To paraphrase from one of my most beloved movies: In many ways, the role of a restaurant customer is easy. The prevalence of dining choices and proprietors who are vying for our (generally hard-earned) paychecks means we risk very little in terms of labor, yet our ability to insert a chip at the prompting of a buroing chip reader or swipe a piece of plastic in order to satietiate the slightest hint of hunger means we, in the West, enjoy a position of discriminating privelege over those small dining establishments whose owners offer up their work and their dreams to our judgment. The dawn of review-centered apps means we enjoy the immediate power to strike an instant, collective blow to a restaurant from the safe shelters of whereever our smartphones recieve reception.
We in the NOVA/DC area thrive on voicing our negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read, made all the more gratifying when we can be among the first to review and critique and receive kudos for our own scathing input. An electronic thumb up or. Down, like the Caesars of ancient Rome, can be the life or death of someone’s restaurant vision and dream.
But the bitter truth that we customers and Yelp contributors must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average bad meal, over-priced drink, poor dining experience, or bad decor is probably more meaningful than our virtual criticism designating it so.
But there are times when a customer truly risks something beyond an overpriced meal or $60 for an undercooked steak, and that is in the discovery and defense of newer restaurant with “passion”. The world is often unkind to passionate talent, passionate missions that extend beyond the food being served. The passionate restaurant owner needs friends.
This morning, I experienced something passionate: an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected passionate staff and owner. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions about restaurant owners only being in it for the money is a gross understatement. My culinary preconceptions and the extraordinarily delightful tastes of Guma’s pies and breakfast rocked me and my Sunday brunch-seeking tastebuds to the core. In the past, I have made no secret of my belief that there was nothing new to discover in the way of culinary explorations. Guma’s motto is “Love is Spicy”. Seemingly quaint, but when you have the entirety of every ethnic food and major chain restaurant within reach of your nearest grocery frozen food aisle, it is hard to believe there is exciting food and stories to be discovered.
But I realize, only now do I truly understand the human expression of love in the form of food and spiciness. Spicy does not always mean love; but love can indeed be spicy. It is difficult to imagine more humble origins than those of the genius and humble beginnings of the owner now cooking at Guma’s, who is, in this customer’s opinion, nothing less than the finest cafe owner in Northern Virginia. I will be returning to Guma’s, soon, hungry for more.
Service? Excellent. Food? There is not ONE pie you will not enjoy. I suggest dipping your crab and lobster pies in the steaming, dripping butter. How is the breakfast? Imagine going to Fiola’s or Le Diplomats in DC and ordering a pancake. Now imagine if your pancake, with REAL orange rind and the taste of luxurious crepes, came out in the portion of something you’d find in a southern diner. I giggled as I ate. My wife’s Augustine Omelet was on par with a four star establishment and nearly hung over the plate. Each meal could EASILY have been priced between $15-$25 dollars without a DC foodie feeling cheated. Instead, I believe they were sub $10. Seven people dined for $60. I have paid $150+ for similar quality.
The owner, Guma, spoke with every person who came through the door. The staff engaged with everyone. If you want to feel humbled and inspired, read his story. He was saved by US Special Forces in Uganda and now dedicates his time and money to helping our military. All DoD in the area should Take a trip to see what our efforts results in.
Take note, I predict you will see Gumax pies in stores around the nation. The owner shares his story and vision for expanding Gumax and jobs, including priority for entrepreneurial vets. He will, indeed, achieve his dreams because he is fueled by two things; a passion for Faith and a passion for Love.
Love IS Spicy.
- J D.