Excruciatingly delayed trains, fierce winds, and a late awakening made for a rough start to our Saturday morning. We were both running late to meet Anna at Gus and Gabriel, a neighborhood Greek gastropub that she had highly recommended at our previous brunch together. As we were coming all the way from Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, one might wonder if there are good brunches worth traveling to the Upper West Side for, of all places. After all, there are plenty of people who never travel above 14th street, and others who are shocked when they find out Manhattan has streets above 200. The answer? Read on and be enlightened, or at least marvel at our stomachs' capacities.
First, a little background on Gus and Gabriel, because it's so darned heartwarming. The proprietor, Michael Psilakis, is an acclaimed Greek chef and restaurateur. Melissa attended a class hosted by Chef Psilakis before at the Astor Center, and enjoyed the food at Anthos, the only Greek restaurant outside of Greece to receive a Michelin star. But after Anthos, interestingly enough, Chef Psilakis left to open up this subterranean gastropub named after his late father and his son, with the intent of, according to him, "taking American pub food and making it all from scratch." Gus and Gabriel would both be proud.
The restaurant is a true pub, with lots of dark wood, dark paint colors and some fun vintage accessories. Psilakis' desire to create a true neighborhood pub seems perfectly on point. It's not snooty nor does it scream "world renowned chef". While we don't live in the Upper West Side, we're inclined to commute just to become regulars here. Our waiter was incredibly friendly, gave us some great recommendations, and did not rush us out the door. In fact, we lingered there for hours, quite content with the feast spread out before us. Then again, after the massive amount of food we ate, I think our waiter knew there was no rushing to be made by these little piggies.
Given that Gus & Gabriel is a gastropub that revels in the best versions of the supposedly "worst" food for your health, the starters all sounded inventive and refined. So we dove into brunch with an appetizers and shared plates smorgasbord.
Fried Mozzarella Balls, $4.95y, real mozzarella cheese wrapped bite-sized poppers. Served with a spicy, tangy, and smooth marinara sauce, these went fast and rightly so.
Cheddar & Pork “Tater Tots", $3.95
These particular tater tots were an interesting take on a freezer section classic. The filling seemed to be made of a sweet potato, with cheddar and pork in them as well. The potato was smooth and creamy, unlike your typical tot, with the texture and added kick of pork. These were served with a duo of spicy BBQ sauce and what the menu says is cheddar fondue that tasted more like sour cream dipping sauce.
Nachos (for two), $9.95
Wow, these nachos were the ultimate decadent giant plate of nachos. Topped with chili, pulled pork, refried beans, guacamole, sour cream, jalapeños and pico de gallo, they may not fulfill the nacho purists' standards but they were fantastic in our books. Each component was made with high quality ingredients, with tortillas fried daily for fresh chips. Our only suggestion is that the toppings could have been better distributed among the chips- a clump of guacamole here, a pile of pulled pork there. But make no mistake, there was more than enough of each topping for a covered chip every time.
Bone Marrow, $9.95
Gnudi, $11.95Oh gnudi, you're like the horribly delicious, cheesy cousin to gnocchi. Basically, gnudi is a thin skinned, cheese filled pasta. Each piece is a delicate purse of cheese, ready to burst and melt simultaneously in your mouth. Paired with oyster mushrooms and ricotta salata to balance out the gooey innards, this nailed it as a great belly-warming dish on a winter day. While this is an entree on the menu, we greatly recommend ordering it as a shared plate as we did.
Fried Egg, Bacon, Onion Rings & Gruyére Burger, $13.95
Strawberry Cheesecake Milkshake, $6.50
Mint Chocolate Cake, $5.95
Apple Crisp, Burnt Caramel & Toffee Crunch, $6.50
Angel Food Cake "Sandwiches" with Three Fruit Sherbert, $5.95
Chipwich & Shake, $5.95chocolate cookies hugging a filling of caramel ice cream and decorated with crunchy chocolate pearls. The shake was a simple vanilla ice cream shake, spiked with Jim Bean! Unlike the first milkshake, which was more balanced in the use of liquor, this basic (but delicious) vanilla flavor couldn't handle the Jim Bean. The liquor came on strong! The chipwich was tasty, the thin cookies having a bit more chew and less crunch than your typical cartwheel. The caramel ice cream had a pure flavor and the jimmies added a great pop in the mouth.
The Bottom Dollar
Gus and Gabriel is such an economical steal. The food is obviously made of high quality ingredients, not to mention plenty of care and love, and the prices are most definitely set to encourage the neighborhood feeling. $14 for a fully loaded burger? $5 for mozzarella balls? Delicious $7 desserts? Completely worth it, and beyond. Well worth the journey for "out of towners" coming from Brooklyn and below 14th st.
The Bottom Line
Emily says: I cannot truly articulate my excitement about and enjoyment of my meal at Gus and Gabriel. This restaurant embodies basking in guilty pleasures, and I highly recommend it. Chum up with the waiters, enjoy a beer or two and a spiked shake and make this place your neighborhood spot, whether you live in the Upper West Side or Brooklyn.
Melissa says: If every gastropub were like this, I'd reconsider where I go for my meals. It's great that you can really taste the freshness of the preparation and quality of ingredients without having to attribute that kind of care to fine dining. Pub food, you've met your savior.