Civilization’s vegan sourdough French toast. Photo by Sarah Senfeld.

There are only so many places in Gainesville to cycle through for Sunday brunch without getting bored. There needs to be a line, so you can feel you’ve accomplished something that day besides bingeing on Netflix and making MyIdol characters of your entire family. It needs to be cheap — but not too cheap — because this is supposed to be your one bourgey day out of the week. There needs to be delicious carafes of refreshing alcohol that’s not just a mimosas. And, most importantly, there needs to be ambience, so you can rack up those Instagram likes of your food selfie.

Just north of downtown, enshrouded by so much lush greenery that you’d miss it if it weren’t for its bright blue and yellow sign, Civilization serves up all those requirements, if not more.

Civilization opened in 2009, after John Prosser, one of the eight founding worker-members of the co-op  gathered local friends in the restaurant industry into a co-ownership. At the time, Civilization was the only co-op restaurant in the southeast. The renovated historic depot, originally built in 1929 as a distributing center for the Gulf Oil Company, is now home to international comfort food and an atmosphere of packed with so much vivid color and style Solange would proudly feature it on her Instagram.

From a classic breakfast croissant that’s flakey and buttery with eggs, fresh tomatoes and white cheddar stuffed in between, to a cajun frittata of grilled andouille sausage, roasted red peppers, potatoes and Gruyere cheese, Civilization knows how to create the perfect blend of spice and savory. With select but effective menu items, brunch on the weekends can easily garner a line of hungry people out the door. But it wasn’t always that way. Ann Murray, a worker-member of the co-op since its inception, said this is a fairly new phenomenon.

“We used to be really busy at dinner and brunch took a little while to catch on,” Murray said. “This past fall [the brunch crowd] kind of exploded. Since then, almost every brunch we’re pretty busy, with a long waiting line.”

While brunch seems to cater to a larger crowd, dinner showcases the romance of the restored depot that becomes subdued in the daylight. Lights are dimmed, tables are set for two, the music is at just the right volume, all making for a quintessential date spot. The dinner menu also serves up diverse and authentic dishes, ranging from South Indian crepes to West African gumbos.

The collective effort in creating a truly co-operative restaurant has made an impression on not only the community, but also the staff, Murray said.

“It is our belief that when we the workers are in control of our own destiny, the result will be a workplace that is healthier, more efficient and more profitable,” she said. “We’re working to show this is true.”

Vegan Sourdough French Toast

Prep time: 30 minutes
Serves 3 to 4


  • 16 oz. cashew butter *
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. allspice
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 cups almond milk

You can buy pre-made cashew butter, but for homemade stuff: soak 2 cups cashews in water for one hour, drain and put in food processor. Process until smooth while adding 2 to 3 tbsp of coconut oil.

Raspberry sauce

  • 4 cups raspberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • juice of two lemons
  • 1/2 tsp. of salt
  • water

  1. Combine mix in a big bowl and whisk fervently.
  2. Slice 5 pieces of Vine Bread & Pasta’s organic sourdough baguette about an inch thick and at an angle.
  3. Dip and saturate in mixture. Drain exces mixture.
  4. On medium heat, place saturated slices of toast on a griddle or pan until golden brown.
  5. Combine raspberry sauce ingredients in a blender while adding water until desired consistency.
  6. Serve with confectioner’s sugar and 1 oz. raspberry sauce per plate.