I spent a great deal of my youth skulking around downtown Gainesville at night. My older brother was in a band and I discovered that any girls with a band were let into clubs without being ID’ed. Not that I drank at that age. Seriously, I went to T.G.I. Friday and had an ice cream coffee drink on my 21st birthday, and that was my big first drink. I kid you not.
We hung out downtown, and I lived off of Mountain Dew or the Jamocha milkshakes at the Burger Barn while the boys schemed about scoring drinks and girls and stardom. This was back in the time of Hardback Cafe, Florida Theater, Insomnia, Purple Porpoise, and all of the random parties the band played in the rat warren of the student ghetto. If we were lucky, we would eat at Kesl’s Coney Island. If it was late, we ended up at Taco Bell.
Not that I’m saying anything bad about Taco Bell (don’t sue me!), but with age, my expectations for late-night food have increased to include the criteria that it must at least be edible. Carbs and protein are the food requirements after midnight. I’m a salad fanatic, and I wouldn’t touch the stuff late at night. Warm carbs and protein are what the stomach requires.
Fortunately Flaco’s is within walking distance of many of the usual places we hang out with friends at night these days, and it’s open until 2:30 AM Wednesday through Saturday. Just enough time to wander down there for some to-go food after having a pint or two. In case you’re wondering if it’s open, they provide that big neon pig sign to light the way. If you want to find it, Flaco’s is right across from the cow building. You know what I mean.
Flaco’s is a Cuban bakery and coffee shop. Firstly, if you’ve never had Cuban coffee, do not attempt this without a diving buddy. Secondly, if don’t know much Spanish, you can still order food at Flaco’s because they’re prepared for people like us (unlike some of the Cuban places in Miami which you might be physically removed from for asking “What’s quee-so?”). Their menu has nice little descriptions that are easy enough to be understood when you’re tired and can’t focus your eyes well.
They’ve got a lot of great hand-food and bowls of food, so you can eat and run (stumble), or you can sit around their stylishly shabby dining areas and enjoy the gorgeous smell of good food cooking. It’s a bit moist in the summer, but in the cool months, it’s lovely. Like someone’s kitchen. By ‘someone’, I mean ‘someone who cooks well and often’.
You can find hot sandwiches (yes, a few vegetarian options), salads, ‘plates’ & ‘bowls’, arepas, empanadas, coffee, drinks, and beer. They’ve even got a taco bar Saturday after 10PM. I’ve not been to take advantage of this fabulous event, but I imagine all of the celebrities attend.
Our usual late night to-go has narrowed down to queso blanco arepas, and two Donna’s Turnstyle sandwiches, one with black beans and one with lentils. I’m an arepa fan–cornmeal patties with a slab of fresh cheese half melting in the middle. There are many ways to make arepas, not all of them good, but Flaco’s are delish.
The Donna’s Turnstyle sandwiches are simple Cuban bread with swiss cheese, mustard, pickles, and either black beans or lentils, and pressed to warm. A far cry from the late-night burritos from Taco Bell that I was always convinced must contain the recycled wasted from liposuction clinics.
Flaco’s is the kind of place I would have felt at home at in my stupid youth. Miss-matched second-hand furniture, interesting art, a kind of rumpled and angsty mood at night. The food is honest and tasty. The pigs are a bit creepy in a fun way.
200 West University Ave
Gainesville, FL 32601
Donna’s Turnstyles – $4.95
Queso Blanco Arepas – $3.50
Tues | 11:00AM- 4:00PM
Wed- Fri | 11:00AM-2:30AM
Sat | 12:00PM-2:30AM
Sun & Mon | Closed