Gigi's Music Cafe in Sunrise is like walking into your favorite hometown cafe where the menu is nothing but family recipes, and the diner-style bar serves beer or wine. There's even a small stage where you can sing your heart out during karaoke, or strum away at the guitar on open mic night.
It's the type of place where everybody knows your name, your order and favorite song. And that's pretty much exactly what owner Gigi Brown was going for.
"This isn't just a cafe. This is a music cafe, the kind of place you can come to perform, hear some live music, or just have something good to eat," Brown told Clean Plate Charlie during a recent interview. "There are a lot of talented people out there who want to perform, but they have nowhere to go. This is where they can come."
Here, the real draw isn't necessarily the food. It's for the local singers, musicians, bands, talent acts and poets who come to Gigi's weekly open mic and karaoke nights. Almost anyone can perform, and the crowd is welcoming -- a mix of young and old.
Brown, who managed several music groups including R&B act Jodeci before moving to Sunrise from New York in 2005, always wanted to open a music cafe. Several months ago, the accountant-by-day decided it was time to combine her love of music with her lifelong dream of owning her own cafe, a neighborhood spot where she could serve her family's eclectic recipes.
Since opening Gigi's in June, Brown has hosted dozens of weekly open mic nights each Wednesday, as well as karaoke on Thursday. The first Friday of every month look for a "variety" show; every other Friday night Gigi books local talent where bands can nab a slot and take the stage. Although Brown requests audition tapes or a live performance before she books an act, she rarely turns anyone away, she said, and there hasn't been a quiet night yet.
But Gigi's isn't all about music. The boutique-style cafe hidden in the far corner of Sunrise's Pine Plaza Shopping Center is also a great spot to order up some homestyle soul food. Barely visible from the road, and nearly indistinguishable from the other store fronts save for the signs and posters in the window, it's an unlikely spot to stop for lunch and dinner. When asked why she chose the cozy -- yet secluded -- location, Brown responded: "Because I wanted a neighborhood spot that was close to where I lived."
One part your favorite aunt's kitchen, one part local hangout, Gigi's serves a fusion of homestyle soul food and classic American favorites, everything cooked to order. For lunch you'll find simple wraps, sandwiches and burgers, including a chicken bruschetta panini paired with the soup of the day and a salad for $6.95.
The dinner menu includes "Auditions" (appetizers, $2.95 to $8.95), "Vocal Calls" (entrees, $9.95 to $12.95), "Background Singers" (sides) and "Final Acts" (desserts, $3.95). Brown points out her "famous" country turkey meatloaf served with smashed sweet potatoes and collard greens. The fried chicken and homemade buttermilk waffles are a nod to her hometown Harlem -- the origin of chicken and waffles and home to the first Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles, whose founder -- a family friend -- once offered Brown his recipe.
"I declined, though," said Brown. "My recipe is better."
Although Gigi's does not have a license to serve liquor, Brown has created several wine-based cocktails -- "winetails" that seem to be just as creative as the real thing. There's the "Yellow Submarine," for example, a traditional screwdriver but made with Premium Blend's Klir Red, a vodka substitute, and orange juice.
Gigi's best-selling cocktail, the "Bob Marley," is a Caribbean rum punch made with Premium Blend's Rhumbero rum substitute, pina colada mix, orange juice, pineapple and grenadine. Brown's personal favorite: the "Apple of My Eye," her own version of an apple martini that combines dry vermouth and wine-based gin.
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