Few restaurants in the country are as unique as Satchel's Pizza in Gainesville, Florida. Part-art museum, part-greenhouse, part-recycled items, Satchel's is truly a one-of-a-kind experience and a must-do attraction (yes, it's more than just pizza) if you're passing through The Swamp for a game day.
Located a stone's throw away from the University of Florida, Satchel's is the perfect spot to stuff your stomach with 'za (though there's no dill pickle pizza just yet) after a Gators football win or if you're just hanging with friends. You can dine in a vintage van, enjoy a brew at the bar, listen to live music while the kids frolic in the playground or gift shop or, heck, just walk around the property with your jaw on the floor.
Owner Satchel Raye opened the joint in 2003, and it's endured two fires since then. There's a reason Satchel's Pizza is the most-recommended eatery in Gainesville. Actually, there are a lot more than that.
You Can Dine in a Vintage Van
Say what? Yes, it's true, and if you're stopping by Satchel's for the first time, waiting to be served in the 1965 Ford Falcon van is 100 percent worth the wait.
Like most of what you'll see at Satchel's, there's a story behind the van. Grant's Foodie Fix, which highlights the best food in north and northeast Florida, caught up with owner Satchel Raye for the scoop:
"I traded an old international pickup truck for the van in 1993. My truck was old and smoking and the van needed a head gasket. The guy used the truck to haul tangerines in his newly purchased grove and I fixed up the van because it was so cool. I drove the van for 10 years. It was my work truck when I was a handyman before opening Satchels. After opening, we were getting busy and I thought of the idea to make a booth in the back since my truck was not being used for tools anymore. My high school friend worked here as an artist. He had an old Ford station wagon. His engine died. We took the engine from the van which was still running fine and put it in his old car and off he went. It just didn't make sense to keep the engine in it because we were using it as a table every night. There was a period of about 6 months when I would drive the van to Satchel's for work. People would sit in it, then I would drive it home. Some nights I had to wait for people to get done eating so I could drive it home."
The Pizza Is To Die For
I know, I know. I should have led in with the pizza. That dang van gets me every time.
Satchel's isn't home to just good pizza, it's the best pizza. As an Italian restaurant and pizzeria, it also serves up delicious calzones (get the ricotta cheese or steak and cheese), cannolis, homemade sodas and amazing salads. Oh, and there's the millet and flax pizza that's worth a try if you're feeling ambitious.
The more than 30 pizza toppings includes all of the traditional ones plus plenty of gluten free and vegan options like the BBQ tempeh, roasted red peppers, jalapeños, broccoli, spinach, artichoke hearts and so much more for the veggie lovers of the world.
Don't sleep on the satch salad, which comes with green leaf lettuce, sunflower seeds, cucumbers, red onion, pecan, romano cheese and feta if you'd like, plus the secret house vinaigrette.
My recommendation, though: The deep-dish pizza. It's a little pricier than the standard $3.50 slice, but it's to die for.
It's an Art Museum Made of Recycled Items
One man's trash is another man's treasure, and Satchel's is an absolute treasure trove.
Raye has an art studio in his backyard, where he makes mosaic tiles and stained glass windows for his restaurant. His goal is to cover all of the buildings with these custom-made tiles, some the work of him and some from local artists. Inside, paintings that are for sale are plastered all over the walls.
Recycled items are scattered all over the restaurant. It's not uncommon to see old car rims, bottle caps, CDs, cans and other scrap metal that are now part of the building. There's even a wall made from broken iPhones.
Get Lost In It's Gift Shop and Greenhouse
Lightnin' Salvage Enterprises is the name of the restaurant's gift shop, bar and live music venue. Cracker Barrel's generic gift shop has nothing on this one. Plus, it doesn't have a bar where you can drown the pizza you just swallowed.
Beyond the gift shop is also a pretty neat spot to hang. A miniature airplane overlooks a greenhouse full of plants where you can chow down on your pepperoni slice. This outside seating area caught fire and was destroyed in 2016. However, it was rebuilt and reopened in 2018 and even featured a new outdoor playground for the youngsters built by UF students.
There's something for everyone at Satchel's Pizza place. Next time you're in Gainesville, make sure you slide to the restaurant for lunch or dinner.
Visit www.satchelspizza.com if you want a mind-blowing, pizza-filled time.
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