If I had company in town and could only take them one place for breakfast, I think I’d choose Gibson’s. Although its food is not award-winning in every way, it takes the cake in two categories: biscuits and character. Shane and I have eaten Saturday morning breakfast here too many times to count. For a while, we took a break to try other places, but whenever we come back, we are floored by the tastiness of the biscuits. They are light, fluffy, buttery, and buttery. Did I mention that they are also buttery? The biscuits are served up hot in a basket and come two per person. Because I love them so much, I normally just order scrambled eggs and grits to go along with them. The eggs and grits are always fine, but they are just teasers to the main attraction.
Aside from the matchless biscuits, Gibson’s oozes with character. Its character is not the manufactured kind but is the we’ve-been-here-forever and everybody’s-a-regular kind. If you make a habit of going there, you’ll begin to notice familiar faces. With any luck, they’ll notice you too. When we ate there today, our waitress said “Haven’t seen you all here in a while.” It’s great to be noticed. That kind of attention to customers is the stuff hometown restaurants should focus on. The decor is not modern, nor are the dishes and cups, but I find it charming. If it’s worked for fifty years, why change it? Although I wouldn’t recommend them for any other meal than breakfast, it would be in your best interest to try their pie. Shane’s been known to have a slice for dessert after his breakfast.
For a period of about four years starting before we married, Melanie and I ate at Gibson’s every Saturday morning. Going to Gibson’s was like waking up—it was part of life. Except for the occasional bum waiter, we enjoyed virtually every trip. We especially looked forward to the Fall when it seemed like the community place to go while wearing your team colors. It was a stable and pleasing reprieve to go to Gibson’s each Saturday.
Then we got upset. We started thinking “We’ve been going here every stinkin’ Saturday for four years and they still hardly acknowledge who we are.” One of the hostesses and one of the waitresses recognized us, but there was little love other than that. We take our eating out (perhaps too) seriously, so this realization hurt us and upset us, and so we divorced our beloved Saturday morning Gibson’s routine.
In the three years since we broke up with Gibson’s, we’ve been back maybe four times. Once, we went back and it felt so weird that we left before we were seated. The other three times…well…let’s say the relationship is back on. We’ve been back about three times since August, and I’m warming up to the idea that this may work again. Our trip yesterday nearly sealed the deal with one of our favorite old waiters saying “I haven’t seen y’all in a long time”. I like that kind of talk more than Paula Deen likes butter.
What do I think about Gibson’s? Obviously, I think it’s great, and I’m far beyond being objective about it, but I’ll try.
The atmosphere is down home. It’s plain, dated, and needs a good deep cleaning, but it’s comfortable and pleasant. The constant stream of octogenarian regulars increases the feeling of comfort. The painted paneling makes for a nice beadboard lookalike, and the stone entry way is ugly but eclectically appealing. I also enjoy looking at the old pictures and prints on the wall and wondering where they came from and how long they’ve been hanging on the walls. Many times, I’ve day-dreamed about Old Huntsville while looking at those old pictures.
Food at Gibson’s is okay.
I’ve had their lunch and dinner selections just a couple times and think they are nothing special. The food just isn’t very good. The barbecue may be better (I’ve not had it), but the food I’ve had has “Sysco” written all over it. I did have their fried catfish a long time ago, and it was good.
The breakfast is better. I always order “#1. Over easy. Biscuits are okay.”, meaning I get two pieces of sausage, some grits, two eggs over easy, and two biscuits. The sausage is tasty but not quite as good as Blue Plate sausage. The grits taste as good as you can expect from grits. The eggs are always good; a good dose of pepper and salt make them sing. The biscuits are awesome. I’m not a biscuit connoisseur, but I’ve eaten a lot of biscuits (even an overrated biscuit from The Flying Biscuit in Atlanta), and these stand above the rest. They have a perfect texture, a well-balanced buttery flavor, and just enough flour on the top and bottom. They flake and crumble and melt in your mouth and all those things that good biscuits do. They taste just as good plain as they do when sandwiching a piece of sausage or a dollop of jelly (but not when sandwiching a Snickers, which just tastes strange). Their biscuits get my highest endorsement and stand among the best things I’ve ever eaten.
I also must mention the pies. My favorite is the pecan pie, which tastes as good as it looks sitting in the case. The crust is flaky, the filling is sweet, and the pecans are toasted just right. The coconut pie is also great, and I’m not a big fan of coconut pie.
Wrapping up, Gibson’s gets my full endorsement for breakfast. It won’t be the best food you’ve ever eaten (except for the biscuits), and the store itself is not particularly appealing, but it’s reasonably-priced and will evoke feelings of nostalgia that will bring you back. Plus, it’s a Huntsville thing to do. Go there, try it out, appreciate it for what it is, and enjoy it.
To wrap up, here are a few other tidbits:
- If you like strong coffee, don’t pass up their coffee. It’s Royal Cup, you get your own carafe, and it will kick you right in the teeth. For cheap restaurant coffee, it’s my favorite. I would choose no other over it. I also wouldn’t choose any other mugs over the rustic brown mugs it’s served in.
- The sweet tea is also very good: golden, well-rounded, and sweet.
- Check out the collection of pigs sitting near the counter. I’ve seen at least one kid straddle and pretend to ride the one on the floor.
- Also notice the old coat rack and pews sitting in the waiting area. I wonder what Baptist church those came from.