After great success with his restaurant that opened last year, one Gainesville chef is ready to introduce the city to his new concept, inspired by his love for Mexican food. Another spot for Italian and Greek fare is located nearby as well, bringing two new restaurants to often overlooked northwest Gainesville.
A new food truck has also opened, and news is trickling in from two other establishments whose openings should appeal to Gator fans.
Here’s a look at this week’s restaurant news:
Nopal, the new restaurant from chef and owner Hector Cintrón, will have its soft opening Friday. His other restaurant, Cintrón, opened in the fall in Thornebrook Village and has quickly become a popular spot for a fusion of Floridian and Caribbean cuisine inspired by Cintrón’s background in Puerto Rico.
More restaurant news:What’s to eat at Gainesville’s new food truck park?
Nopal — the Spanish word for prickly pear — is a common ingredient in Mexican dishes, the cuisine Cintrón is taking on at the new place. It will open at 5112 NW 34th Blvd. Friday through Sunday, with limited hours for the next couple of weeks before opening daily.
“When I came to Gainesville, I wanted to keep growing,” Cintrón said. “Everybody loves Mexican food and I love Mexican food. What’s important is that I’m not cutting corners. Everything is made fresh in house, not frozen, and I’m giving it the ol’ Chef Cintrón twist.”
Traditional fare you’ll find on Nopal’s menu include tacos, burritos, enchiladas and fajitas with meat options like chicken, beef, fish, braised pulled pork and pork belly. Vegetarian options also are available.
Also on the menu are several sandwiches, including one with marinated pork belly, pickled onions and salsa, served with sweet potato fries.
Cintrón said one standout item is the giant meatball tinga — a 10-ounce Kobe beef meatball appetizer, served with caramelized onions, chipotle tomato sauce, Oaxaca cheese and grilled flatbread.
“It’s something that you don’t usually see,” Cintrón said.
Nopal has a spacious outdoor seating area that overlooks a creek, but unlike his other restaurant, pets aren’t allowed in the outdoor space.
Entrée prices range from about $12 to $32. Nopal opens Friday at 11 a.m. It will open this weekend from Friday-Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. before closing Monday and Tuesday. It will reopen Wednesday-Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Its regular hours, expected to begin in a couple weeks, will be Tuesday-Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Now open in the same plaza as Nopal at 5240 NW 34th Blvd. Suite A, is Scuola Pizza, named for the Italian word for school.
Scuola’s “food for thought,” includes create-your-own pizzas that start at $10.95 for a 12-inch pie and $14.25 for a 16-inch pie. Toppings include traditional meat and vegetable options, along with gyro meat and prosciutto inspired by the Greek owners.
More than a dozen specialty pies also are available for dine in, takeout and delivery, including one with Buffalo sauce and another with a homemade Alfredo sauce.
If you’re in the mood for something different, several salads, pasta entrees, sandwiches and wraps also are on the menu. Classic Greek sandwiches include chicken souvlaki and a meatball sandwich with homemade tzatziki sauce. Entrée prices range from about $9 to $16.
Scuola Pizza is open Monday-Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The owners of Flaco’s this week officially opened its neighboring property after eight months of renovations, called Vecinos — the Spanish word for neighbors.
The space at 208 W. University Ave. was the longtime home of Durty Nelly’s Irish Pub before it closed in summer 2020.
In addition to serving up drinks, Vecinos will host events like drag shows. Right now, the team is limiting its occupancy for coronavirus safety reasons.
Vecinos is open daily from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Lauren’s Family Kitchen
Lauren’s Family Kitchen, a new food truck in Gainesville at 1530 NE Eighth Ave., is now serving up Southern fare and American classics.
Its menu includes burgers, wraps, wings and chicken and shrimp po’ boy sandwiches. If you’ve got a thing for fries, you can try them with nacho fixings. Mexican favorites like burritos and quesadillas also are available. Prices are $10 and under.
Lauren’s Family Kitchen is open from 12:30-8 p.m. daily unless otherwise noted.
Spurrier’s Gridiron Grille
Spurrier’s Gridiron Grille, the long-awaited restaurant from famed Florida Gator football coach Steve Spurrier that’s set to open in Celebration Pointe in time for this fall’s kickoff, recently announced partnerships with two local companies.
Hawthorne Creek Creamery will supply some of the restaurant’s premium cheese selections. The cheeses will be used in salads, charcuterie boards and in a cheese appetizer.
The restaurant also has a partnership with Opus Coffee to serve its brews at patrons’ tables, the bar, patio and the outside Promenade.
The Swamp Restaurant
An engineering group has been announced for The Swamp Restaurant, which is being rebuilt to model its original University Avenue space at 1026 SW Second Ave. The restaurant is expected to open next year.
Campbell Spellicy Engineering, a locally-owned, full-service mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering firm, was selected to design the mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire systems in the new 6,000-square-foot space.
Campbell Spellicy has collaborated with the project architects, Monarch Design Group, for 20 years.
Campbell Spellicy has already begun to work on design systems for The Swamp. It hopes to introduce new, modern LED lighting, but is focused on selecting pieces as close to the original Swamp Restaurant fixtures as possible.
The new restaurant will have all its old charm, like the front yard and white picket fence, but will now have more power and elevated audio and visual systems, offering more flexibility for guests and events. The new two-story building will offer live music, events, private event space, and of course, Gator game day viewing experiences.