Local celebrity food pundit Ken Peng (of Ken Eats Gainesville fame) graciously agreed to co-host a new weekly tailgating podcast with Gator Country and we present you with the first edition.
During The Thursday Chompdown, Ken talked up the best food, drinks, and tailgating events Gainesville has to offer this weekend. Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre of course, added their own wacky ingredients to the mix and Bernadette popped in to add a splash of her own secret sauce.
Whether you’re coming in town for the game, hosting a tailgate, or want to know the best places to hang out and cheer for the Gators on game day, you do not want to miss this podcast!
Andrew: What’s up, Gator Country? Our podcast is live with Ken Eats Gainesville. The new series is here. I know the wait was there. Twitter was rolling this afternoon. Everybody was asking Nick and I where the man was. Here’s the man. The man is here. Ken Eats Gainesville, and guess what? We brought her out of hiding. Bernadette Carter King, our COO of Gator Country, came out of hiding to join Nicholas, myself, and Mr. Ken. Mr. Ken, tell the people how they can find you, what you’re about, how you got started in this business. Let us know.
Ken: Sure. What is up, guys? My name’s Ken. I run Ken Eats Gainesville. You can find me on KenEatsGainesville.com, also on Instagram and Facebook under the same name. The site started out just a couple years ago. I was in between jobs, and I was trying to find something to do. Started to think as I always critiqued restaurants on my own time, and grew up around the business, so I thought why not? Gainesville has a lot to offer. I think a lot of folks come here and just think of it as this college town. People don’t really get out and see some of the places that we have here that are kind of off the beaten path. Most people think of Gainesville as Archer Road and downtown. That’s kind of my intentions of the blog is to bring more attention to some of these lesser known places and just kind of call things as they are. That’s my story.
Bernadette: You’re being very humble about it. Let’s be honest here. You’ve become quite the local celebrity. You’ve got almost 15,000 followers on your Facebook. Everywhere I go in Gainesville people talk about you all the time. You can’t bring up a restaurant or a bar that people haven’t said, “Did you see Ken Eats Gainesville review on that?” We’re very honored to have you here. Thank you so much for agreeing to join us. I can’t wait. That probably is all I’m going to say all the time. I just was kind of star struck and wanted to be part of the podcast and talk about food.
Ken: I’m happy to be here, guys. Thanks for having me.
Nick: I was promised bottomless mimosas. I know I’m jumping out of the schedule there, but if bottomless mimosas doesn’t excite you then this probably isn’t the podcast for you.
Bernadette: Gator Country’s not the place for you if bottomless mimosas don’t excite you.
Ken: That’s pretty fantastic.
Andrew: Guys, you know Nick and I are on here all the time, and Nick likes to eat. I may be the fat boy of the group, but Nick likes to eat.
Nick: I can put some food down.
Andrew: You guys knew it. Ken, I think we owe the people what they want here. These people are begging and pleading for some info. Football is here. We’re all pumped to see the gridiron get started on Saturday, but I think a lot of people are excited for tailgating. That’s the south at the best is tailgating, starting probably, well they may be starting now if you’re in Tuscaloosa. In Gainesville probably on Friday. Ken, can you talk about your normal Friday? You’ve kind of told me and us before the show some places to hit Friday. I guess tell the people where you would recommend on Friday night, Friday, for tailgating.
Ken: Sure. Luckily Friday is the beginning of the Football Fridays that Swamp Head does every week during football season. I know a lot of folks are going to be rolling into town right about the time it starts. So starting about 5:00PM till about 11:00 at night, Swamp Head is going to be hosting their Football Friday at their new location. They’re going to have a DJ on hand. They’re going to have Backstreet Blues barbeque on hand as well. They’re going to be doing some really awesome limited releases of beers every hour on the hour. I think there was something like a watermelon Saison du Swamp and honey ginger Saison du Swamp.
Ken: That stuff goes really quickly. If anyone’s ever been there, that place is fantastic, especially in the new location. It’s gorgeous.
Bernadette: That new location for Swamp Head is right off 34th, right behind the post office, isn’t it?
Bernadette: You guys check it out. Swamp Head is a local favorite brewery, and they’ve been gaining quite a bit of traction. Their microbrews are no joke. People don’t think about Gainesville as a microbrewery kind of hub, but we’ve got a couple of them here that are killing it. My husband’s a huge fan.
Nick: I’m not even a big IPA drinker, but I had a friend come over. She brought a six pack of their Big Nose IPA.
Ken: It’s fantastic.
Nick: Tried it. Loved it. I think there’s something a little different about getting a beer fresh from a brewery like that, somewhere where they’re making it in house on site rather than going to a gas station or Publix.
Ken: Especially at a place like that. If you go to this event, if you’ve ever been to one, they’re tapping this limited supply stuff that goes so quickly that they’re making small batches of that you really can’t get anywhere else. It’s great.
Bernadette: They’re a local fav, and they’re worth trying out and worth standing in line when they do their limited releases. It’s absolutely worth standing in line. They’ve got a great staff, great owners. Can’t recommend it highly enough. Rock on.
Andrew: That’s Friday.
Bernadette: Are we going to eat Friday, or are we just going to drink?
Ken: If you want to eat on Friday there’s options too, and more family friendly options. I know a lot of people are coming into town with their entire families. Cymplify is actually hosting their food truck rally, their monthly food truck rally, this Friday, and it also starts at 5:00PM as well. I think they’re going to have about six food trucks on hand. They have beer on site, and you guys got to go try, there’s going to be this pretzel stand out there. I know it sounds kind of boring, but LEJ Pretzels is phenomenal. That’s some of the best pretzels I’ve ever had. Friday.
Bernadette: What makes those pretzels so special? Here’s why I ask. I’ve traveled the United States. I’m a pretzel freak. There isn’t a starch I don’t love. So tell me what makes these pretzels the bomb.
Ken: They’re just fresh baked and just buttery, warm, with tons of salt on them. They’re all Bavarian style, just really perfect to go with beer or any sort of alcohol. There was one night, they come out to Whiskey House Friday nights too, and there was one night where I had a few to drink. I ended up buying five of them from them, and I was just sitting at the corner munching away like a freak, and people were looking at me all weird.
Bernadette: Did you end up wearing lederhosen?
Ken: No, thank God. Nobody wants to see that.
Bernadette: How Bavarian can they be? Just kidding. Nick, I’ll give you $100 to see you in lederhosen.
Nick: Depends on how many drinks I have before that. I might do it for free.
Andrew: No drinks for this weekend for Nicholas.
Bernadette: Go ahead. I’m sorry. I was going to talk about your whiskey tasting on Sunday. So the food truck rally is the place to be on Friday?
Nick: We’ve kind of seen food trucks explode onto the scene recently. Me, love food trucks. I have a buddy who just opened a bar down in South Florida, and they have food trucks come in, a different food truck every night. I really haven’t seen them that much in Gainesville. Is there a place that you can kind of keep track of where they’re going to be? Is it all run through social media pretty much?
Ken: Sure. Gainesville is kind of strange when it comes to that. You’re right. It is kind of exploding onto the scene. I’m originally from Miami, so every time I go down there they do big food truck rallies every Tuesday. They’ve got these websites where you can track them via GPS. They’re seriously hardcore about it.
Bernadette: That’s cool.
Ken: Gainesville hasn’t quite caught on to it as much. Part of it has to do with the city, I think, and just the way that they require food trucks to have a permit. Well, everybody has to have a permit, but they have to kind of park in front of a business. They can’t just park on the side of the road in some parking lot downtown or anything like that. I don’t know. I guess it kind of hasn’t really caught on because of that. In town, as far as that goes, there’s a couple food truck rallies that happen regularly. There’s the one that’s at High Dive that everybody’s probably familiar with. Then Cymplify does theirs every month as well. Other than that, you would just follow them on Facebook or on Twitter and see where they are at that specific night.
I think it’s going to get better. The Depot Park just broke ground today, and part of their plans is going to be a pavilion where they’re going to have regular food truck rallies as well. Hopefully, I think things are working in the right direction. We’ll see what happens.
Bernadette: What is High Dive?
Ken: High Dive is a music venue downtown. It’s on the corner of I believe 1st and 1st. I’m not exactly sure of the cross road there. It used to be, many years ago it used to be The Covered Dish.
Bernadette: There we go.
Ken: It was Common Grounds, and then Double Down. It went through variations, but it’s exactly the same, pretty much.
Bernadette: It’s the same, but different.
Ken: Yeah. It’s the same, but different. They host their food truck rallies there as well.
Bernadette: Cymplify is cool. They’ve got, don’t they serve a lot of organic stuff, just really kind of unusual sandwich combinations, that kind of thing, also? Along with the food trucks? Are they only going to have the food trucks serve on Friday?
Ken: Cymply Fresh Café’s there as well. I believe they do serve it on the food truck rally. You can get beer and wine from them as well. They’ve also got an ice cream shop in there as well, and a coffee shop. It’s a little bit of everything.
Andrew: If you made it through Friday, which by the way you guys are talking I’m not sure I would, but…
Bernadette: If you’re hungover Saturday morning.
Andrew: If you’re hungover Saturday morning, game’s at 7:30, so that means local businesses in Gainesville should be popping. Should be a nice weekend. Ken, I’m going to separate this. If you’re staying at home and watching the game, and not going to the Swamp, which, in Coach McElwain’s voice, “Get to the swamp.” But if you’re staying at home, what are some recommendations for staying at home for eating?
Ken: You probably want to take it easy on Saturday if you’re doing the things I was suggesting on Friday. You’re not going to have a good time in the morning. Like you said, Andrew, if you’re not going to the Swamp for whatever reason, and you want to stay home and watch it with your buddies, one of the things I love during football season is to just hang out at home with some beers and some really good pizza and just kind of watch the game from my house. Now when it comes to pizza in Gainesville, everybody just thinks of Satchels. That’s like our tourist destination, if you will.
A place that I really enjoy, and I actually think is the best pizza in Gainesville, one of the best pizzas I’ve had period, is Ameraucana Wood Fire. Speaking of food trucks, they’re actually a food truck themselves. He parks behind Tipple’s Brews, which is actually over on Tower Road. I believe Tower Road is 91st Street and the intersection of 24th Avenue. Tipple’s has some really fantastic beers available. They’ve got a huge selection of craft beers and also wines and cheeses and cigars. So it’s a pretty good spot to go hit up before the game, get some really good brews with your buddies, and then just walk out the back door and go get yourself a pizza. Trust me. Go get yourself a pizza. It’s wood fired. It’s a thousand degree oven, sourdough, naturally leavened sourdough. It’s all really good stuff.
Bernadette: What’s your favorite pizza from there?
Ken: He does a couple I really enjoy. There’s a spicy pancetta, which has some local honey, some crisp pancetta on there, really fresh mozzarella, and some crushed red pepper flakes. He also does a Mortadella Vetri, which is Mortadella sausage. Mortadella sausage, for those who are not familiar, is kind of the original bologna. Bologna is kind of the rip off of Mortadella, and it’s phenomenal. He does it with a pistachio pesto.
Bernadette: Who is this person? What is their home address? I’m going right now. Let me just say, I’m a vegetarian, but I will pick off the Mortadella and eat the rest of it. I would eat a whole pizza, pistachio pesto? Are you kidding me right now?
Ken: It’s beautiful. He’s going to be out there starting at 5:00 on Saturday. That is definitely the spot I would go to. Anybody that lives on the west side of town will tell you that is the spot to go. You pick up a pizza. You pick up some brews, and you go home. Game day or not, it is fantastic.
Andrew: If you’re tailgating, where is a good place to get the tailgating supplies for the day? Where would you say? Then also where is a good local spot to tailgate?
Ken: Oh my. For tailgating goods, if you want to grill out, and hopefully the weather’s going to be nicer than it has been the last few days, but Ward’s is always a wonderful place to go. Like I said, a lot of people come here. They go through Archer Road. They hit up whatever they need to go to. Ward’s is actually a really old Gainesville local market that’s owned by the Ward family, up on, I believe 16th. They’ve got specials all the time. They source all their stuff locally. It’s local meat, local produce. I think they’ve got some pork loin on special right now and some New York strip steaks for $8.99 a pound. They’re actually one of the only places in town where you can get gator meat, if you want to be ironic and kind of weird about it. I think it’s like $12.99 a pound for some gator meat. If you’ve never had gator, it is really good.
Andrew: Are you a Tennessee fan? That’s what Tennessee fans want to do is eat gator meat. Are you a Tennessee fan, Ken? We’re on Gator Country.
Nick: I apologize, Ken. I got Andrew worked up on Monday about Tennessee, and he hasn’t been able to drop it yet.
Andrew: For all of the fans listening, I am sorry, especially you, Uncle Sil, that I brought on Tennessee fan, Ken.
Ken: Those guys wouldn’t be able to read my writing.
Nick: Ken, getting back to the pizza. I am all about those toppings you talked about, but for me the true test of a pizza is just getting plain cheese. If you can impress me with your plain cheese pizza, obviously if I’m throwing bacon on it, if I’m throwing salami on it, you can’t go wrong there, but if you can impress me with your plain cheese pizza I know you’re a good spot.
Ken: They actually do have a really good plain cheese pizza. They call it the Marge, named after the margarita pizza, which is kind of what started it all. Again, it’s on the same naturally leavened sourdough, out of that same thousand degree wood fire oven, but it’s got really good tomato sauce on it, which is actually made from Bianco de Napoli tomato sauce, which I think are the only people in Florida that actually source that. It’s also got some really good mozzarella, some fresh basil, some parmesan, olive oil, and sea salt on it. It is killer.
Nick: What we’re really doing here is we’re saying, you’re coming in, and you’re hitting Archer Road, and you’re going to be hit with those familiar names. There’s the Five Guys. You’ve got these restaurants that are right there yelling at you in the face that are natural, familiar, but if you branch out just a little bit there’s some local spots with some really good food, some good beer, and it’s a different environment. It’s not that franchise environment.
Ken: Absolutely. What I would say it when you get off Archer Road heading northbound, you turn right. Everybody turns right and goes down Archer Road, then the cops direct you that way and everything, but go left. Go left. Go past the interstate, and go out to Tower Road. It’s only a couple miles down. Go to Tipple’s. Trust me on that. It is fantastic.
Bernadette: That’s the whole point of this particular podcast. When Andrew came up with doing a tailgating podcast we know that Gator Country members and readers have a discerning taste, because they’re Gator fans, and they’re part of Gator Country. So why would we send them to someplace ordinary? That’s you. You’ve got all the inside poop on everybody in town. You know your stuff, so there we go. Don’t do the ordinary corporate cookie cutter BS. Go have some really awesome stuff. You’re a Gator fan. Don’t you want something better than that? That’s all I have to say about that.
Nick: I don’t know about everyone, but when I go to, I’m going to be going to Kentucky for the game in three weeks. I’m not going to go to Olive Garden. I’m not going to go to somewhere I can go in Gainesville. I’m going to go somewhere that’s unique to the city that I’m in that I can’t get at home. I think it’s these hidden gems that you’re bringing up. I’ve lived here for over two years, and I haven’t heard of any of the places that you’ve brought up. I’m a bad Gainesville resident.
Ken: You’re not so much a bad Gainesville resident as I am just fat. I just go out to eat all the time. I just eat wherever.
Andrew: Nick, real quick, don’t call places in another city. A quick tidbit on that. Nick was in Mobile for the Senior Bowl with myself and called to get a carry out in Kentucky. Not a good idea.
Nick: Classic mixup.
Andrew: That was. Ken, I want to ask you real quick. Does anybody cater for tailgating in Gainesville?
Ken: They do. The one that I would really recommend people go to is Dave’s New York Deli. They’re actually a little bit out west in the town Tioga, but they’ve got some seriously awesome sandwiches, and they cater big parties all the time. As a matter of fact, if you go there and you talk to Dave, the owner, and he actually exists. There actually is a Dave. He’ll tell you about football season and how he brings massive amounts of sandwiches out to these tailgates. He’s got this one sandwich there called the New York, New York that is pastrami and corned beef and cheese and mustard piled high. If you get it New York, New York sized it is gargantuan. It is a humongous sandwich. I would definitely recommend them if you want to have some seriously good food coma to go with your beer and tailgating.
Bernadette: Do you want to sing New York, New York? Do you want to start spreading the news?
Ken: I’ve never done that there, but if I did I think they would haul me away.
Andrew: I guess to kind of go over Saturday, I know we’ve kind of talked about it in a long run. Best place to get tailgating real quick, and then what is the best place to get all your supplies?
Ken: All your supplies, if you want to get a bunch of meats and buns and stuff to grill definitely hit up Ward’s. If you want to just go get some massive amount of barbeque delivered to you, hit up Mojo BBQ downtown. If you want to get some good sandwiches, hit up Dave’s New York Deli. You want to go get some really good craft beers, hit up Tipple’s Brews.
Bernadette: I know that we time these podcasts and everything, but I personally haven’t been to Mojo. I’ve been to every place else you’re talking about. I’m a southerner. Can you tell me what your love affair with Mojo BBQ is? What makes their barbeque have the mojo? There are a lot of barbeque places in town.
Ken: There is. There’s a lot of barbeque places in town. I know barbeque’s one of those things where it’s very hotly debated. There’s all different types and all different regions that will bicker about who is better. I’m from Miami, and I’m Chinese. I don’t have a dog in the fight. I’ve lived in Gainesville enough that I enjoy some good barbeque, and I kind of like doing it on my own time as well. What really sets Mojo apart to me is the fact that they actually use a true wood smoker. Any barbeque purist will say it’s not barbeque unless you use true wood smoke. People can put wood chips in electric smokers. You can put propane. A lot of these guys do that in town.
To me, it’s not quite the same. It’ll taste good, but there’s something not quite right there, especially there’s some places where they use propane, and your barbeque just ends up tasting like propane. So Mojo actually hand built this gigantic wood smoker in the kitchen, and I got a chance to see that thing. They opened up the doors to it. That thing smelled amazing. You’ve got to go there. You’ve got to try the ribs. The hot sausage is really good. I actually really enjoy the brisket as well. To boot, they’ve got a huge selection of whiskeys and a really good bar as well.
Bernadette: How about their sauce? Right? Who needs sauce when you have the bar? Barbeque is all about sauce. Do they do their own sauce?
Nick: I’m confused. When we’re talking sauce are we talking about the whiskey?
Bernadette: We’re talking about both of them, but let’s talk about the sauce that you put on the meat. Do they do their own?
Ken: They do. They do do their own sauces. They’ve actually got quite a selection of them. I think they’ve got a spicy, a sweet, a chipotle, and they have their own blends, which is kind of like a mojo kind of sauce, which is citrusy and garlicy sauce. That’s my favorite. My personal opinion is if the barbeque is really that good you don’t even need the sauce. Just eat the thing.
Nick: That’s true.
Ken: Just do it. Shovel it.
Andrew: After the Gators take care of business on Saturday.
Nick: Ken, here it is. I enjoyed your recommendations on Friday. I powered through on Saturday and continued to enjoy those recommendations. Sunday I’m not powering through. The tank is on empty. Where am I going to lick my wounds after two days of lots of drinking, lots of eating, and hopefully a Gator win?
Ken: You know what you do in that case? You drink more, especially when Monday is Labor Day, so a lot of folks don’t have school or work. It just so happens that Sunday is actually the return of Sunday Brunch at Cymply Fresh Café. This is going back to Cymplify. They’re actually located inside of the Cymplify complex. Starting at 11:00AM, obviously, they’re going to be rolling out their new brunch menu. They’ve got some naturally leavened waffles, sourdough waffles that they’re going to be doing. They’re going to be doing homemade biscuits and gravy. I know Nick is excited about this, bottomless mimosas.
Nick: There it is.
Bernadette: Is it really bottomless, though? Tell the truth.
Ken: The bottom hits when you hit the ground.
Nick: I will probably be asked not to return. They’ll be losing money on me eating and drinking on Sunday there. I am a huge fan of all things brunch. If I could eat brunch every day, breakfast for dinner, breakfast for lunch, breakfast for snacks. I am definitely going to have to try that out. Homemade biscuits and gravy, are you kidding me?
Ken: Yeah. Get some of that biscuit and gravy to soak up that mimosas.
Nick: Nothing cures a hangover like some greasy sausage gravy, some homemade from scratch biscuits, and, of course, a little champagne, or a little OJ in your champagne.
Bernadette: That’s how we rock it in the south is lard, flour, and champagne. That is how we rock it. What’s your favorite thing there at the brunch? I’m with Nick, man. I’m from Miami also, and I’ve never met a brunch I didn’t like.
Ken: They just rolled out their new menu, so I actually haven’t had it yet. I will tell you that that homemade biscuits and gravy is going to be fantastic.
Bernadette: They make their own biscuits?
Ken: They do. Everything’s made from scratch. They’re all about making things with fresh, good quality local ingredients.
Bernadette: I’m sold.
Ken: It’s going to be the best. I promise.
Bernadette: We should do our next podcast from one of these places.
Ken: I’ll be there on Sunday. You guys come join me for bottomless mimosas.
Nick: I need to.
Andrew: You can eat your brunch. Nick and myself will have plenty of updates on Gator Country as well.
Nick: I will be eating brunch with Ken.
Andrew: A little bit of both. We will be talking about a Gator victory.
Bernadette: What do you think, Ken? You’ve been following Gator Country for a long time. You’re a huge Gator fan. I don’t mean to put you on the spot, but did you go to UF?
Ken: I did. Many moons ago. I’m old now.
Bernadette: Please. What’s your prediction? You’ve got the goods on the food. What do you think? You think we’re going to win this first one?
Ken: I got us blowing them out. I got faith in Coach Mac and bringing back that offense. I know we’re doing two quarterback system, but I think we’re going to win big. I think I’m going to go with 42-10.
Ken: That’s a really optimistic prediction, but I have faith in them.
Bernadette: Go big, man, or go home.
Andrew: I am going 57-10, Gator victory.
Bernadette: What? Dang. Okay.
Andrew: 57-10. Nicholas, go ahead with you, brother.
Nick: Mine will be in my story that goes out on Friday, as it always is. You’ll have to tune in to GatorCountry.com to find out my prediction. Shameless plugs.
Ken: Well played.
Bernadette: Very nice.
Andrew: Well played. Definitely. Ken, we appreciate it. We are so glad you joined us for this series. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I know people are excited about it as well. Ken, one last chance. Where can people follow you this weekend, if they didn’t catch this, or if they’re catching this and want a little brief up?
Ken: Definitely. Check me out on KenEatsGainesville.com and Facebook Ken Eats Gainesville, Instagram @KenEatsGainesville. Make it easy for everybody. Check it out.
Bernadette: Awesome. Thank you so much.
Andrew: Definitely. Gator Fans, while you’re doing this Nick and myself will have plenty of stuff rolling the airways. Nick and I have a couple things up our sleeve for game day. Eat your food that Kenny tells you. Read Nick and Andrew’s stuff. Get the best of both worlds. No problem. All right, guys. We have to go through this. B, say your final little close off.
Bernadette: Go Gators.
Ken: Go Gators.
Nick: Ken, save me a seat on Sunday. You stay classy, Gator Country.
Andrew: Gator fans, keep your bellies empty. Kenny will be back.