Thursday, December 20, 2007

College Cuisine?

Gainesville, Fl, the quintessential college town and home of the Gators, is not exactly known for fine cuisine. With a student population of 40,000 undergraduates and many more graduate students and faculty, fast food chains practically dominate the dining scene, but with some searching you can find delicious food that is independently owned and prepared. Two affordable choices are available to spice up the monotony of the fast food chains, Ivy's Cafe and Fresco.

Ivy's cafe is an independently owned restaurant that is part diner, part bistro and offers healthy goodies like frittatas, soups, sandwiches, and desserts. I went to lunch with my soon-to-be-barrister bud and my nephew. The legal one chose a simply delicious egg white omelet with fresh veggies and cheese and a no nonsense cup of coffee. She had no objections for the chef and left very little on the plate. I opted for the soup and salad, mushroom barley creamy and not to salty (although the portion was too small for my taste) and a savory salad with caramelized onions, seasoned walnuts, cherry tomatoes and provolone cheese on mixed greens. Ivy's is the place to be for fresh independent dining, but is only available for breakfast and lunch.

If a new take on dinner is what you are after, check out Fresco an Italian eatery offering a variety of traditional pastas and pizzas. The portions are reasonable for the price and the atmosphere is warm and cozy, the perfect place to catch up with friends or canoodle with your sweetheart. The bread arrived thickly sliced in an attractive wire basket, chewy and crusty like good Italian bread should be and lightly rubbed with garlic and oil. All dinner entrees are served with your option of a Caesar or house salad. Both were fresh, but the Italian dressing on the house salad needed a bit more salt. After a short interval, dinner steamed out of the kitchen. My linguine with clam sauce included a generous helping of clams in the shell. However, oil overpowered the garlicky sauce and the quantity of clams kept me from diving into the pasta before it was cold. The creamy chicken and sun dried tomato pasta also suffered from an overdose of sauciness that overwhelmed the flavor of the pasta and the chicken. While not quite the restaurant it could be, Fresco is a welcome change from the fast-food chains offering generic dining experiences.

If you must have your fast food, I recommend Zaxby's for their truly crispy-savory-crunchy fried chicken platters with seasoned fries. Truly craveable!

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