Despite the cheery waitstaff’s promise of “the best breakfast in Williamsburg,” dining at The Gazebo amounts to an inoffensive – and entirely forgettable – affair.
The brightly lit and anachronistically carpeted restaurant draws its name from the large gazebos placed in the middle of each of its two dining rooms. If you’re so inclined, you can sit at a table inside the gazebos (on a park bench, no less). Since the floors of the gazebos are elevated, you’re essentially sitting on a stage and on display. Somehow, this makes more sense when you’re getting the bottle service at a nightclub than when you’re wolfing down hash browns at ten in the morning, but to each their own, I suppose. The overwhelmed host/cashier won’t actually give you the option of sitting in a gazebo – you have to make a special request. Kind of a locals-only privilege? Why hasn’t Fodor’s exploited this insider Williamsburg secret? Where are you when we need you, Rick Steves?
The restaurant sports a kitschy (in a bad way) gift/crap nook up front, from which you can stock up on beanie babies, t-shirts, Haribo gummis and books of ghost stories. If there is a theme to the collection, I can’t figure it out. Of course, the crap-mart makes no less sense than the pictures of George Bush (senior) and Ronald Reagan on the wall with the owner of the restaurant (they ate here? why?) or the snarling reception from the aforementioned host/cashier. Look, bud, I’m the one who hasn’t had any coffee, yet, so back off. Of course, I don’t go to Williamsburg that often – maybe having to sprint to keep up with the host as he tears off to your assigned table is sport out there. Either way, not my cup of tea.
The food is entirely unremarkable. An order of buckwheat pancakes arrives adorned with nothing other than a scoop of margarine (has the entire state of Virginia declared war on real butter?). The pancakes themselves were promised to take me back to Texas. This probably should have been a warning, seeing as how I never once came across a single buckwheat pancake in all the years I lived in Texas. In any event, the pancakes I get are dense, dry and lifeless. A side order of paper-thin bacon doesn’t help matters. The buttermilk pancakes taste entirely average and are doughy, on the verge of being undercooked. The Belgian waffles are just as pedestrian, arriving with a soft and decidedly un-crispy crust. The waffles are, however, served with lightly sweetened fruit which helps elevate the waffles (slightly) above the do-it-yourself bargain-hotel-free-breakfast variety.
The menu prominently advertises “Virginia Ham” followed by the clunky parenthetical annotation: “(salty ham)”. What shows up is a hyper-cured slice of very tasty smoked ham that is, in fact, extremely salty. As in, licking-the-inside-of-a-pretzel-bag salty. If you like salt, the ham’s great; if you don’t, you’ll hate it. So, credit goes to the restaurant for ditching style in lieu of accuracy by letting folks know up front what they’re in for. The restaurant loses points, however, for serving a slice of ham about a millimeter thick and then charging five bucks for it (the pancakes are only five and change).
As hopelessly average as the food is, I was going to give the restaurant a C+ for its friendly waitstaff and overall tidiness. On my last visit, however, I spent longer than usual wandering through the crap-mart at the front of the store. While there, the harried host/cashier proceeded to berate one of the waitstaff for being “as bad as the customers” and then going on a weird tirade about how he didn’t want customers touching him when paying. He then launched into a rant about a customer who was asking why she hadn’t been seated yet – all in front of me and several other customers. Describing this as bad form would be nothing short of a massive understatement. “Gross incompetence” seems to be a more fitting label.
Maybe Ronald Reagan got better treatment, but I, for one, don’t really see a good reason to spend any more money at The Gazebo.
Address: 409 Bypass Road, Williamsburg
Phone: (757) 220-0883
Website: www.thegazeborestaurant.com (not working last time I checked)