Ken Eats Gainesville: The REAL Reasons Gainesville Is So Great

Thrillist’s recent article about why Gainesville is one of the best college towns in America cited amenities such as Café Risque, the SNAP van and sunbathing girls. Local blogger and food critic Ken Peng of the website Ken Eats Gainesville took issue with this simple list aimed at party-going college students. Instead, he wrote his own well-thought-out list of the reasons that Gainesville is not only one of the best college towns but one of the best overall towns in the United States.

 The list begins by recognizing the University of Florida. It largely drives the local economy, and Gainesville would most likely not be such a great town without it. The school brings in many of the residents to Gainesville that support the area’s local culture, including its food, nightlife and beer scenes.

For a small town in the center of Florida, Ken notes that the food scene in Gainesville is exceptionally diverse and full of a variety of local restaurants. Gainesville also boasts several breweries and an array of bars and nightclubs, giving residents a wide variety of activities to choose from for a night on the town.

Ken goes on to mention Gainesville’s location and climate, noting the advantageous proximity Gainesville has to many major cities in Florida, including Tampa, Jacksonville and Orlando. The weather here is gorgeous, with temperatures in the milder months typically averaging around 70 degrees during the day. This allows residents to take advantage of the many outdoor activities, such as Payne’s Prairie and the Hawthorne Bike Trail.

Add in Gainesville’s focus on the arts, think performances at the Hippodrome Theatre, the Harn Museum and the many galleries located downtown and its respect for history such as the many buildings in the Duckpond area and the Bed and Breakfast District that date back nearly 100 years and it is easy to see that Gainesville really is one of the best small towns in the U.S. 

Ken Peng, author of the blog “Ken Eats Gainesville," has lived in Gainesville for 10 years, although his blog started more recently. Beginning as a Facebook page, the food blog soon took off prompting Ken to create his own independent website in June 2014. Since then, he has become somewhat of a local celebrity and this author’s personal go-to when trying to find new, local restaurants. His local success has allowed him to speak at the Innovative Gainesville Economic Forum as well as to University of Florida students through the Hume Honors College and the Society of Professional Journalists. To learn more about Ken and local restaurants and cuisine, you can visit his website,

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Nick Banks

Nick created Front Street Commercial Real Estate Group in 2002 and spent the first eight years developing and acquiring office and retail projects in South Florida as well as North Central Florida. In 2010 the focus of the firm was shifted to primarily serve third party clients and perform brokerage, property management and mortgage banking functions. Nick has personally developed and acquired nearly 200,000 square feet of office and retail properties in markets throughout Florida. Prior to founding Front Street, Nick was the Director of Finance and Dispositions for Stiles Corporation in Fort Lauderdale where he financed and sold over $500 million in commercial real estate. Before joining Stiles, Nick was an Associate Director at GE Capital Real Estate where he sourced over $200 million in financing throughout Florida. Nick is a graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in Finance and a concentration in Real Estate. He serves as a board member and current vice-chair for the United Way of North Central Florida where he also chairs the Development Committee. Nick is actively involved with the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce where he serves as a board member and committee member for the Council for Economic Outreach. He is also a recent graduate of Leadership Gainesville which is a year long leadership program hosted by the Chamber. He is a member of Grace United Methodist Church where he has served as finance chair and as a member of the leadership council. Nick serves as an advisory board member of the University of Florida Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies. Nick was recently named chair of the Gainesville committee for the North Florida chapter of Urban Land Institute (ULI). He is a licensed real estate broker in the State of Florida and is a long time member of the International Council of Shopping Centers.

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