Alpin Bistro. Go there.
That’s my review, and it’s really all that needs to be said.
Ok, maybe I’ll elaborate just a little bit. The new Alpin Bistro located at 15 SW 2nd Street in Downtown Gainesville is simply a little slice of heaven gifted to us by the hands of Sita and Romain Challandes. Quite literally. Everything from the furniture to the hand written menu to the photographs on the walls to the food on your plate came from them. It took nearly seven months to build the interior of Alpin on their own. Respect. Even with a limited amount of equipment in their open kitchen that is on display to its large L-shaped bar, they are able to create some fabulous bistro fare to go along with an excellent wine and beer selection. This small spot is what a dear friend of mine would refer to as “nuggety”, which for those of you who don’t speak hipster valley girl, means it’s cute.
Of course some of you may be familiar with the space in its previous life as the bass thumping, sweaty host to the Neon Liger Dance Parties. Knowing how dear it was to many, I will stop short of saying it was a gross place. But I’m sorry, it was. The folks at Alpin have done an exceptional job of recrafting it into a CLEAN, casual, and relaxed space. Bench seating overlooks the street, a large communal wooden table sits beneath a chandelier, and a small outdoor dining area is quite literally shielded from the sometimes insane and overtly chaotic downtown area. Most of all, you can tell the owners care about the experience of their patrons by the details. I for one, noticed the very expensive KRK Carbon Kevlar Studio Monitors above the bar that pipe music into the dining room because I’m a massive nerd. It’s not the sort of nice touches most establishments spend money on.
On this particular night, the live sounds of the accordion filled the room, a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon held in my hand, a plethora of cheese, meats, and sweet delicious carbs in front of me, and I was very much so in my happy place. The food is still a work-in-progress with plans to add items like crepes, and if you do order food, be prepared for a bit of a wait.
Be. Patient. You shall be rewarded. Let’s break it down.
The food here ranges mostly between $6 to $16. These are small plates (hence the bistro label), so I would recommend ordering a number of them to share. Some of the dishes immediately stood out to me, and none disappointed me. The Chorizo Iberico is a dry sausage made from Iberico pork, served with apple, red onion, raisins, herbs, roasted pepper and finished with a brandy flambé. The Brie de Normandie Chaud is warm brie served with pear, apple, red onions, herbs, walnut, and honey because…who doesn’t like brie? There’s the classic Croque Monsieur and Croque Madame (the menu says poached egg, but it’s more of a soft boiled egg on top), and the delicious Croute au Fromage made from bread soaked in wine and garlic then toasted and topped with Gruyere chese and served with a side salad. Getting the idea yet? If for some strange reason, none of this appeals to you, make sure to order the Walnut and Pear Tart served with crème fraiche and a chocolate ganache.
There is a good selection of tasty beverages to wash this all down as well. The wines, while not the most comprehensive list, has some good selections and essentially one or two of each variety. Glasses range in price from $7.50 to $12 a glass. Champagne, prosecco, cider, and beers round out the offerings. Beer and champagne cocktails are also available. The Champagne Rosso ($12) is champagne with Vermouth, black currant, fresh strawberries, blueberries, and rosemary. If you prefer beer, there’s offerings like The Oktoberfest Weiss ($8) comprising of Ayinger Brau Weiss Beer, cinnamon, orange slice, basil leaves, and grenadine.
Alpin Bistro is another step in the right direction in the ever-evolving foodscape of Gainesville. It, along with the recently opened (and soon-to-be-reviewed) Tamal on South Main Street, represent a continued trend of locally-owned, specialized establishments in the downtown area. They join the likes of Crane Ramen, LEJ Pretzel, Volta, Sababa, First Magnitude, and so forth in this category. While I would still love to see a full-fledged French restaurant open its doors in town, Alpin is a lovely amuse-bouche for what is hopefully yet to come. I mean, who doesn’t love wine and cheese?
For now, Alpin is open 4 PM to 12 AM on Tuesdays and Wednesdays then 4 PM to 1 AM on Thursdays through Saturdays. Look for the hours to expand to Sunday brunch and daily lunch as they ramp up.