Thursday, May 17, 2007

Review: Chopstix Cafe

Where: South 13th Street, next to X-mart and across from IHOP.

When: I went to Chopstix Cafe on Thursday May 17, the restaurant moderately busy.

Atmosphere: Quite nice, actually. Though a lot of restaurants along 441 suffer from dingy surroundings, Chopstix is very lucky to be on a nice looking lake. The inside is decorated well enough to make guests feel comfortable.

Menu: The menu at Chopstix made me wish I was vegetarian. So many options for them! Unfortunately, I was really craving some kind of beef dish. Their usual dishes were standard chinese takeout fare, though prepared authentically. Think kung pao, general tso's, etc. but prepared without all the frying and MSG. They had some unique (and tasty!) appetizers, along with sushi, soups, salads, and other options. Definitely enough options to satisfy any diner.

Service: Suprisingly good, actually. The reason it's a suprise is because from every story I've ever heard about Chopstix, the service is horrible. I have heard so many horror stories about rude waiters, wrong orders, long wait times, etc. So unless there's been a major change lately, I think it should be safe to assume my experience is out of the ordinary. While it was far from perfect or corteous, the wait staff kept my glass full of water, and the food came out in a timely fashion. It was enough to keep me happy.

Food: I ordered the house kung pao beef for my entree, wth an appetizer of fried frog legs with garlic. The appetizer was decent, though the breading did not stick to the meat in the least bit. The sauce was quite tasty, and made up slightly for the bad frying.

The kung pao beef arrived, and was very simply good. That's not a slight. It wasn't amazing, but it was solidly good. It had good fresh ingredients, the sauce tasted good, and the portion size was perfect. It wasn't great, but it's about the best 'good' cuisine you can find. My friends dining with me all had no complaints with their food, as well.

Price: Quite reasonable. Appetizers from 3-5$. Soups 2-4$, Entrees 8$-10$. I didn't catch the prices of their noodle bowls or vegetarian options, but I'd imagine they fall slightly below that of the entrees.

Overall: Feel like a sitdown asian meal, but don't feel like paying out for a meal downtown? Go to Chopstix. Familiar dishes made well and offered at a reasonable price. Make sure you have a few hours in case the service is as bad as history suggests, though. 7/10

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Recipe: Tea Eggs

Tea eggs are a chinese new year's dish. They are known not only for their flavor, but the interesting patterns the shells take. Most do them with black tea, but being a fan of green tea, I substituted some green tea from the Asian market in this recipe.

You'll need:
  • 6 eggs
  • 5 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon cracked peppercorns
  • 2 teabags or 2 tablespoons of tea
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

1. Put the eggs in a pot and cover with water. Bring water to a boil and boil for about 2-3 minutes.
2. Remove eggs, add all other ingredients to the pot.
3. Lightly tap the eggs with a knife to crack the shell.
4. Place eggs back in pot and simmer for an hour and a half to three hours.
5. Drink a beer.
6. Enjoy these cool looking and tasty eggs!

Credit goes to and for info about this dish.

Review: The Top

Where: Just north of University Avenue and Main Street in Gainesville's downtown area, The Top restaurant can be found across from another popular hangout, The Atlantic.

When: I went Friday, May 11 for dinner. The restaurant was packed with people. Some at tables, some at the bar. This is a popular restaurant for locals and for students.

Atmosphere: The Top has a very laid back, indie sort of environment. It's walls have interesting art, and the lighting is kept dimmed and intimate. Interesting music is always playing, though never loud enough to disrupt a conversation.

Menu: A major attraction for The Top is their many vegetarian selections. They have many dishes that offer a choice of meat or tofu. The dishes are all over the place. From stir-fry to stuffed chicken to pastas.

Service: The service I received was friendly and quick. Make that very quick. Very, very quick. I barely had time to eat my appetizer before my salad was out, and when I was halfway done with my salad, the entree had hit the table. Despite this minor annoyance, the server was very friendly and attentive. It's important to note that it looked as though he was covering half the restaurant by himself, so that may have explained why the dishes were coming out as they were.

Food: I ordered the special of the day, Crawfish Etoufee. It's a Cajun dish with crawfish and vegetables in a brown sauce served over rice. It was accompanied by some grilled asparagus. All parts of the dish were great. The sauce was just spicy enough, the crawfish and the vegetables were tasty and tender, and the asparagus was fresh and grilled just right.

For an appetizer, I ordered the 'word famous corn nuggets'. While that's an exaggeration, it probably shouldn't be. The corn nuggets are fantastic, and the garlic ranch complements them perfectly. While the other appetizers looked equally appealing, I don't think I could resist ordering these again.

I also ordered a small side salad, which was surprisingly good for a garden salad. It had a good variety of vegetables, all of them fresh and tasty. The vinaigrette was quite good as well.

Price: The average entree at The Top is around 10-13 dollars, with appetizers coming in at 3-6 dollars.

Overall: The atmosphere and the quality of the food are the reasons to go to The Top. 8.5/10


If you're reading this, then my blog might not be a complete failure! I'll be updating this blog weekly with new restaurant reviews and random tidbits about food in Gainesville.

A review of The Top will be coming soon, but until then...

Gainesville Farmer's Markets

As most people probably notice, Gainesville isn't exactly surrounded by bustling metropolises. To be totally honest, Gainesville is in the middle of a bunch of nothing. Just wide open spaces with the occasional trailer or flea market. But that's not such a bad thing. All that wide open space is filled quite nicely by local farmers. And Gainesville farmer's markets are definitely worth checking out.

There are several times and locations for farmer's markets, with some farmers going to just one of them, and others being at all. My favorites are the markets on 441 Saturday morning and Haile Plantation farmer's market. The 441 market generally has the best prices and selection of produce. However, it has no crafts and no bakers. The Haile Plantation has a more limited selection of produce, but makes up for it with local crafts and bakers. I'll generally go to Haile if I want a great baguette, otherwise I'll go up 441.

Some of the farmers grow their crops hydroponically, and almost always have fresh produce yearround. One always has delicious tomatoes and basil for sale. If you see a couple with beefsteak tomatoes, cluster tomatoes, and basil (sometimes some seedless cukes too) don't hesitate to buy from them. The tomatoes are all ripe and delicious, and the basil keeps for a long time.

Other than that, look around! The produce at the market isn't always going to be very pretty, but it's always fresh and delicious. Expect to pay about 10$-15$ on a week's worth of vegetables and fruit.

Other farmer's markets include the Union Street market Wednesday evenings. While I have friends who swear by it, I avoid it because it is generally more crafts than produce.