Disregarding location’s stormy past, new Corner spot opens strong
Thu, January 27, ‘11 |
According to owner Lex Gibson, U.Va. students are like mythical unicorns within the downtown restaurant scene. “After West Main, Charlottesville ends for a lot of us,” she explains as a lifetime local. She hopes to change this with her newly-opened restaurant on the Corner, The Pigeon Hole, that serves home-cooked comfort food all day.
Confident and rightly so, Gibson has accomplished a lot for a twenty-four year old. The Pigeon Hole bravely stands in the place of many short lived restaurants, most recently, an Asian fusion establishment by the name of L7. Working as a manager for L7 under Jim Baldi, Gibson helped turn it into a “profitable enterprise.” And she adds, “I didn’t even ask for the proper compensation for that…just ‘cause I wanted it to be successful.” Lack of commitment is the reason why Gibson thinks L7 was left to her by Baldi, who has been missing for several months, leaving behind a string of lawsuits and debts. She claims, “I’m the only person in Charlottesville that he didn’t screw over.”
The Pigeon Hole was one of the more positive outcomes of the disappearance of Baldi, who left behind another restaurant in Belmont. Baldi sold Gibson the L7 for an undisclosed amount, but that is not to say that Gibson was given the restaurant for free. She put an astonishing amount of time, labor and money into converting L7 into The Pigeon Hole over the past eight months. “I refinished these floors on my hands and knees myself,” she said. “No power tools.” With the help of volunteers transforming The Pigeon Hole, it’s easy to see how it brings our community together.
“My vision was to really give everyone a kind of place to call home,” Gibson explains. It is a vision that elegantly brings the local Charlottesville community, usually concentrated in the downtown area, to the Corner. Gibson points to a stigma with the locals, or a separation between the two communities, which she says didn’t always exist. Instead of creating a restaurant that panders to students’ need for a quick meal, she hopes to bring a unique sense of creativity and originality to the Corner and to U.Va. students. This, she hopes, would “create more of a consensus between the community and the students.”
Inside the restaurant, closely placed chairs and tables help facilitate this harmony. Mismatched salt and pepper shakers, mason jars used as glasses, and a special blend of coffee from Shenandoah Joe’s adds to the charming atmosphere. Attentive servers, Gibson feels, are an important aspect of the experience at The Pigeon Hole. It goes well with her positive philosophy: “I struggled with depression all my life, all that jazz. So I know what it’s like to really appreciate having someone, even a stranger you know just calling you buttercup. And feeding you awesome food. It makes a big difference.”
Though neither writer is from the South, we both appreciate a good southern breakfast. And that’s exactly what we were treated to. Some breakfast menu items come with a choice of grits or hash browns. The stone ground grits were creamy and seasoned and the hash browns complimented the food perfectly. The best breakfast dishes were typical fare with a friendly twist. Our “Pigeons in a Hole,” sunny-side up eggs hidden in toast, were made with soft, fresh, well-toasted bread and came with extra toast in the shape of hearts.
One of the menu’s standout items and a Gibson favorite is the Baby Cakes Benedict which comes with light, well-spiced crab cakes along with smooth poached eggs and a scrumptious Hollandaise sauce. Served for Sunday Brunch, Gibson was apt when explaining that one could eat a truckload of the crab cakes. Other menu items ranging from four to eleven dollars included pancakes, eggs, sausage, sandwiches (available for carryout) and many other items that we honestly cannot wait to go try. Gibson believes that good food is possible without breaking the bank. In this regard we agree completely.
From loose-leaf doodles of unicorns to landscape models from the architecture school, Gibson welcomes any artistic donations to the restaurant. This is just one aspect of her welcoming involvement in the local music and arts scene. With the appropriate licenses, Gibson hopes to extend the hours for The Pigeon Hole and host local artists, bringing them to the attention of university students. Late night breakfast food for night owl students doesn’t seem like such a bad idea either.
Listening to Gibson talk about her story and her hopes for the future is nothing short of inspiring. “You create your own universe. You can do it,” she tells us. It’s easy to see that her spirit and work ethic are important reasons why The Pigeon Hole has already met with such success. Opening a restaurant on the Corner is admittedly a difficult process, but Gibson and her establishment seem up to the challenge.
She responds to this by saying, “I would much rather fail at something difficult than succeed at something easy.” In the end, though, money is not the final measure of success for Gibson. All she wants is to make someone’s day better or to give them a good start to the day. In the future, Gibson hopes to meet more students and professors from the university.
She adds that “It took a lot to first come up here. I’m opening the door and it can only open further.”