If you asked us where to eat on North Broad, there are a handful of places we’d recommend over Gabi. We’d tell you to grab some pasta at Osteria, listen to live music over shrimp gumbo at SOUTH, or get all-day breakfast at Cafe Lift. If you do find yourself at Gabi, though, you can have a perfectly decent time. As long as you order the burger.
Theirs is topped with melty, gruyere-like reblochon cheese, thick, bite-sized bacon pieces, and finely chopped caramelized onions that remind us of a sweet salsa (in a good way). Then there’s some lettuce and a seasoned tomato, all sandwiched between a perfectly toasted bun. Add an egg if you’re feeling it, but either way, it’s a genuinely great burger that’s better than the sum of its parts.
Unfortunately, the burger is the only impressive thing about this French diner-esque spot. The rest of the menu, which ranges from a sad Nicoise salad to steak frites that take an awkwardly long amount of time to chew through, is average at best. There are escargot that are buttery but otherwise flavorless, a cheesy ravioli with absolutely nothing interesting about it, and a croque monsieur that they might have forgotten to cook altogether.
Similarly, the drink list is a bit all over the place. They have a solid wine list with affordable options - you can get a whole bottle of house red or white wine for $24, or a glass for $7. The cocktails, however, aren’t worth your time at all. Most of them are gin-based, with French liquors like rinquinquin or lillet, and some are overly sugary and shockingly blue, while others are super watered down.
The space and ambiance are both confusing and kind of match the food - they’re essentially flavorless. It looks like a diner inside, with tiled floors, metal-edged tables, and light fixtures that could have been pulled from the set of Grease. But it doesn’t have any of the innate charm that diners are known for. You won’t find ripped leather seats or servers who ask if “youse guys” are all set while holding 47 plates in their left hand.
So if you were hoping that Gabi would be your next first date spot, the answer is “not if you want to see the person again.” But if you do end up here, maybe because your friend insists on having her birthday dinner at a French diner with blue drinks on the menu, then stick to the plan. Order the burger, get it with an egg on top, and let the table know that you’ll be picking the restaurant next time.
The escargot are buttery, but they’re otherwise flavorless. Get it if you really like butter. If not, skip it and head straight for the burger.
There’s too much going on in the Nicoise salad. It’s like they just took all the leftovers from the kitchen and threw it in a big bowl with some wilted lettuce. If you really want a salad here, stick with the much simpler green salad or the perfectly fine goat cheese salad.
The ravioli is cheesy and cooked well, but it just doesn’t have any flavor other than the cheese it’s buried in.
Every time we order the croque monsieur here, it shows up looking like a ham and cheese sandwich that our dad made for us in kindergarten. It’s almost like they forgot to cook it, or just didn’t leave it on the stove long enough for it to get all melty and crispy.
If you’re at Gabi, this is what you want. You can get it topped with an egg, but it comes with bacon, caramelized onions, and reblochon (a gruyere-like) cheese. Either way, it’s fantastic and the only reason we’d consider coming back here.