If you’re in Gainesville studying at the University of Florida, you’re in for a real treat. Downtown Gainesville has some of the best restaurants you’ll ever have the pleasure of dining in. From the fine dining menus found at Manuel’s Vintage Room and Embers Wood Grill, to down-to-earth burger joints like The Top and The Swamp Restaurant, you’ll find whatever you’re craving in your own backyard.
Location: 30 N. Main St., Gainesville, FL 32601
Cuisine: Modern American
Hours: Tues–Sun, 5 p.m.–2 a.m.; Sunday Brunch, 10 a.m.–2 p.m.
The Top is a casual American food joint with fresh brews on tap and an extensive menu of signature sandwiches, burgers, and build-your-own grilled cheese. If you’re in the mood for a burger with a kick, try the Widow Maker, a beef patty with a Chili-espresso rub, bacon, fried onions, crimini mushrooms, smoked Gouda, and aged white cheddar. But the real deals are in their nightly specials. Taco Tuesday features $5 margaritas alongside Token Tuesday, when you can buy one mixed drink and get a token, then use that token to get another mixed drink. Head here for Cheap Thrills Thursday, which begins at 10 p.m. You’ll get $2 well drinks, $2 Coors draft, and $5 select appetizers.
Manuel’s Vintage Room
Location: 6 S. Main St., Gainesville, FL 32601
Hours: Tues–Sat, 5–10 p.m.; Sun, 5–9 p.m.
You’ll want to head to Manuel’s Vintage Room when it’s time to celebrate acing your final exam. This upscale, Italian restaurant has an extensive wine list, including Manuel’s Private Cellar, a selection of fine, vintage wines from around the world. The classic Italian menu features unique items like Red Clam Soup, Pear Purses, and Manuel’s Chicken — a spicy, grilled chicken breast with habanero peppers in a white wine butter sauce. Try the Pasta Della Casta as an appetizer — a create-your-own pasta dish that can be made for two — and choose your favorite pasta with a sauce like oil and garlic, bolognese, or truffle.
The Swamp Restaurant
Location: 1642 W. University Ave., Gainesville, FL 32603
Cuisine: Classic American
Hours: Mon–Sat, 11 a.m.–2 a.m.; Sun, 11 a.m.–11 p.m.
The Swamp Restaurant has been serving the Gator Nation since 1994. Fun fact: The building was originally constructed as a University of Florida professor’s house and nearly destroyed in a fire in 1993. They renovated and reopened a year later, and has since become a major Gainesville staple and gathering ground for Gator fans. Indulge in classic bar foods paired with fresh, Florida flavors and ingredients like gator tail tacos and the sweet Floridian salad — grilled chicken or the catch of the day on a bed of kale with mandarin oranges, pineapple salsa, coconut, capers, and a pineapple-mango vinaigrette. And don’t miss out on their speciality cocktails. Try the SWAMP JUICE, a mix of Parrot Bay Coconut with raspberry rum, banana liqueur, and pineapple juice.
Jags fans, are you ready for the game tomorrow? Join us at The Swamp Restaurant tomorrow for our Swamp playoff party! Wear your Jacksonville colors to support your team. If the Jags are up by halftime, free shots on us. If they win, more free shots on us! Don’t forget to try our feature Effen bacon Bloody Mary and our feature appetizer sampler, including mozzarella sticks, wings and a half quesadilla. Nothing like football Sundays at Swamp!
Embers Wood Grill
Location: 3545 SW 34th St., Gainesville, FL 32608
Cuisine: Steakhouse, Seafood
Hours: Mon–Thurs, 5–10 p.m.; Fri & Sat, 5–11 p.m.
Every once in a while, treat yourself to a prime steak dinner. Embers only serves USDA prime select steaks over a hickory, pecan, and cherry wood grill. Choose from options like the Surf and Turf (served with shelled Red King crab), the New York Strip, or the 22oz Bone-In Cowboy Cut Ribeye — but don’t skip over their seafood selection. Dishes like North Florida Atlantic Grouper and Chilean Sea Bass really set this spot apart from other top-notch seafood restaurants. If a night out at Embers is a little beyond your budget, check out Spark, their sister restaurant and gastropub located next door. Indulge in a signature cocktail to pair with a dish like the chef’s charcuterie, duck wings, or braised oxtail.
Location: 12 SW First Ave., Gainesville, FL 32601
Cuisine: Modern American
Hours: Lunch: Tues–Sat, 11 a.m.–2 p.m. | Dinner: Sun–Thurs, 5–9:30 p.m.; Fri & Sat, 5–10:30 p.m. | Sunday Brunch: 10 a.m.–3 p.m.
If you’re looking for fine dining and a casual, relaxed atmosphere, the Paramount Grill has you covered. They specialize in dishes like seared fresh diver scallops, grilled duck breast, and almond-crusted crab cakes. However, brunch is their real gem. Try the cold-water lobster omelette with bacon, asparagus, and smoked Gouda. Graduating? The Paramount Grill is one of the more popular downtown restaurants to celebrate your UF graduation. Call far in advance to secure a reservation for graduation day.