Last year the city was abuzz with the impending, and oft delayed, arrival of Gibson’s Grill. Attached to The National, Richmond’s hot new music venue, it was billed as a showcase of good food for before and after the shows. Speculation and anticipation was rampant as the owners had a reputation that made the hype more than just a bit believable. Initial reports from various sources who attended the soft opening and the early months were mostly positive – both for the service and the food. Sadly, we were not able to partake in all this as M was pregnant with Elias and the collapse of the economy last Fall caused us to become a bit more frugal. Gibson’s was still on our hit list to visit and when a friend’s band, Three Sheets To The Wind, played The National we decided to take advantage of the evening at give Gibson’s a try….
The upstairs is quite nice and inviting. It looks like the place you want to hang out at before a show. Sadly, we were seated downstairs with wobbly tables, lounging staff and a very loud kitchen. When the waitress finally realized she had a table to deal with she came to talk to us. Inquiries about the types of gin were met with a blank look and a very long trip to find out what they had. Turns out pretty basic stuff, nothing interesting or even what is being served at some of the mid-range restaurants in town. Later, as we were leaving and I glanced at the bar stock, I found out she hadn’t really even bothered to tell me all of the offerings. Note to waiters – you cannot drive up a check average it you do not even know what you have so you can make suggestions. Note to managers – those expensive bottles you stock will not sell unless you educate and test your wait staff. Had I been able to sample some of the Hendrick’s Gin I might have been a little happier.
Appetizers were the next disappointment. The nachos were no better or worse then any casual dining chain, except for the slightly soggy chips from the puddle of liquid on the plate. The salads looked to have been prepped during the afternoon and the dressing came in little plastic cups – how very Applebee’s. My order of Panko Fried Scallops were the worst. The first clue was being able to smell them before they even reached the table. The wet-pack scallops made the fried panko soggy and the scallops themselves alternated between raw and cooked to the point of rubber. I haven’t had scallops this bad since the 80’s at some coastal dive in a ‘basket’.
Entrees fared little better. M and a friend both had the Steak Wrap. Mediocre would be kind. The chopped steak tasted as if it had been made in batches once every few days and returned each night to a steam table. Either that or microwaved. L had the French Dip. What came out was enormous, at least five inches tall. That was impressive till you looked at the interior of the two halves of the sandwich and realized it was all bread and a half inch of meat. The only bright spot of the meal was my entree, which was actually off the appetizer menu, Mini Lamb Burgers. The taste was excellent and the yogurt fennel sauce blended well with the lamb. They would have been really memorable if they hadn’t been grilled past well done.
For a restaurant that was hyped as a showcase to compliment The National this was truly disappointing. Hopefully visiting acts will seek their food elsewhere. Perhaps the owner’s other very good restaurants – Kuba Kuba and Kitchen 64 – and not what seems to be a complete afterthought from them.