A & I are ridiculously spoiled when it comes to eating well- as this blog has hopefully pointed out, Philly has some darn good food. On the increasingly rare chance we make the trek back to our hometown- Gainesville, FL- we like to poke fun at our parents and friends who are stuck with very few options on the fine-dining front.
Because we were home for pre-wedding festivities, a slew of girls convened at one of the bride-to-be's favorite restaurants. The Top is located in "downtown" Gainesville and attracts a mostly young, hipster crowd- it's dark, a little crowded, the decorations are questionable, and the music can get pretty loud. Because we had such a big group, we ended up claiming a couple of tables on the newly opened back patio, allowing us to actually hear each other talk.
The Top advertises itself (I use the term advertise loosely, as the place uses a MySpace page for online publicity) as a casual, American restaurant with influences from the South and the Southwest. It also has many, many vegetarian and vegan options which seems fitting for its demographic. As they are most well-known for two of their appetizers, our table ordered both to share: corn nuggets and sweet potato fries.
Oh, corn nuggets ($4.95). Your crispy outside and sweet creamed corn inside make such a delightful combination. We were really unsure about how these are actually made, and I can only imagine it involves blobbing creamed corn into a bowl of batter and then throwing the whole mess into the deep fryer... yet still producing an evenly coated, not-too-greasy product full of piping hot, creamy crunchy corn. These little nuggets of joy came with a garlic ranch type dip but really, there was no need. Side note: the menu claims these are "world-famous in Gainesville," which is just amusing.
Although we eat meat regularly, A and I are always curious to try vegetarian protein sources, so we also ordered some buffalo tempeh ($6.25). We like wings, and hot sauce, and fried stuff, and these were no exception. Though eating this was much less work-intensive than eating real buffalo wings, the firm texture of the tempeh was surprisingly meat-like. The typical accompaniments of celery, carrots, and bleu cheese dressing helped offset the fire in our mouths. This dish also had us Googling tempeh- as a less-processed form of soy protein, we'd love to cook with this in the future.
I was craving some veggies, so I opted for a salad as my entree ($8.95). The Top has all the standard types of salads: Caesar, spinach, etc. I would like to see a little more creativity in this category, but "The Top" salad was pretty good. Mixed greens, some cranberries, pecans and feta, as well as a few peppers to add crunch. However, what made this regular salad great was the addition of another Top favorite: pecan crusted tofu. Three huge slabs of soft and creamy tofu lightly coated in a pecan crust- probably some of the best tofu I have ever eaten. Perfectly cooked with tons of flavor- quite impressive for a protein that has a bad rap for negligible taste and bad texture.
Outside seating=flash necessary=shiny tofu!
A chose from the sandwich portion of the menu, which has many delicious sounding options- way more exciting than the salads. The Portobello Pesto Melt ($8.95) was served panini-style on a pressed and toasty ciabatta roll. Meaty chunks of mushrooms, peppers, a thick slather of pesto, and a goat cheese spread culminated in a stellar vegetarian sandwich. The layers of ingredients melded together in a perfect combination of essential sandwich elements. The generous side of sweet potato fries are some of the best we've ever had (two "bests" at one restaurant... in Gainesville??)- just exactly how you want your sweet potato fries to be- soft yet slightly crispy sticks of sweet potato. Deee-licious.
While we do joke that G'ville has no good restaurants, it does have a few redeeming options- The Top being one of them. Not quite my favorite type of atmosphere, but the food was consistently solid- no complaints here. The back patio would be a better option come fall, though the industrial sized fans helped us beat the sticky summer heat.
130 N. Main Street