This is Why You’re Fat

07/22/2009 4:00 AM |

Gus & Gabriel 222 W. 79th St, 212-362-7470

Price range: $17-$28 Rating:3L’s

It’s difficult to replicate the atmosphere of a local Midwestern
pub, but that’s just what Michael Psilakis has managed to do with his
new restaurant, Gus and Gabriel. The tiny joint, an ode to deep fried,
chili-covered comfort food, occupies Kefi‘s original space, though it’s
foregone the blue walls of its Greek predecessor in favor of something
decidedly more Wisconsin-esque. Tiffany-style lamps and playful
trinkets, like an old-timey high-wheel bicycle, make the room feel more
like a toy store than an upscale restaurant. Which is kind of the
point, when you consider the menu.

Gus and Gabriel is not for the faint of heart or the
health-conscious. It takes guts and childlike determination to order
fries, onion rings, mac and cheese, chili and a bacon cheeseburger in
one sitting. But there’s not much else you can do in the face of
Psilakis’ upscale T.G.I. Friday’s-like menu, complete with flasks of
liquor.

I tried to go to Gus and Gabriel on opening night, but the kitchen
was closed when I got there, even though I called ahead. By 8pm the
next night, I realized why. The exhaust fan in the kitchen was broken
and the small dining room filled with smoke. But least the food was
good. We tried pickled fries ($4), which showed up instead of the BBQ
pork, cheddar, and jalapeño tater tots ($4) we’d ordered. Both
were delicious takes on traditional bar snacks, but they didn’t compare
to the paper-thin hot potato chips ($4) which came with a caramelized
onion and sour cream dip.

The staff hurried around nervously, and although our waitress was
confused and overwhelmed, she made some great suggestions. The buttered
sweet corn and jalapeño soup ($6) was a creamy blend of
essential summer flavors, and the nachos ($10) were loaded with beans,
sour cream, and chunky guacamole.

Psilakis makes a fine hot dog ($12), which we ordered slathered in
chili. Served on a brioche bun with pickles, it’s almost as good as a
Chicago red hot
. Same goes for the brisket French Dip ($12), which was
rich and tender, with sweet, roasted garlic cloves under melted
gruyere. “Batter-less” fried chicken ($14) still manages to have a
crispy outer skin, while staying juicy inside.

Though everything at Gus and Gabriel was satisfying, simple and,
surprisingly, reasonably priced, the menu just wasn’t unique enough to
justify a trip to the Upper West Side. It’s definitely wise to stay
away for another couple weeks while the staff smoothes out some
technical issues. But if I’m ever nearby, I will stop in for the
chocolate chipwich ($6) with homemade caramel ice cream. Sometimes you
just need to feel like a kid again.

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