Thursday, 07 October 2010 12:54
Mildred’s Big City Food is the ultimate culinary contradiction—a departure to time-honored classics, yet thoroughly modern in its tastes. The result? Some of the best food that Gainesville has to offer.
By Maghan McDowell; Photos by Sean Kelly
Address: 3445 W University Ave.
Hours: Mon-Thurs 11am-9pm; Fri & Sat 11 am-10pm; Sunday noon-8pm.
Popular dish: Menu changes too often to say. Try a fresh, homemade cake slice ($6).
Popular drink: Try the huge blood-orange margarita.
Price range: $$$ (out of $$$$)
Dress code: Business casual (lunch) to date night (dinner).
Delivery: No, but many people order full cakes for pick-up.
Outdoor seating: No, but there is at next door sister restaurant New Deal Café.
Insider Tip: Stay tuned for November menu surprises—Executive Chef Gill might be bringing in some new talent in the kitchen!
Mildred’s is owned by local chef Bert Gill, whose efforts to serve locally sourced, organic, sustainable—not to mention delicious—food has caught the attention of many. But although the “local” aspect is commendable, we want to focus on what keeps regulars returning daily: the just plain good food.
Just in Time!
The restaurant, located on University Avenue near the intersection of Southwest 34th Street, is named for Mildred Pierce, the title character in a 1945 movie played by Joan Crawford. While there is a certain “Mad Men” vibe to Mildred’s, which serves its share of gimlets and martinis while Sinatra croons overhead, Bert is hesitant to cite too much inspiration from the past.
And, when you think about it, touting local, organic ingredients is really trendy right now.
So where does inspiration come from? “The food is, very simply, well-presented,” he explains. (More on that later.) “We’re not egomaniacs; we’re not creating the cuisine of tomorrow.
“But if local, preservative-free food is the cuisine of tomorrow, then we’re cutting edge.”
If It Ain’t Broke…
We first sample a paper-lined basket of crispy squid and fried-green tomatoes ($8). They have a bit of a kick (that would be the pepper aioli), and we love the combination of country classic with the more exotic.
Bert then suggests a pan-seared cobia (a type of white fish) on ham-hock grits ($21), followed by grilled hangar steak with squash and sausage ($17).
The cobia, not something you see often, has a perfectly crisp glazed exterior, paired with creamy grits covered in sautéed okra and a mix of beans—all sourced locally (meat included) except for the grits. We ask Bert if the decidedly “country” feel to the menu is something new, but he answers, simply, “It’s what’s in season.” Of course.
…Don’t Fix It!
The hangar steak, at medium rare, comes out gorgeously piled next to a range of in-season squashes and other veggies mixed with sausage. The salty bite of sausage mixed with the squash reinforced our notion that you simply can’t order anything you won’t like on the menu. Although it’s filled with recognizable elements mixed with the unconventional, it’s arguably the best version you’ll ever try.
A New Type of Regular
We can’t promise that the okra or squash will be available the next time you go out to Mildred’s, because the menu changes more often than the seasons. And that means that the servers have to memorize new menus constantly. You know what is constant? The high-quality service. We talked with server Liz Arnold, who after more than two years of working there, now shops regularly at the farmer’s market and can tell the difference between your cobia and tilapia. We have a feeling after trying Mildred’s, you will too.