You won't get just a pair of fives at Five Bar
Published: Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 2:42 p.m.
If Five Bar ever invites you to play poker, I suggest you decline.
Location: 104 S. Main St.
Hours: 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 5 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday
Atmosphere: Delightful and family friendly
Libations: Full bar, very limited wine list
Info: 224-5253, Five-Bar.com
This place consistently comes up with five of a kind. In fact, Five Bar is pretty much all about fives.
This downtown dinner house serves five appetizers, five entrees, five Sunday brunch items, five red wines, five white wines, five “standard” beers, five “Southern” beers and five signature cocktails (along with a full bar). There is one daily entrée special as well, which messes up the math, but we will forgive them that transgression.
It's an interesting concept, but you may think the place pricey at first.
A cheeseburger is $13, chicken breast $17, a pork chop $22, stuffed shrimp $26 and a ribeye $28. Those are the five dinner entrees, and even my eyes got a bit wide seeing those prices on a giant chalkboard over the semi-open kitchen.
What is not clear from the chalkboard is that those prices are for a full meal, including a good house salad, and usually a starch and a veggie. I know a $13 cheeseburger still sounds expensive (I didn't try one), but at least you will get a salad and hand-cut fries to go with it.
You also will get great atmosphere.
Five Bar took a bit of a chance with its location. I've lost count of the number of restaurants and bars that have failed in this seemingly jinxed spot at South Main Street and First Avenue. But Five Bar has turned it into something special. It is resplendent with a dozen or more chandeliers, eclectic Southern art, a nice sidewalk café and beautiful wood. There are great indoor tables next to the sidewalk café fronting West First Avenue. Ask for one.
As for food, it's good. A baked Hass avocado is a highlight. (Trust me.) It's halved, pitted, baked until warmed through (but not soupy) and then filled with bacon, shrimp, shredded carrots and just the right amount of sauce with a nice kick (cayenne, I suspect). This is served over a lovely bed of baby lettuces. I will order this every time I go to Five Bar, and so should you. Serves two ($7).
“Baked avocados?” you say. “Heck, yes,” say I.
I try to order the things on a menu that are out of the ordinary, offbeat, items that might show me something about the ingredient quality, creativity and care of preparation that I wouldn't glean otherwise. I usually go for lower-priced items, too, as they often are more telling.
Thus, the pan'eed chicken, a chicken breast, pounded thin, breaded, pan fried, and served with shallot-cream sauce overflowing with capers. This can be a greasy mess, but Five Bar's was great, as were the fabulous, onion-laced mashed potatoes and salad alongside ($17).
Shrimp rigatoni was a somewhat different story. It was delicious, all right, with a touch of tomato in a chipotle-gouda and Havarti-cream sauce. And it comes with bread and a nice salad, but from a value perspective, this Wednesday special is tough to swallow. It's $22 for pasta tossed with six average-sized shrimp.
The Sunday New Orleans jazz brunch is delightful. There are the usual five entrees, a jazz combo and a MAKE-YOUR-OWN BLOODY MARY BAR! What a brilliant concept, all the way down to the skewered bacon strips ($8 per drink). There are $2 mimosas, too.
Crab cakes Benedict were worth every penny of $16 with perfectly poached eggs over fresh, meaty crab cakes. Chicken and waffles earned an A for the fried chicken and a C- for the waffles ($12). Beignets are non-traditional, but don't let that stop you ($6).
I think Five Bar is a cool idea well executed. It would be even cooler if some of the items cost $5 (other than orange juice or beer), but it is 2014 and a restaurant couldn't make money serving a yeast roll for five bucks. A drink of the day for $5 would be a fun addition, though.
The Gainesville store is the fourth location for a small chain with other locations in Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Athens.
As I said, these guys always have five of a kind, so I'd pass on a poker game, but, hey, did I mention there's a make your own Bloody Mary bar on Sundays?
David Carlson has been writing about food and wine for more than 20 years. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dining is done anonymously and without advance notice. All meals are paid for by The Gainesville Sun.
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