Category Archives: Food & Drink

Alpin, Tamal Add Flavor to Local Restaurant Scene

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Are you sure about building that wall? In the past two weeks, a pair of family-owned eateries have expanded downtown Gainesville’s dining options well beyond our borders. 

Rachel and Nicholas Iannelli in front of their former food cart at Tamal. Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Rachel and Nicholas Iannelli behind their former food cart at Tamal. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Unbeknownst to each other, two determined couples spent the long, hot summer putting love, sweat and tears into a pair of dining establishments that are now helping to give downtown Gainesville more of an international flair.

Romain Challandes in the open-air kitchen he built inside Alpin. Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Romain Challandes in the open-air kitchen he built inside Alpin. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Alpin, a French bistro owned by Romain and Sita Marlier Challandes, opened earlier this month at 15 SW 2nd St., in a space formerly occupied by the Motor Room lounge.

Tamal, a storefront tamale shop owned by Nicholas and Rachel Iannelli, is now open for business four days a week at 439 Main St., in the complex that also includes the Civic Media Center and Wild Iris Books.

“This is Mom and Pop comfort food — nothing fancy,” Rachel Iannelli said about her 15-seat eatery that opens at noon Thursday through Sunday and closes each day whenever the last tamale is sold.

During the first two weeks of operation, Tamal has sold out of that day’s supplies of handmade tamales by 5 p.m.

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New Pizza Restaurant Spelled V for Victorious

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V Pizza, which opened last week in a prime spot in downtown Gainesville, has gone to great lengths to bring authentic Neapolitan-style pizza to town. All the way to Italy, in fact.

Executive Chef Matt Kepp in front of one of two wood-fired ovens at V Pizza Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Executive Chef Matt Kepp in front of one of two wood-fired ovens at V Pizza (Photos by Gainesville Downtown)

Most everyone can agree that Gainesville has its share of pretty decent pizza joints. After all, this is a college town, where pizza plays an essential role at the top of many students’ food pyramid.

Now we’re pleased to report that downtown Gainesville has a great pizza restaurant.

A pepperoni pizza from V Pizza.

A pepperoni pizza from V Pizza.

V Pizza is the new guy on the block, and it’s a premium location at 115 SE 1st St., on the ground floor of the Hampton Inn in the large, open space formerly occupied by Vello’s.

“When you think of pizza, you think of greasy and fattening, right?” said Matt Kepp, executive chef for V Pizza. “With our pizza, you can eat the whole pie and feel good about eating it.”

That’s because V Pizza uses only premium ingredients with no preservatives and chemicals. Better yet, the dough, cheese, tomato sauce and most other toppings have Italian connections.

And everything the restaurant cooks, including piping-hot calzone and stromboli, is baked in massive wood-fired ovens made from clay molds and soil from the base of Mount Vesuvius. Yes, that Mount Vesuvius!

“We get the ovens up to 900 degrees, and that allows us to cook our pizzas in 90 seconds,” Kepp said. “The intense heat allows the pizza dough to puff up and become nice and airy. It all translates into great flavor.”

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Gator Baked Satisfies Late-Night Cravings

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The newest restaurant in downtown Gainesville is hoping that late-night partiers will have a huge appetite for comfort food once the bar scene closes down. 

You cant miss the home of Gator Baked at 12 SW 2nd St. Photo by Gainesvil;le downtown)

You can’t miss the home of Gator Baked, at 12 SW 2nd St. (Photo by Gainesville Downtown)

Three once-vacant storefronts on Southwest 2nd Street, in the shadow of the city parking garage, are coming alive this month, doubling the number of eating and/or drinking establishments on the block.

DSCN4336Last week was the grand opening of the FishHawk Spirits Distillery Tasting Room at 21 SW 2nd St. Although not a formal bar, customers can sample rum, vodka, whiskey and other products made by the distillery and then purchase bottles and other merchandise.

“FishHawk Spirits is very excited to part of the growth on the near west side of downtown Gainesville,” said David Molyneaux, CEO of the Ocala-based distillery. “Our distillery tasting room will add a new dimension to the area.”

Next door, at 15 SW 2nd St., the husband-and-wife team of Romain and Sita Challandes are converting the old Motor Room dance club into a French bistro called Alpin. They hope to open within a few weeks.

And this week, at 12 SW 2nd St., is the soft opening for Gator Baked, a late-night carry-out and delivery food service that has set up shop in the former Infinity Lounge hookah bar. Continue reading

Say Cheese! Wine Shop’s Reopening Draws Smiles

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Maude Wilson has been doing a steady business since opening Downtown Wine & Cheese last week in a space that had been the Wine & Cheese Gallery for 43 years.

Downtown Wine Cheese owner Maude Wilson in front of her menu board that is updated daily. Photos by Gainesville Downtown)

Downtown Wine & Cheese owner Maude Wilson in front of her menu board that she updates each day. (Photos by Gainesville Downtown)

The people have spoken, and Maude Wilson’s Downtown Wine & Cheese has opened for business in the homey space formerly occupied by the venerable Wine & Cheese Gallery at 113 N. Main St.

“We opened last Monday without telling anybody,” Wilson said. “It was all word of mouth and it was crazy all week. I am very, very happy.”

Last August, Wilson found herself unemployed when Thomas “Bunky” Mastin and Wade Tyler decided to close the Wine & Cheese Gallery after 43 years, shuttering a downtown institution that dated to the Nixon administration.

Eight months later, Wilson has resurrected the business with a slightly different name but the same quality food and service customers expect.

“I’m glad she’s keeping it going,” said Brian Sparks, who dropped by the store Monday evening with Holly Greer. “This place has been around a long time.”

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Crane Ramen: Soup Kitchen Extraordinaire

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SHIO: Japanese Sea Salt flavor with clear seafood chaitan broth topped with crab, pork belly, scallions, enoki, garlic oil, nori and egg.

Gainesville’s first restaurant specializing in ramen noodles has done a booming business since opening last December.

How serious are Fred Brown and Steve Grimes about ramen?

Last November the two men flew to New York City for what Grimes called “a ramen-eating extravaganza.” Over two days, they visited seven restaurants and shared between 20 and 25 varieties of the Japanese-style noodle.

They compared notes about the bowls and agreed their taste palates were in harmony. Then they returned to Gainesville and got down to business.

On Dec. 1, 2014, with Brown as operational managing partner and Grimes as executive chef, they opened Crane Ramen in an old storefront at 16 SW 1st Ave. in downtown Gainesville.

Since then, people have lined up to get inside the cozy noodle kitchen and experience for themselves main dishes—or bowls, rather—never before savored in North Central Florida.

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