Saturday, January 29, 2011

Food: The Big and the Little in Gainesville

Due to the ever-burgeoning student population, Gainesville, Florida is packed with a wide variety of restaurants. You can eat at big national chains, regional chains (Miller's Ale House is a crowd favorite), or at greasy-spoon, mom-and-pop-type joints. Today's post looks at a couple of Gainesville eateries; one is part of a national chain and the other is a purely local affair:

Genghis Grill review

Genghis Grill is a national Mongolian barbecue* chain. As with all Mongolian barbecue, you pick your meats, your veggies, your sauces, and then have someone fry it all up on a big flat griddle. While the Mongolian barbecue concept is typically employed by Chinese buffet restaurants as a way to get rid of excess ingredients, Genghis Grill is based entirely around the grill, and offers no other buffet items. To drive the point home, kitschy pictures of people dressed as Mongols adorn the restaurant's advertising and decor:

As my friend remarked, the place feels like an MBA project. Every aspect of your meal has been calculated to give an idiot-proof Mongolian barbecue experience, from the choice of meats and vegetables to the wide array of sauces. For the unimaginative or lazy, there are pre-arranged combinations that allow you to craft a meal that won't make you gag.

I tried the beef, the chicken, and many of the veggies and sauces. Ingredient quality was better-than-average for this type of establishment; the beef was actually pretty flavorful and marinated well. One big caveat - the chefs are trained to cook the crap out of everything so people won't get sick...I hope you like your stir fry well done.

*Editor's Note: As you might suspect, Mongolian barbecue has absolutely nothing to do with actual Mongolian food

2/4 stars

Blue Highway Pizza review

There are plenty of big pizza chains in Gainesville; most serve the sort of greasy cardboard-with-cheese that'll earn you a date with a cardiologist down the road. For quality pizza, look no further than Blue Highway Pizza, a local chain with two locations, one in the Tioga Town Center and and one in Micanopy:

The biggest compliment I can give BHP is that they indeed use very fresh ingredients. Whereas a delivery pizza tastes like it's been dipped in oil and preservatives, BHP's pizza tastes homemade, with good veggies and a lighter-than-expected crust. My friend and I sampled the Greek pizza (topped with spinach, feta, green peppers, onion, and olives) and found it to be quite delectable.

That kind of freshness isn't without its drawbacks - service is a little slower than the average pizzeria, so you better be prepared to wait for your meal in the relaxed dining room. We also thought the calamari appetizer was mediocre. Still, considering the fair prices, good quality, and decent selection of pizzas, BHP gets the coveted:

3/4 stars


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