Three years after a devastating fire, the aroma of soul food again wafted through Gigi's Monday, as a passle of officials cut the opening ribbon on the new restaurant in the Northland Workforce Training Center, not far from the old location on East Ferry Street.
"We're a diner, a casual dining soul food restaurant."
Owner Darryl Harvin was rushing around the new location, getting a new restaurant and a new staff working the "Gigi's Way." Including Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown on the premises, Harvin had plenty of customers.
"Here at Gigi's, the food is good on all sides of the menu. This is some of the best soul food in the entire country," said Brown. "I've been eating at Gig's since I was 18 years old and a college student here in Buffalo and glad, after after an almost three-year absence, that the restaurant has re-opened."
Old-time customers came to see the new location, while the coveted students and staff from the training center snapped up the food as fast as the crew could turn it out.
"Gigi's has a huge following and they're really an attraction, tools for the whole Northland Belt Line," said Training Center President and CEO Stephen Tucker. "So as customers come in and they dine, we can also provide them with information on the renaissance that's happening right on the East Side and the opportunities that we have at the training center."
That was going on as Harvin made sure the wall display of his late mother, former owner Bondine Harvin, was visible.
"The taste is good, the texture. We've got to get the front end of the house tightened up a little bit better, but that's just because we got hit so hard," Harvin said. "It's not a bad situation to be in. I've explained to them, my employees, my mother is looking down. This is about her. You have her standards to look up to."
Harvin said he is still hiring, with most employees from the surrounding neighborhood and about half graduates of local culinary programs, ready to feed Gigi's food to the surrounding community and the hundreds of students and staff who will fill the training center.
The center is continuing to build out its facility to train workers for the thousands of high-tech manufacturing jobs opening up around here, as older workers retire and new companies start up and need workers with new skills.