By Emily Finton
Gigi’s Country Kitchen is a cozy down home restaurant. On a typical Saturday morning, you can find a gray haired gentleman watching the cable news sipping a freshly poured coffee, and Ohio University students chatting about their night at a nearby table. Located in The Plains, the friendly staff and drive through window complete it.
Travis Brand, owner of Gigi’s Country Kitchen, named the restaurant after his grandmother, who passed away a year before the restaurant opened in 2011. Brand says the name honors the driven woman who always encouraged him to do his best.
“Gigi was my motivation factor growing up. I was a slacker of a kid… and a bad student,” Brand says. “My grandma was that extra little kick in the pants, so when it came time to open up, I’m like, ‘This one’s for Gigi.’”
In addition to Gigi’s down home atmosphere, it serves up some of the largest portions of home fries and chicken and noodles. And its prices? Just remember that some of its most loyal customers are budget conscious college students.
Our Customers are our Secret Ingredient
But the daily customers at Gigi’s are The Plains’ locals, who are more like friends than patrons. Jessica Cooksey, a server off and on for six years, says there are a few community members that come in every morning when it opens at 7 a.m. and they stick around for hours, catching up on news and sipping coffee at the counter, located in the front of the restaurant. “[The regulars] are the lifelines of our business. They’re what keep our lights on, our regular guys,” Brand says.
Cooksey says they have memorized their regular’s orders. “Usually we can see somebody pulling in and just yell back to the kitchen, ‘Hey! So-and-so is here, start their food,’” Cooksey says. “By the time they get their drinks and get sat down, their food is on the table with them, too.”
And the diverse group of kids, young adults and those enjoying retirement can make for a range of customer needs. The staff never knows what stories their customers will bring in. Groups of college kids pile elbow-to-elbow in the booths, sometimes even asking the servers if they have any ibuprofen to fight off their Sunday hangovers.
“Our first year in business I saw maybe a couple of students,” Brand says. “Our second year, we would get a handful here and there. And then, as we’ve grown, here we are seven years later. On the weekends our [big college] crowd has completely displaced our local business crowd.”
But Brand built Gigi’s to be a place that makes people feel at home, and going out to eat and being treated like family propelled him to recreate that energy for all of his customers, young and old.
“It’s all about the people. We focus on what I feel like restaurants used to focus on,” Brand says.
Gigi’s Country Kitchen is located at 105 N. Plains Rd, The Plains, OH 45780. It is open daily from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.