Buffalo's Gigi's still going strong after 50 Years

Ashley Hirtzel/WBFO
August 26, 2013

Darryl Harvin has spent most of his life at GiGi’s Soul Food. His mother Blondine Harvin purchased the restaurant in 1960, where he’s now the manager.

After a lunch service, I got the chance to sit down with Harvin, while he explained GiGi’s rich history in the city.“We’ve been able to be consistent with a good product in a place where people can come even if it’s just for a cup of coffee, where they have a sense of being and they continue to give us a sense of being.”

Harvin says the restaurant began as a jazz club, but over the years transitioned into a place where noone’s ever refused a hot meal.“In our business we really started out almost being popular for selling hotdogs, many years ago, and then we started adding on our own different types of recipes based on my grandmothers.”

Harvin says the GiGi’s menu includes southern staples like fried chicken, mashed potatoes and collard greens. But turning those standards into Soul Food takes a special approach.“To really kind of generalize it a little more, it’s a comfort food, it’s just prepared a little bit different than other cultures might prepare their food. For example macaroni and cheese, we still prepare ours the same way, two to three different types of cheeses, a lot of butter, a lot of milk. In terms of some of our meats we call it smothered, like smothered chicken, smothered chops, it basically means your braising them.”

Besides the food, GiGi’s offers a place for people in the community to come and hang out with their family and friends. Over the years, the restaurant’s served as a neutral meeting ground for local politicians, and some famous faces as-well. “Food brings everyone together. We’ve had Jesse Jackson, Hilary Clinton, Arthur Eve, he’s a local civil rights leader, President Clinton has been here, and we’ve had a lot of musicians come in, the young hip hop artist.”

Harvin says the most bustling times in GiGi’s history were back in the early 1970’s when businesses like Bethlehem Steel were open. Since then the restaurant has seen a lot of boom times, and ridden out the challenges as city fortunes declined.
“There were times when were really close to closing down, just because economic situations that were going on throughout the country.”

Having survived this long, Darryl Harvin says he hopes that GiGi’s can continue to serve the community as best they can for years to come.