over the years of our visits to Satchels - including taking my parents here when they visited me in college.   


There is usually a long wait (although there wasn’t much of one this time).  To keep you busy while waiting, there is a cool little shop/junk museum called Lightning Salvage behind the restaurant.  They sell Satchel’s merchandise along with fun novelty gifts and knick-knacks (Lance got a hat).  And while you’re there, you can order craft beers at the bar (this is new since last time I was there…)

For our meal we ordered a Satch Salad for the table.  It has a bit of everything – lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, apples, red onions, diced tomatoes, Romano cheese, sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, and their secret house vinaigrette. 

They do have a lunch special 11am – 4pm – only $6.75 for a salad and a one topping slice.  But I always want plenty of their pizza to go, and they have so many awesome toppings to choose from that I have trouble picking just one.  Lance and I split a medium “Mama” pizza – which lets you choose any 4 of their 30+ toppings.  We chose ricotta, sausage, garlic, and sun-dried tomatoes.  The medium is more than enough for two people to share and still have leftovers. 

After our meal, our waitress brought the dessert “menu”, which was actually presented on an old-school View-Master with pictures of the dessert options on the reel.  Pretty neat!  Of course we didn’t have room for dessert, but it was fun to click through and see the pictures. 

Satchel’s needs to be on a must-see list for everyone who visits Gainesville.  Unfortunately they are closed Sundays and Mondays, so the last few times I was in town I couldn’t go.  They also have live music, trivia nights & open-mic nights 6-9pm at the Lounge behind Lightning Salvage – although I’ve never had the opportunity to check it out.   

After walking off some of our pizza calories at the Oaks Mall, we headed to Swamp Head Brewery to try some of Gainesville’s local beers.  The address for the tasting room online actually took us to an abandoned warehouse, but we luckily found their new address, which was only 5 minutes away. 

It’s a big location not far at all from campus, but feels pretty secluded and peaceful, surrounded by trees and a retention pond.  Their tasting room, which they call “The Wetlands”, has the same rustic/industrial/modern look as all other new bars and restaurants. 

Whoever did their interiors had great attention to details – the bartop tables have cupholders built in, and the outlets even had USB ports in case you needed to charge your cell phone.   I really loved the design of their countertop inlaid with tree trunk sections. 

I also like how focused they are on sustainability.  They source as much as they can locally and team up with other companies who have strong environmental and ethical principles.  Much of the wood in the brewery design was reclaimed lumber, and they are working with Solar Impact to get a portion of their operations run on solar power. 

On Saturday, April 25th they will host an event called Tree Fest.  For every beer purchased, 5 trees will be planted at Alachua Conservation Trust’s Little Orange Creek Preserve in Hawthorne, Florida.

While we were there, we enjoyed playing games while sampling their beers (I don’t think I’d played Sorry! or Trouble in years…)  They do offer flights, but they are pre-selected beers from their year-round selection, so if you want to try their seasonal beers, you’ll need to get a pint.  I actually thought their flight selection was very good though - it had a nice variety.  It included their Wild Night honey cream ale, Cotton Mouth Belgian-Style Witbier, Stump Knocker American Pale Ale, Midnight Oil Oatmeal Coffee Stout, and Big Nose IPA.  

We actually remembered to bring our growlers this time, so we went home with the Stump Knocker and Big Nose.  It’s only $4 to fill a 32oz growler, or $10 if you have a gallon growler. 

Before heading home, we grabbed dinner at Bento Café.  Now that Rolls & Bowls is gone, this is my favorite Asian restaurant in Gainesville.  They serve sushi, along with bento boxes, rice bowls, and noodle bowls.  It’s actually expanded since last time I was there – it looks like they took over the restaurant next door as well.  It’s a casual place where you order at the counter and take your number to the table. 

I love the bento boxes because you get a whole variety of sides with your main dish – white rice, lo mein, ginger salad, and string beans.  I had the Thai coconut curry shrimp – which was just the right amount of spiciness for me.  I also had an Almond Joy milk tea (a mix of their almond and chocolate flavors…very sweet).  It was the perfect way to end our day of eating and drinking non-stop!

There are plenty of other Gainesville restaurants I miss from college, but it was great to hit up so many of my favorites all in one day. 

The Gelato Company is located at 11 SE 1st Ave #2, Gainesville, FL 32601 and is open 10am – 11pm Monday – Thursday, 10am – 3am Friday & Saturday, and 11am – 10pm on Sunday. 

Satchel’s Pizza is located at 1800 NE 23rd Ave, Gainesville, FL 32609 and is open 11am – 10pm Tuesday – Saturday.  They are closed Sundays and Mondays. 

Swamp Head Brewery is located at 3650 SW 42nd Ave, Gainesville, FL 32608 and is open 4pm – 9pm Tuesday – Friday, 1pm – 9pm Saturday, and closed Sundays and Mondays. 

Bento Café has several locations.  The one we visited was located at 3841 SW Archer Rd, Gainesville, FL 32608 and is open 11:30am – 10pm Sunday – Thursday and 11:30am – 10:30pm Friday and Saturday. 

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