Gabe's is one of those places that you wouldn't go to if you didn't know about it. Marooned out in the middle of a disused bus station down from the cinema at Forthside, Stirling it's easily overlooked. However it boasts a loyal following, which is why it is always busy. It is one of those places that you wish less people knew about, but with the quality and choice of food you can see why people flock back and tell their friends.
I popped in for a slightly late lunch with a friend and we managed to commandeer a recently vacated table. One of the best things any restaurant or café can do is have its kitchen open for all to see, there is no hiding of bad practices, everything is on show, no way can you have a dirty kitchen when it's the first thing your customers can see. At Gabe's you also realise that the chef is usually working solo, you can see them alone in their impeccable solitude , and I find it makes the usual wait for food more acceptable when you have looked the person who is making it in the eye on the way in. I always think it is a shame that as we hustle through to our table that I miss the chance to stand and watch the chef cooking in the kitchen.
The ten or so tables are cosy, but not uncomfortably so. A pram or wheelchair would have no issues getting in the door, but it would be a squeeze at anything other than the first tables. The place was still quite full with people mid lunch and ours was freshly cleaned. The extensive menu was handed to us and the guy who served us, who I assume to be the owner, spent so long telling us all about the specials I had a twinge of guilt when I didn't order one. I have been into Gabe's on a few occasions and find three facts to be true.
The server is usually working the floor solo
They have always been, without exception, very friendly
Gabe's runs at a slightly slower pace than the rest of the world, so don't expect a quick lunch.
Personally I like the laid back approach at Gabe's, I get upset when I see people at the neighbouring table muttering and looking at their watches. This is not fast food, it is prepared fresh so if you are expecting to be fed and watered in under half an hour without having to scoff your food down like Jabba Tiure then maybe best go somewhere else, Morrison's for a sandwich perhaps, or McDonald’s. If you want good quality food made just for you, and you have time to enjoy it. Gabe's is a much better choice.
We ordered a diet coke and a vanilla milkshake along with Char-grilled Chicken and a Tuna Mayo sandwiches along with a bowl of chips. The drinks arrived promptly and as we were busy chatting barely noticed the time it took for the food to arrive. When it did it looked great, we were offered sauce to go with the chips and the greasy spoon style plastic bottles are perfectly in-keeping with the laid back approach. It was a shame we weren't offered cutlery and napkins at the same time...
My tuna on brown bread I had asked for toasted, I just like it like that and it was perfect. Well-filled, the slight lime hint to the mayonnaise adding a little zing not found in regular tuna mayo. The bloomer bread was very tasty and the dressed leaves were a nice accompaniment.
The chicken sandwich, this time on raw white bread was equally well filled and the Mango and tomato salsa was a refreshing counterpoint to the char-grilled chicken breast. The chunky chips in their little wooden bowl were delicious, I like the skins on as it adds to the crunch and these were still as light and fluffy as a cloud inside. Well worth the extra money.
But my usual service standard basics were missed, no satisfaction check and no asking if we wanted another drink, which I would have happily had. Shame really as between that and cutlery oversight (yes they are available on the table near the toilet, but should I really have to go and get them, really?!?) it was slightly disappointing that the service on this occasion didn't match the food.
The food is reasonably priced for the quality, two sandwiches and two drinks along with the chips came to just under £15. Cheaper sandwiches are available, but you get what you pay for...Like I have said I go to Gabe's from time to time and will no doubt return. This visits service hiccup is the exception rather than the rule from what I seen in the past. I have no hesitation in recommending Gabe's, just like many other folk seem to do.
Probably worth mentioning that we have been back to Gabe's on a few occasions as a couple and as a much larger group and on these visits the cutlery have been delivered, our drinks kept topped up and our satisfaction checked, so as I suspected the visit I reviewed was just a bad day for Gabe's. Still highly recomended.