If you live within 300 miles of Gainesville, you’ve seen the bumper stickers on everything from the ratty Subaru wagons to dusty Lexus SUVs. Hand-lettered, artsy signs asking forgiveness for being late because the driver was at Satchel’s. Contrived cute hippie statements worthy of Be Here Now. These are the great, galloping herds of the Satchel’s temple cult.
You may sense a slightly sarcastic note here, so I have to confess. We live mere blocks from Satchels. Close enough that when the wind blows, I can smell hot cheese, burnt dough, and patchouli. In the early days when I first moved in to this house, I ate Satchels often. Too often. I burnt out–no pun intended.
Reluctantly I’ve started eating there again. From time to time, friends play live music at the Lightening Salvage stage, and of course The Man drags me out for live music, pizza and beer. (I protest at the lack of air conditioning in the Salvage area in the dead of summer while eating hot pizza.) I’ve once again become intimately familiar with the menu.
I am well aware of how many people adore the kitschy decorations at Satchel’s. Here’s me going out on a limb to have an opinion (rare, I know). The place is kind of cool, and obviously a lot of work went into it all. It gives me the shivering willies. I can’t help but imagining a trailer park in Arizona completely populated by alien enthusiasts in aluminum foil hats. End opinion.
That aside, the food is spectacular. The salad is a delicious meal in itself. The calzones are deadly pockets of yum. They’ve got a small selection of beer and wine. As for the actual pizza, there’s a great selection of toppings, and the crust and sauce taste handmade. The good kind of handmade. If you’re lucky and smart, you’ll call ahead and get them to start a deep dish pizza for you since they have a limited quantity of the crusts, and they take a while to cook (I suggest basil, garlic, and black olives on top!). In fact, I suggest calling them with your order as soon as you get in the car to head over there, since it can often be hugely busy and you might wait an hour for your food.
So slavish followers and creepy decor, vs. distinctly delish pizza. Kind of even battle there. The thing that throws it for me is the culture of Satchel’s business practices. There are stores I don’t shop at because I don’t agree with the mood of the company and the way they interact with their community. Satchel’s strives to exhibit the gold-star standard of how a business should treat its employees and its community. This is the good side of the hippie culture (yes, I’m a direct descendant of hardcore hippies, so I know what I’m talking about).
If you’ve never been to Satchel’s, here’s a few things you need to know. There is seating in the old van parked out front, as well as around back past the gift shop. Yes, they have a fun gift shop. Parking is lousy, especially when it’s busy. They do catering, and you can do carry-out orders. This is a cash-only establishment (but they have an ATM in the hall). The deep dish pizza is the best, but they only prep a quantity and can run out. You will not be able to look at everything they have decorating the place.
This is one of those places that is intrinsically Gainesville. For good or bad. G’ville was a haven for hippies through the years, and these flower children grew up, had kids, had grandkids, and evolved their ideals to survive in the real world. Then there’s the poor Southerners who couldn’t escape to the big cities, and the college kids (some of whom can’t escape G’ville even after their multiple degrees have been earned). So we have this gumbo of unusual local characters and transient upwardly-mobile youths.
You’re highly likely to meet this gumbo at Satchel’s. If you make it through dinner without seeing someone you recognize–well, I have to wonder how long you’ve been living in the area. In fact, if you’re reading this and haven’t been the Satchel’s, you must have just moved here this year. But that’s okay. Go to Satchel’s try the salad and the deep dish pizza, and buy a bumper sticker to put on your car so you’ll blend in with the locals. And no, it’s not an excuse for being late.
1800 NE 23rd Ave
Gainesville, FL 32609
Tuesday-Saturday | 11:00am-10:00pm