Goodness Gracious, Flambéed Bananas!

BY ALEXA CHERRY

A couple of weeks ago, I was taken by none other than the lovely editor of this paper to go check out a “new” restaurant in town. The reason I put “new” in quotes is because the restaurant isn’t new, as such. Rather than being a completely new company, in a completely new establishment, they’re a new take on an old idea. The restaurant I’m speaking of, as you’ve probably guessed, is (or rather, was) the Waffle Co. However, the previous owners sold it and the new owners wanted to go for a more comprehensive menu schematic, as well as a new look overall. So they got a new menu, name, and paint job. I got to go check it out on Feb. 11, the day GonZo officially opened for business as a supposedly “new and improved” establishment.

It might be difficult to explain the change when I lack “before” pictures, but since it was one of the only restaurants within walking distance of campus, I think most of you will have been there at least once before and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Simply put, when it was just a waffle house, there was a fairly bland paint job (yellow, I think, if memory serves) and a neatly practical air.

waf

The new café GonZo opened its doors to Juneau’s waffle lovers on Feb. 11, 2015. (Photo by Darin Donohue)

They served waffles, had plastic water cups, and brought a jug of syrup over with your order. There were also some cool artistic touches. One corner was decorated with fun, if somewhat cheap-looking, plastic star-shaped string lights. The walls were plastered in local photography and artwork that was always changing to create a new environment. I liked it, but I could never see myself spending a lot of time there; it was a place where I came to eat and then left, rather than being a place where I came to eat and study for hours.

Bearing these things in mind, I walked into GonZo not sure what to expect.

The first thing I noticed was that the walls were a different color or rather, a patchwork of them. The main dining area was painted what appeared to be a light blue (though the lighting where I was sitting was a bit odd, so I could be wrong), while less prominent walls at the end of the establishment were a vivid royal blue. What really struck me, however, was the intense red that composed the wall behind the order counter and the alcove where the aforementioned star lights used to hang. This is partly because red is my favorite color, and partly because the second thing I noticed was that the star lights were gone. I was unsure whether to be offended about this then, and I’m still contemplating it now. Sure, they were cheesy, but I liked them.

There have been some big changes environment-wise to the café formerly known as Waffle Co.—one of the most notable being the decorative skeletons!

There have been some big changes environment-wise to the café formerly known as Waffle Co. (Photo by Darin Donohue)

Another big change environment-wise was that they took the seating out of the area near the front door and threw in a comfortable couch, a vivid neon lamp, and (for reasons as yet unexplained) some decorative skeletons. The skeletons seem intended to promote some manner of hipster-esque atmosphere, in kind with their new cups for water. If you’ve ever wanted to drink fruit-infused H2O out of a glass Mason jar mug, now you know where to go to make that dream a reality. I like the mugs—though they hover on the edge of “unique and nifty” and “pretentious café aspirations”—but I’m not sure what to think about the skeletons. Why are they there? What do they want from us? Are they the remains of past employees who just weren’t perky enough, posted as a warning to the people who work there now? Things to think about. They do play the same kind of music, for any of you that might have been wondering.

And now, to the part of the article you’ve all been waiting for: the food. During the management change, some of the main concerns among my peers and I were that GonZo would stop serving waffles and that their food would become overpriced. Rejoice! Waffles are still an option! However, it is worth noting that the cheapest waffle is $7 (what used to be roughly the regular price), while most of them now run around $9. The waffle I purchased—known as the “Spunky Monkey”—was one of the latter and I can tell you that for $9, they delivered the goods! Not as many goods as one might expect at a full-fledged restaurant that serves side dishes and the like, but at the Waffle Co. you would order a $7 waffle and that’s what you would get: a waffle with some fruit and enough whipped cream to clog your arteries—not that I ever complained about that—and some syrup. For $9 at GonZo, I got a waffle neatly cut into its respective quarters, artfully arranged and decorated with tufts of whipped cream, topped by an entire flambéed banana cut in half lengthwise, dominating my plate. To explain what flambéing is would take up more of this article than I care to spend on the subject, but know that it is infinitely superior to a regular banana, and I was suitably impressed!

In summary, GonZo shows much promise for the future. The quality of the establishment has not dropped, and I think I prefer the new environment to the old one. The one complaint I might have is that when we initially ordered our food and coffee, they failed to record my request for a Spunky Monkey. Because of this, the waffle wasn’t put on the receipt and we—unaware of this mistake—sat waiting for them to bring it out to us for a half-hour. While this is a somewhat unprofessional error to make on opening day, I am willing to lay it aside, since I’m sure it wasn’t intentional. This is a review, however, so I feel I’ve got to tell you about the good and the bad. Overall, it was a good dining experience—8 out of 10, and I would definitely return! Though it’s true that I’m somewhat of a captive audience, so I don’t have much in the way of options.

If you haven’t checked it out yet but are interested, they’re open until 8 p.m. on weekdays—except for on Tuesday, when they are closed—and until 10 p.m. on weekends. It’s also worth giving their Facebook page, GonZo AK, a look and a like! They have pictures of the establishment, as well as the foods and beverages they serve, so you can get an idea of what you want to order before you ever set foot in the door.

Until then, I’ll see you on the flip side!

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