Downtown Stanford restaurant has 'Main Street, Mayberry' atmosphere

October 27, 2003|EMILY BURTON

STANFORD - Stepping through the heavy glass doors into Gabriel's Diner, familiar faces nodding in your direction, is like stepping onto Main Street, Mayberry. It is a young restaurant with small-town charm that has become a community gathering place and a classic spot to find made-from-scratch, home-cooked meals.

Robbie Perry, owner and operator, said Gabriel's was a community staple and would continue to grow while keeping its nostalgic atmosphere.

"We've bought new equipment, new uniforms, hired new cooks. We've also started making deliveries," said Perry. "I like to think that we really try to find out what they (the guest) wants."

Perry said the diner also contributed to the community by helping to sponsor the Lincoln County Junior Miss pageant, the American Legion and the Fair Board. They provide meeting space for the Stanford Lion's Club, fund-raising Gospel sings for several local civic organizations and family gatherings like birthday parties and anniversaries.


In addition to occasional live entertainment, Gabriel's shelves of homemade pies, made fresh daily, always attract a crowd. Among the rows of sweet delights sit classics like lemon and butterscotch as well as new favorites like peanut butter and Butterfingers.

"Peanut butter pie is everybody's favorite, we sell it like crazy," said Perry.

The diner also offers vintage dishes Mom used to make, such as golden beef casserole, meatloaf and chicken and dumplings. Even the coleslaw is prepared fresh by chief chef Brenda McPherron, Perry's mother.

"Everybody you talk to says it's (the food) delicious. It's all home-cooked, that's the difference," said McPherron.

Those talking of their Gabriel's dining experience include local businessmen, service organization members and public officials. Civic organizations meet at the large round tables over lunches of burgers and sweet tea and Mayor Eddie Carter can often be seen eating Friday's fish lunch behind the restaurant's wide glass window.

"I think they have good food and good service, and it's close by. It's a good asset to our downtown. Actually, (Gabriel's and) Coleman's sandwich shop are both very much needed to downtown. They complement each other," said Carter.

As one of the only restaurants downtown, Gabriel's has contributed to the Stanford Main Street revitalization efforts by enticing consumers back to the heart of Stanford, providing convenient meals for those working in the downtown area.

"It's the only restaurant downtown now. It's really a great asset to people working there," said Carter.

The hungry job force at Gabriel's varies from white-collar employees to no-collar workers, some visiting their home town and some just looking for coffee and conversation.

"We have a lot of families on Sundays, and teenagers after school in the afternoons. It's very well rounded," said Victoria King, one of Gabriel's eight waitresses.

Michael Elkins and Kevin Kirkpatrick ate at a booth late Wednesday morning, saying they returned to Gabriel's for the waffle fries

"The ice cream and bacon cheeseburger was delicious too," said Elkins.

"The scenery's great. I think It's kind of neat in here," sad Kirkpatrick.

The scenery includes nostalgic memorabilia from the era of Sinclair fuel and glass-bottled Cokes. In a glass case sit empty bottles of Crab Orchard Blended Whisky and Crab Orchard mineral water, below a collection of mint condition Hot Wheels cars. On the walls hangs vintage signs and old musical instruments.

Its focus on the past will not hinder future plans for Gabriel's, said Perry, who foresees an additional Gabriel's in Danville one day. Gabriel's will also continue to hold social events like Tuesday night kiddy night and gospel sings.

It is this strong sense of community, paired with staff that treat you like family, that makes Gabriel's an intricate part of Stanford's Main street. After less than two years of business, it still feels, and smells, like Grandma's kitchen on a Sunday afternoon.

"It's a little different atmosphere," said Perry. "They're going to get great food, and great service, at a great price."

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