Wednesday, 07 March 2012 13:36
Looking for lunch? With a variety of soups, salads and sandwiches using Gainesville's best, Tempo Bistro To Go is sure to hit the spot.
At Tempo Bistro To Go, it’s all about timing. Owner John Drum lets patrons enjoy the experience of this Northwest 13th Street gem at their own pace—whether that’s fast, slow or “to go.” Whether you’re looking for a quick lunch or a supper worth lingering over, Tempo Bistro To Go has a variety of soups, salads and sandwiches for meat-eaters, vegetarians and vegans that uses the best that Gainesville has to offer.
Still, John credits partner Debra Pour for the restaurant’s success; he says he’s just “the face behind the counter.” “Debra is the recipe-owner and flavor-creator.” Together, the two re-opened Tempo Bistro To Go in November of 2010 from prior management—and our lunches haven’t been the same since.
By Rachel Sale
Photos: Erik Knudsen
The restaurant is warmly colored with a bright food bar and chalkboard menus that add personality and show a great variety, because ingredients can be switched in seconds. Posters advertising Florida football, music festivals and the Second Street Speakeasy add local flavor to the décor.
On our visit, John and his protégé, Nathan, built our sandwiches as we watched. (There’s nothing that’s going on your sandwich that you won’t see.) The proximity of the sandwich-making station to the rest of the restaurant invites conversation and interest.
The soups and sandwiches begin with core ingredients that could make a perfectly good meal, but Tempo Bistro adds details like micro-greens, whole-flavored herbs and subtle sweet, spicy and salty ingredients for a great union of tastes.
Specials don’t appear in the form of discounts; rather, they manifest themselves in new creations and combinations of food. The newest special was the invention of the “low country sandwich,” a sandwich inspired by travel to Charleston, South Carolina. The sandwich highlights pure local flavors with pumpkin, Applewood smoked bacon, collards, tomato slices and goat cheese (with vegetarian and vegan options available).
The Caribbean ($7.55) was a compilation of ham, grilled pineapple, basil, Dijon mustard and provolone cheese. The basil added a fresh burst of flavor and complemented the sweet pineapple while incorporating the spice of the Dijon mustard. This grouping of flavors took the idea of “ham and cheese” to a new level.
But our personal favorite—and the dish that surprised us the most—was the Elvis ($7). The ingredients include honey-roasted peanut butter, Applewood smoked bacon, bananas and locally-made jam on multigrain bread. This sandwich embodied the marriage of sweet and salty with the perfect ratio of banana to bacon, blueberry jam to peanut butter. The bacon added a touch of crunch and texture to the softness of the interior and the jam softened the bread and added another layer of sweetness. But that’s the beauty of a great surprise: It was delicious.
The soups were equally rave-worthy. The Aztec chili (starting at $3) was a thick, chunky tomato base that showcased flavorful vegetables, beans and tempeh. The beans added a hardy punch with some chunky tomatoes. Also on the menu was the lentil and kale soup (my favorite!), which started at $3. The kale had cooked down to a tender vegetable and the lentils supplied body in a flavorful broth.
Tempo Bistro’s approach to local food was evident in the way the food was bought, prepared and even discarded. The restaurant participates in composting because, as John says, “We want to keep everything green from the front door to the back.”
John is particularly invested in utilizing ingredients that the area has to offer. Twice a week, he visits local farmers markets to pick up fresh ingredients. If one ingredient isn’t on hand, John picks a different, comparable ingredient, which reinforces his commitment to local produce. Even the breads come from local vendors. Take our advice: Make the time to go to Tempo Bistro To Go.
Address: 1516 NW 13th Street (near Lloyd Clarke Sports)
Parking: Extra parking in the back, some in front
Hours: 11am-7pm Tues-Thurs, 11am-5pm Mon, Fri, Sat
Signature: Farmers Market Sandwich
Price Range: $$ (out of $$$$)
Dress code: Come as you are.
Delivery/Take out: Take-out, plus delivery through Gainesville2Go.
Monthly specials: Change regularly.
Special Nights: Later hours some nights of the week.
Outdoor seating: In the works.