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Gainesville filled with fast, diverse new restaurants in past year
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Nicole Thomason and Tim Cyran watch as their granddaughter Ava Worrell, 13 months old, reaches for what is left of their food at Cook Out in Oakwood last year. - photo by Erin O. Smith

The city of Gainesville has a little bit of everything when it comes to fast food, from Japanese hibachi to burgers and fries, Italian pizza and good Southern chicken.

A diverse mix of new restaurants opened in the Gainesville area last year, many of which were ethnic fast food.

One of the first new restaurants to the area last year was Marco’s Pizza, which opened in February at 1294 Thompson Bridge Road, the old site of Corner Drugs.

“We’ve had a lot of people, a lot of new customers that try us and are curious and excited about our pizza and how we make it,” said owner Amit Patel.

The pizza joint offers more than a delivery pie, he said. Customer favorites include the sub sandwiches and fresh salads with croutons made daily. Patel said the white pizza is “award-winning,” with four kinds of cheeses.

“Everything we make fresh in store,” Patel said. “The dough, the cheese is never frozen, and our sauce is made in house.”

On the same street, the fast-Japanese eatery Hibachi Express opened its first Gainesville location at 1872 Thompson Bridge Road last July, where the old Jet’s Pizza used to be.

The move to Gainesville was a no-brainer for the franchise, according to Terry Ho, who helped owner Youda Zhu with the Gainesville location of the franchise.

“We’ve got a pretty good following now,” Ho said. “We moved to Gainesville because it’s a huge medical community, the economy is good and it’s growing. The metro Atlanta area has so many choices that it takes people some time to find you. But once they find us and give us a try, our return customer ratio is pretty high.”

Ho, who owns a number of restaurants in the state and several Hibachi Express locations, and is known for Terry Ho’s Yum Yum Sauce, called the restaurant “fast-casual,” offering express Japanese dinners for about $6-10.

“It’s hibachi-style cooking, so rice, vegetables and meats,” he said.

A restaurant that had already established itself as a Gainesville favorite, Chick-fil-A, moved locations last June, and the new spot at 805 Dawsonville Highway has been a massive improvement for the franchise.

The new location provides a more spacious design with seating for 25 more people than the previous Pearl Nix Parkway location. It also has a double drive-thru that has significantly improved the wait time for to-go orders.

The nearby North Lake Square on Dawsonville Highway added Chipotle, which opened in January, and a Jersey Mike’s is opening there sometime this spring.

January also brought a new seafood restaurant to Gainesville. The Gainesville Seafood Market at 1403 Atlanta Highway has had “fantastic” business since opening, according to owner Angel Retana.

Retana said the restaurant’s location on the corner of Atlanta Highway and Industrial Boulevard is ideal.

“We get a lot of business people coming in during lunch in the week,” he said. “During lunches you see a lot of your doctors, your attorneys, just people in the area going out for lunch. Then on the weekends, we serve a lot of our Hispanic community. It’s working out really good.”

A new franchise in the area took off last year, opening two locations in Hall County.

Cook Out opened its first Gainesville location in March, and it subsequently opened a location in Oakwood in September.

“Business has been great,” said Jeremy Reaves, who owns the Gainesville and Oakwood locations with

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