Gibson's Grill at the National opened for good last week and even on its first day of lunch service things went so smoothly that owner Johnny Giavos could watch the action from a window-front booth instead of the kitchen.
His much-anticipated restaurant wears some rock 'n' roll flair: neon signs, purple banquettes and moody Ed Trask paintings that might get switched out for newer Trask paintings as the artist continues work on his mosh-pit and singer series.
It's not rockers but lawyers who fill up the roomy booths and tables during daylight hours — the two-level restaurant is situated between the new federal courthouse and the city's halls of justice. By night, the dining rooms collect a mixed clientele of concertgoers and downtown scenesters. Regulars are staking out barstools in the Seven Below lounge, which has a hideaway vibe with cellar-level intimacy and black-leather seating. A DJ spins on Thursdays.
The menu has familiar Giavos trademarks — grinders and sliders, hummus and burgers, minipizzas and big salads, steaks and crab cakes — a full gamut of better-than-pub fare at moderate prices with a trendy drink menu to match. Portions are enormous. A playlist from B.B. King, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles and other icons helps cement the restaurant's relationship with the National and its wide-ranging slate of performers — many of whom will eat from the same menu in the venue's elaborate backstage green rooms and VIP areas, one floor above.
Now that the frustrations of a months-delayed opening are behind him, Giavos can concentrate on regular operations — lunch every day but Saturday, dinner and bar every night, and Sunday Bloody Sunday brunch with acoustic music coming in the new year. With all of their holdings (Kitchen 64, 3 Monkeys Bar and Grill, the Sidewalk CafAc, Kuba-Kuba), Giavos and partners employ about 200 people, a point of pride, especially in a competitive market. For Giavos, Gibson's marks “a whole new territory,” he says of the high-profile, downtown venture — “but so far, so good.” 700 E. Broad St. 644-2637.
Mediterraneo Ristorante: Open at 3730 Winterfield Road in Midlothian, this swank new trattoria features pastas, pizzas, seafood and meats, wines and experience — it's owned by the Piccola's restaurant family. www.mediterraneocuisine.com.
Legend Brewing Company: Now serving unique beers for winter, including the sought-after Belgian tripel, chocolate porter, imperial stout and barleywine; also Belgian quadruple on draft. Music Tuesdays and Sundays, lunch and dinner daily. 321 W. Seventh St. 232-3446. www.legendbrewing.com.
Nations: New gay club and restaurant now has its liquor license. Drag divas present a holiday lunchtime show Sunday, Dec. 14. Reservations and info at 257-9891. 2729 W. Broad St.
Louisiana Flair: Rolling out its catering menu with crawfish pie, jambalaya, chicken etouffee, L.A.-style fried chicken, corn bread and red velvet cake among other traditional favorites. 322 E. Grace St. 612-9066.
Edible Garden: Winter season farm-to-family co-op brings locally raised items to your pantry; purveyors from Tidewater to the Piedmont and beyond provide specialty and organic foodstuffs. Register by calling 784-2011. The restaurant also offers per-person holiday catering items with local, seasonal ingredients. See www.ediblegarden.org for menus. 12506 River Road.
Tricycle Gardens: Seeks donations to continue its mission of building community gardens, providing environmental education and promoting holistic urban living, this nonprofit organization has advocated sustainable urban ecology for eight years, starting with a community vegetable garden in an abandoned lot in Church Hill. www.tricyclegardens.org.
Hyperlink CafAc: The city's first oxygen bar, located in the former Biograph Theater at 814 W. Grace St., is the last building standing in a construction zone that will bring more retail space to the neighborhood. The club is still open, but will relaunch with a different strategy for the new year, including a new name.