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New Gainesville restaurants are adding brunch and dinner service
Plus, one Gainesville mainstay feeling the pinch from high employment
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Hopscotch bartender Ciera White works behind the bar Tuesday, July 23, 2019, during the new downtown Gainesville restaurant's soft opening. - photo by Scott Rogers

The food scene in Gainesville is changing. New places are coming in. Old places are heading out. And the tried-and-true favorites keep chugging along.

Hopscotch, one of the newest to the food scene in Gainesville, has been serving its guests for lunch hours only since it opened at the end of July. Now, it’s looking to add dinner hours starting this weekend.

“It’s been above expectations,” said David Camalier, general manager at Hopscotch and Avocados, both of which are co-owned by Albert Lunalover. “It's doing very well. People are loving the food.”

The menu has grown as they’ve tweaked each dish little by little until “each plate is perfection,” he said. Now, Camalier plans to do the same thing as the restaurant expands its hours to serve guests in the evening.

“We definitely added about three or four items from the initial start,” Camalier said. “We're going to hold there and get ready to develop for dinner and then expand that very similarly as to how we expanded the lunch: Slow, steady and methodical to make sure we're as perfect as we need to be for the clientele coming.”

The intimate, darkened space with modern chandeliers has become a comfortable space for customers, Camalier said. He’s seen friends coming out to grab lunch together as well as business meetings between co-workers. Once he gets a liquor licence and is able to start serving the drinks he has planned, he thinks the crowd and “vibe” will grow even more.

While the restaurant originally started with a Mediterranean-inspired menu, Camalier said he’s planning on adding a “light-Asian flair” as the menu grows.

“You're not going to see sushi rolls, but we're going to have some fun flavors coming out,” Camalier said. “It's like hopscotch. A fun little game, fun little flavor.”

The grilled veggie plate, which comes with squash, zucchini, white asparagus, carrots, tomatoes, bell peppers and romaine hearts has been a best-seller along with the chicken milanese and smoked salmon avocado toast.

Camalier doesn’t know exact hours yet, but he’s hoping to open Saturday, Aug. 17, for dinner and is directing everyone to Facebook, where he’ll announce it in advance.

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The Inked Pig is rolling out a new menu item — smoked sausages. The sausages are ground, stuffed and smoked at the restaurant on Main Street. - photo by Nick Bowman

The Inked Pig has been doing so well it’s expanding its hours, too, but going the other direction. Instead of later into the night, the shop plans to open earlier in the day starting Sept. 1.

The midtown barbecue restaurant will be open for brunch every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will be serving up its core, and popular, barbecue menu while likely adding in a few specials here and there.

While those two are adding hours, 2 Dog recently had to cut back. The restaurant stopped serving during dinner hours last week, but is back to its normal hours again. It’s open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays.

“We just had to close last week because we didn’t have enough staff to cover it,” said Tina Roberts, co-owner of the restaurant with her husband, Tim.

One of the main cooks at the restaurant “moved on.” Even though the cook left under good circumstances, Tim Roberts and Marc Maclean were the only cooks remaining to make things work.

Tina Roberts said it’s a larger problem than just one chef leaving, though.

“The labor pool has slowly and steadily dried up in the past year,” she said. “The labor pool is just steadily drying up in Gainesville.”

Replacing employees isn’t easy. She said that in the past few weeks, they’ve interviewed about 15 people for open positions and hired 14 of them.

Problem solved? Not quite.

At least six didn’t show up for their first shift and there’s only two left that haven’t quit since the process began a few weeks ago.

Even so, she said they’re happy to be back open serving customers.

“This is the first time we’ve ever had it hit like this,” Tina Roberts said.

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Dinner hours have retired at downtown Gainesville's 2 Dog (shown in this 2019 file photo), but Sunday brunch will resume Dec. 5 at the Spring Street café. - photo by Scott Rogers