When I first moved to Gainesville in 2011, a co-worker suggested I try the restaurant Civilization. I nodded, but given that my husband was so picky at the time (he was wary of sauces on his meat), I never attempted to eat there. Then recently we were out with another couple and decided to eat dinner together. I thought of Civilization and no one had ever been; it turned out to be a great experience.
Fortunately I had my smart phone and could look up the address, because even with that we were very uncertain we were headed to the right location. The restaurant is located in a residential area and other than the sign out front, you will not realize a restaurant is there. Once you pull in, the main entrance is in the back, off the street. A small, cozy restaurant greeted us with several other people already dining there.
The menu boasts “ethnic comfort food from around the globe”. They buy local and organic food whenever possible with a list of suppliers right on the menu:
- “We source as much of our produce as possible from local growers including: Possum Hollow Farm, Siembra Organic Farm, The Family Garden Organic Farm, Graham Farms, and Dogwood Lane Farms.
- Civilization’s chicken is from Georgia’s Springer Mountain Farms and is vegetarian-fed, antibiotic & hormone-free and American Humane Certiﬁed.
- Our fresh ﬁsh and wild caught Atlantic shrimp come from C&C Fisheries in Mayport, Jacksonville. We choose our ﬁsh according to sustainability recommendations from the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
- Our coffee is Fair Trade certiﬁed and Organic from Strongtree Organic Roasters in Gainesville.
- Our breads come from The Village Bakery in Jacksonville, FL and Vine bakery in Gainesville.
- Our clams come from Cedar Shoals in Cedar Key.
- The free range water buffalo is antibiotic-free and comes from Popenoe Ranch in Archer, FL”
There were several vegetarian options on the menu and a few vegan options. We started with two appetizers to share: Chole (curried chickpeas and tomatoes with fresh cilantro) and Fried Potatoes. The Chole was fabulous! Dan discovered that eating the Chole with the fried potatoes was a great combination (though obviously less healthy).
I ordered a couple items off the specials: Mango Cilantro Gazpacho to start and for an entrée a Poblano Pepper stuffed with quinoa and sweet potato which came with black beans. They were both great, as long as you are a cilantro and a gazpacho fan.
Dan ordered the Sweet Potato Enchiladas: Sweet potato, spinach, avocado, cheddar, & rice baked in a ﬂour tortilla. Topped with tomatillo cream sauce and served with black beans. He left off the cheese, but kept the tomatillo cream sauce. He absolutely loved everything about this dish and decided then he wanted to take his family to Civilization when they came to visit the next week.
So back we went one week later! This time we had 5 people and there aren’t that many larger tables in the restaurant. Even though one table had just been vacated, we had to wait about 20 minutes for it to get cleared, cleaned and set-up. I think we got lucky with that wait; they do not take reservations. That is a drawback with a larger party.
The first time we went we sat outside because it was a nice night. It is pretty enclosed and there are a lot of trees, but the view is of the parking lot. The second trip we sat inside and it’s comfortable and intimate. The service on our first visit was spot-on but pretty average on the second.
Dan ordered the same entrée as the first visit but this time I also ordered the Sweet Potato Enchiladas, prepared vegan, which they did without hesitation. While the enchiladas were still awesome and I will eat them again, I have to admit: the cream sauce really put them over the top. So if you are a vegetarian and not vegan, I would keep the sauce. Our family also loved their meals – everyone got one of the vegetarian pasta selections, though there are several omnivore selections available.
Some other dishes that look promising for next time:
- Strawberry and Spinach Salad: Fresh strawberries and spinach tossed with our poppyseed dressing.
- Mediterranean Rice Salad: Fresh romaine, spinach, and sprouts tossed with basmati rice, sauteed zucchini, green olives, and mint-tarragon vinaigrette.
- Florida Citrus Salad: Seasonal citrus, avocados, and pecans tossed with mixed greens in citrus vinaigrette
- Thai Shiitake Mushrooms with Asian Greens: Pan-seared shiitakes and fresh Asian greens in a tangy lime and coconut milk broth, cooked with fresh cilantro, scallions and mint. Served over rice
- Indian Thali Plate: two curries: one from Northern India of potato, cauliﬂower, and tomato, the other a vegetable coconut curry with spiced basmati rice and toasted almonds from Southern India. Served with spinach pakora, cilantro chutney, cucumber raita, and crisp pappadam
In addition, some of their other menu items look fairly easy to be altered for a vegan diet.
Overall, I definitely recommend this restaurant. The quality of the food reminded me of Vine in Hilton Head, but in a more casual atmosphere. Go expecting a wait and you won’t be disappointed.
Ratings from a plant-based eating perspective (1-5 scale, 1=Terrible 5=Excellent)
Ambiance: 4 Service: 4 Choices: 4 Taste: 5 Overall: 5