Southern comfort: The best comfort food restaurants in Gainesville
By Joe Kukura
“Comfort food” is the trendy new term to describe what we used to call home cookin’—dishes like biscuits and gravy, grilled cheese sandwiches, sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and many of your favorite dishes as a kid. Comfort food tends to go heavy on the cheese and carbohydrates, and when vegetables are served they’re generally prepared with cream of mushroom soup. Those comfort-food kids’ menu dishes have grown up, and are now served by finer chefs in distinguished restaurants as well as the old-time diners and drive-ins that made these traditional foods so popular in the first place.
Gainesville is a new hot spot for comfort food in the Sunshine State. Some of Gainesville’s best comfort food restaurants are innovative gourmet takes on the comfort food concept, others are updated fusion versions that serve comfort food with an ethnic flair, and other traditional comfort restaurants are so traditional they recreate the look and feel of the early 1900s. Let’s take a look at the comfiest offerings for comfort food restaurants in Gainesville.
Southern Charm Kitchen
You'll find five-star “Southern charm on a plate” at Southern Charm Kitchen, where comfort food is lovingly prepared in luxury gourmet style. Southern Charm’s unique and innovative menu offers culinary inventions like Pentecostal fried chicken, a country fried seitan sandwich and even gourmet BBQ goat. Fans of chicken and waffles will find several variations on that popular dish like the spicy corn waffle with Cajun shrimp and the BBQ roast pork and waffles. And you can wash it all down with Southern Charm’s signature mint julep lemonade.
The Pearl Country Store
The Pearl Country Store may look like a gas station or a convenience store, and it is both of those things. But you’ll smell some of Florida’s finest BBQ cooking when you walk in to this gem of a BBQ restaurant located about 10 miles south of Gainesville in Micanopy, Florida. Ribs, chicken, beef brisket and other traditional BBQ favorites are served in generously large portions that make this out-of-the-way treasure a favorite among the locals.
Those who prefer organic, locally grown slow food will want to try the civilized cuisine of Civilization. It’s ethnic comfort food with a global focus and a local flair featuring Moroccan BBQ, grits florentine and a Hungarian grilled cheese sandwich. You’ll also enjoy the delicious irony that this sustainable food co-op was originally built as a Gulf Oil Company warehouse.
Don’t let the modest exterior and off-the-beaten-path location fool you. Country Foodly is a Gainesville cult favorite. Serving very affordable comfort food with a Korean twist, Country Foodly features the bulgogi omelet, fried dumplings and one of the friendliest, most attentive wait staffs in town.
Comfort food lovers who enjoy their craft beer will want to move on up to The Top, where classy comfort food is served with more than 50 varieties of craft beer. Whether you prefer vegan and vegetarian items like shiitake gravy and lentil loaf or a high-calorie gourmet burger called the widow maker, The Top has cuisine catering to your tastes. With one of Gainesville’s funnest and funkiest dining atmospheres, The Top also has a “take one, leave one” random toy and artifact area that will have you giggling all the way home.
Gainesville is truly one of Florida’s most eclectic cities, and its range of chic comfort food restaurants offers something for everyone. For great food that reminds you of home, pop into Gainesville—the big little city that always feels like home.