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Gabby’s

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If there’s one restaurant here in Dumaguete that almost-perfectly reflects all the areas of total quality management, it would be Gabby’s Bistro.

I remember the first time I dined in this place. It was one cloudy afternoon, about 3:30 pm. I was waiting for a pedicab along Hibbard Ave. in Bantayan — which one could rarely spot during that time of day.

Back in 2009, Dumaguete stores would closed down for the afternoon. And nobody knew where Gabby’s Bistro was. So I would tell the driver: “Manong, [sa] Bantayan, atbang sa Mormons….” Usually, they would charge “double ride” especially when you are hailing from downtown.

So then I rode on the pedicab, with P10.00 on my hand. (With the fare at P7.00 back then, I really wasn’t planning to ask for change. I was feeling generous.) I inhaled the cool Dumaguete breeze (maybe coming from Escaño Beach? Because really, you could actually smell that distinct “salt and seaweed” breeze. I guess there was not that much air pollution back then.)

So I arrived at Gabby’s.Immediately, my first impression was: “Wow, is this how a Manila restaurant looks?”

Of course, as a probinsyanong dako, it was my first time at Gabby’s, and not having any big city experience that time, I was just so amazed at the architectural design, the landscape…I was simply inspired!

“They must really have tasty dishes here,” I thought.When I entered Gabby’s, I saw my friends Thommy, Jasmine, Mikaela, Franzelle (I can’t remember the others). It was Mika’s birthday, and we were going to partly celebrate it there.

Bottomless iced tea wasn’t a thing before (well, maybe for me). I was shocked at their offer. “Really? Oh, okay lugi ni sila nako!

I also had a two-piece burger steak, with coleslaw on the side, and I remember changing the Java rice to mashed potatoes.

Holy smokes! This was the first time I had proper restaurant food, proper service, and a proper dining experience.

The beef was really thick, the gravy was tasty and salty, the mashed potatoes was smooth and silky — just like what you see on television.

The lights were a bit dim, putting us in the right mood, which perfectly complemented the soft jazz music being played.

It was also my first time dining outside with a TV set in the restaurant. It was a cultural shift in Dumaguete City, I thought.

Since that time, and through the years, Gabby’s Bistro has raised so many standards for dining out in Dumaguete, causing a domino effect in my life until now.

Let me explain. Because of that one experience back when I was only 14 in 2009, I’ve celebrated all of my birthdays from age 10 to around 17 at Gabby’s Bistro. There was even a time I couldn’t sleep the night after my birthday party at Gabby’s because I had close to five glasses of  the bottomless iced tea! (I told you malugi sila nako!)

Most of our family events also are celebrated at the events place aptly called Oasis (by the poolside), run by the same family of the Gabby’s resto. Most of my dates with my then girlfriend (now my wife) were also held at Gabby’s.

I even did my internship in college at Gabby’s — where I trained as server, and as a cook.

Even until now that my wife and I have a baby, we continue to regularly eat at Gabby’s because they truly prepare good food, and they serve it well. We find it nostalgic to just hang out there.

So when I started my small restaurant business Big Poppa’s, I depended on Sir Gabby del Prado as one of my mentors, for inspiration and wisdom.

Indeed, Gabby’s has helped shaped Dumaguete as a food destination. I know that every now and then, celebrities  from Manila would make sure to visit the place, with some of them spending a week at the apartels of Florentina Homes in the same compound.

Through good and bad, sad days and happy days, Gabby’s Bistro has always been right there to celebrate our milestones in life.

May this food business continue on giving the people of Dumaguete the quality of a genuine restaurant dining experience we all deserve.

_____________________________

 

Samuelle Bawasanta is a full- time content creator specializing in Food, Culture, and Cooking. He finished his degree in Hotel & Restaurant Management at St. Paul University-Dumaguete, as well as a degree in Culinary Arts at Le cordon Bleu in Melbourne, Australia. He had his internships at Gabby’s Bistro and at Radisson Blu Cebu,and worked in fine dining restaurants Lûmé and Amaru, which are both in Melbourne. Sam came back home in 2020, and opened his own restaurant Big Poppa’s Deli, which ran until 2023. He is known for food blogs, restaurant reviews, and generating food culture content.

Author’s email: samuellebawasanta@gmail.com

 

 

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