What cheesesteaks are to Philadelphia is what fast-food burgers are to Gainesville. Ok, that’s an exaggeration, those guys are nuts about their sliced beef hoagies, but we like burgers here. While they debate over Pat’s or Geno’s, we’re debating over Mac’s, Bev’s, or Sandwich Inn. These three locally owned burger joints have been serving up cheap, delicious burgers for decades now, and are still going strong thanks to generations of locals who are loyal to their favorites. Talk to any local, and they will almost certainly try to tell you why one is better than the others. The drive-thru lines that spill out onto the road, and flocks of families waiting in line are indicative of the loyalty. But what a lot of folks don’t realize, is these three local favorites have intertwining histories. If you’ve never visited these spots before, I’ll arm you with what you need to know.
110 NE 16th Avenue Gainesville, FL 32601
Open Monday – Friday 6 AM to 5 PM, Saturday 7 AM to 4 PM
Opened in 1963, Sandwich Inn proudly proclaims themselves as the oldest restaurant in Gainesville. Now through its third owner, the restaurant has remained mostly the same in its original building and location. Opening bright and early at 6 AM on week days, you can find cheap quick breakfast here. A Grits Bowl with sausage or bacon for $3.99, Biscuits and Gravy for $2.49, breakfast sandwiches, Hash Rounds (tater-tots), and even bafflingly enough; country fried steak for $2.19. It’s all better than anything you’d find at McDonalds or Burger King.
In addition to burgers ($1.99 to $3.29) during lunch, Sandwich Inn also features milkshakes (strawberry, vanilla, chocolate, butter pecan), rootbeer floats, and ice cream. The shakes here are absolutely delicious. Much like the old Louis Lunch, there’s just something about milkshakes that come out of old buildings. Whether it’s just the sense of nostalgia, or the equipment, they’re extra tasty for some reason. With plenty of outdoor picnic tables, it makes for a perfect lunch spot when it’s nice outside. Oh yeah, the full menu is served all day, so if you want a cheeseburger at 6 AM, WHY NOT!? THIS IS AMERICA!
Must Get – Butter Pecan Milkshake, Bacon Cheeseburger
Mac’s Drive Thru
129 NW 10th Avenue Gainesville, FL 32601
Open Monday – Friday 9 AM to 6 PM
If the burgers and fries here look similar to that of Sandwich Inn’s, that’s because Mac’s was founded in 1987 by Glen McMillian (“Mac”), the same guy who opened Sandwich Inn a couple decades earlier. While Glen sold the former restaurant in 1981, he still owns Mac’s Drive-Thru today with his sons Jonny and Kenny. Unlike his former restaurant, the menu here is a little smaller. You have a choice of single, double, or triple burgers, fish, ham, roast beef, and Cuban; all ranging from $1.49 to $3.49 for the triple. There are chicken, ham & cheese, and turkey sandwiches as well. For sides? Just fries.
It’s the most simplistic of all three restaurants, and probably my favorite. I have been visiting Mac’s for as long as I’ve lived in Gainesville (10 years), and it has never once disappointed me. Like Sandwich Inn, they do open early, albeit a bit later at 9 AM. So if you’re hankering for a cheeseburger at 9 AM, you’ve got choices. The line here also gets insanely long, and often times spills out onto NW 10th Avenue. Park across the street and walk up to the window to order, but be careful…they do not accept credit cards.
Want a good example of the dedication to quality here? I once ordered a cup of sweet tea (and it’s damn good sweet tea) that tasted just a bit off to me. I told the cashier and the kitchen staff immediately dumped out the entire batch to make fresh tea. If their customers aren’t happy, they aren’t happy.
Must Get – Triple Burger, Sweet Tea
Bev’s Better Burgers
230 Main Street Alachua, FL 32615 & 639 NE Santa Fe Blvd High Springs, FL 32643
Open Monday – Thursday 6:30 AM to 7 PM, Friday 6:30 AM to 8 PM Saturday 7 AM to 7 PM
Anyone who grew up in the Alachua/High Springs area will fight you if you insult Bev’s Better Burgers. Lines are long at both locations, and their customers are probably the most loyal of all three. It’s not uncommon to visit on a weekend and see entire families enjoying meals together under the covered porch of the Main Street location. Started by Beverly Miller, she confidently proclaims her burgers to be better. She’s not wrong either. While they are a bit more expensive ranging from $3.29 for a hamburger to $5.49 for a Double Double, it’s still better than anything you can get at Five Guys for the price.
Bev’s menu looks similar to Sandwich Inn with burgers, hot dogs, ice cream, and shakes. They also have breakfast that includes breakfast sandwiches, but expands to egg platters, pancakes, and bagel sandwiches. There are also items at Bev’s you won’t find at Mac’s or Sandwich Inn, like chicken nuggets (6 pieces) for $2.29 or $3.49 with fries, the option to add jalapenos to your burger for 35 cents, and an Orange Pineapple Shake.
Of course, anyone who visits Bev’s knows it’s really all about one thing here; the corn nuggets. These fried little nuggets filled with creamy sweet corn goodness are delicious. Seriously, these things alone are worth the trip.
Must Get – Corn Nuggets, Orange Pineapple Shake, more Corn Nuggets.
Each spot has its loyal followers, and each spot has fed locals for many years without any signs of slowing down. Without the glitz, glam, or quirkiness, these are great local restaurants that a lot of students and new residents often overlook. There’s nothing fancy here, just good old-fashioned burgers and sides for cheap. As for who’s the best? That’s up to you to decide.