Gabe Fisher, co-owner of Purple Chopstix, is continuing the family business. Fisher’s father, Ed Fisher, opened the restaurant in 1989. Now, Gabe and his wife, Aysha, own the restaurant and they’ve been there for more than 30 years.
Purple Chopstix, 371 Richland Ave., is open for contactless to-go pickup on Fridays and Saturdays.
The Post sat down to talk with Gabe Fisher about how business has been and how COVID-19 has impacted his business.
The Post: How would you describe the restaurant’s cuisine?
Fisher: We are primarily a dinner restaurant with an eclectic menu. Most of our entrees can be vegetarian, so the protein would be tofu, and then we have chicken, shrimp or tofu. We have a wide variety – everything from, spicy Thai coconut curry to linguini shrimp and scallops (to) veggie pesto pasta. We have savory crepes on the menu, too, which I've never really found anywhere else.
P: What do you think makes your restaurant stand out?
F: Everything. Our décor interior is pretty eclectic. We have one of the largest Passion Works collection displays around. We're big supporters of Passion Works and love working with them. They bring in some new art every now and then to keep it fresh. We're a pretty small restaurant, and we've always been family owned (and) family run. And I think the variety of food also is pretty unique. I would say if you can't agree on what kind of food you want to eat that night, come to Purple Chopstix.
P: Do you have a favorite dish on the menu?
F: I like everything that I make, but I am a big fan of the curry, the spicy curry. They've got a lot more vegetables than authentic curry, and it's a little thicker than other curry. I like the red curry. The sweet potato pasta is really good also, and that's a crowd favorite usually.
P: Why the name Purple Chopstix?
F: So the story goes when my dad opened the restaurants back in 1989 — it was the third restaurant that he opened — my oldest sister was mixing grape juice from concentrate with wooden chopsticks. She said “Look dad! Purple Chopsticks!”
P: What other restaurants did he open?
F: He was one of the founders of Casa Nueva. He helped start that. He had a restaurant in the location of O’Betty’s, which was called the Strawberry Patch. And then he also had a restaurant, I think where Stephens is, called Beards. He started that with one of his friends who also had a big beard. My sister now has a restaurant in Kona, Hawaii called the Strawberry Patch.
P: Do you see a lot of students dining in or do you see more Athens locals?
F: Primarily, it's Athens locals, but we do have our fair share of students that come in as well. More so, like local professors and teachers. We have a lot of regular customers. When we have in-house dining, it's a nice little off-the-beaten-path date spot.
P: How is business during COVID-19?
F: It's working pretty well for us right now. When COVID hit and started getting really bad, we were closed down for six months — the longest we've ever been closed for. And we did a little remodeling, and then a big flood came through, so then we had no option of opening. We had to fix the whole restaurant, and so we were closed for a total of six months.
P: How has the contactless pick-up been?
F: We're not open for take-out seating. We are currently doing contactless to-go on Fridays and Saturdays with a weekly changing menu that we post on our Facebook page , that way we can kind of switch things up a little bit every week. People place their orders preferably before 3 p.m. the day of the pickup. And if they order that early, then they can pick their time that they want to pick it up. It's been pretty good. I think a lot of our regular customers were just really happy that we were open, and they could get our food again. All of our regulars, they just really want to support us. Since we're so small, we know most of the people that come in on a first name basis, and we have people who get to-go every single weekend.
P: Did you want to add anything?
F: I would like to definitely thank everybody who has supported us in the past and is continuing to support us during this difficult time. Hopefully if everybody can be safe and this goes away, we can open our doors and have people in the restaurant again like we were doing last year.