I paid an early visit to Gobble, hoping I might review it in conjunction with Thanksgiving. I loved the heartfelt service and homey dining room, but the restaurant was a textbook disaster. Advertised menu items were missing, employees were flummoxed by the cash register and a few of the dishes would have been tough to swallow even under a grandmother's loving eye.
The scene was so painfully reminiscent of the highly produced "before" montages of restaurants featured in various restaurant rescue shows (interestingly, owner Adam Gold helped create Iron Chef when he was working in television full-time) that I was intensely curious to know just what had gone wrong and why. To his great credit, Gold was willing to tell me.
Gold had heard every warning about opening a restaurant before he dove into the Gobble project, but says the endeavor proved even harder than he'd heard. He's struggled with every aspect of restaurant ownership - although he stresses that Gobble's getting better every day. I believe him. While I experienced a seriously troubled Gobble, I'm confident the turkey concept can fly. I fervently hope Gold's candor will compel more eaters to check out what he's doing: Gobble deserves to succeed.
What's unlikely to change at Gobble is the leftover dilemma. The restaurant serves holiday-sized portions, and guests are sure to have more mashed potatoes and green bean casserole on their plates than they can finish in a single sitting. While leftovers are the quintessential Thanksgiving story, they're a perpetual issue for restaurant reviewers: I'm in the professional habit of ordering lots of food. While I'm very good at cleaning my plate - and usually the plates of my dining companions - I sometimes run out of steam when every dish tastes exactly the same, or when the food isn't very good.
Of course, servers always ask whether I'd like a box. I hate to waste food, but there's nothing I can do with yesterday's meal: A review dinner is typically followed by a review lunch and a review dinner the next day, and my husband's a notoriously picky eater who only wants my unwanted food if it's red meat. Since I'm a big fan of honesty (or at least as much as anonymous reviewing will allow), I used to tell servers that I just couldn't take my leftovers. But they always looked so hurt. So I now regularly do what I did at Gobble: I fake take. I meticulously pack up my uneaten dinner, often remarking how much I'll enjoy it the next day.
It's too bad I don't ever have a chance to eat those leftovers, since - as all Thanksgiving cooks know - certain foods improve with time. That holds true for restaurants too.
For a closer look at Gobble, check out my feature here. And if you need images of turkey and stuffing to inspire your holiday cooking, Kevin Casey has a slideshow of accompanying images from the restaurant. Make sure to get your fill.