When restaurants closed during the pandemic, a food writer opened her own — for a chipmunk
Dining options at Angela Hansberger's chipmunk restaurant include sushi counter, campsite and beer garden
When the pandemic started, Atlanta food writer Angela Hansberger had to put a lot of her work on hold. Instead, she found herself on the other side of the counter, running a tiny eatery. Well, sort of.
"I never thought that I would be making tiny meals for a rodent," Hansberger told As It Happens host Carol Off.
Her new venture began shortly after the start of the pandemic, when her uncle mailed her a picnic table he had made for a squirrel.
"I opened up the package and I set this table down on my porch … I went to recycle the box. I came back and there was a chipmunk sitting at the table like a little tiny person," she said.
"I never nailed the table to a tree as it was intended. I just left it there and put some nuts out for him. And he's just come every day since the beginning of April."
That was just the beginning. Hansberger proceeded to spruce up the area with a tablecloth made out of a bandana.
"Then I started finding things around my house … and I would shape them into dining ware — make the experience fun for him," she said.
"Or I guess it was fun for me."
According to Hansberger, her offerings expanded when she began craving certain dining experiences like omakase, where customers order sushi while seated at a counter.
"One day I thought, well, since I can't have sushi right now … maybe I can make tiny sushi. I wonder if he would eat it. So I made tiny sushi out of little garden scraps and he ate it," she said.
With an expanded menu came elaborate decor. Hansberger described setting up a miniature campsite with a tiny fire pit around the table.
Along the way she also christened her customer — Thelonious Munk.
"I was trying to come up with a funny name for a chipmunk, and I had been listening to jazz while I was cooking that morning," she said. "Thelonious Monk — famous jazz player — just came to me."
Hansberger also set up a beer garden for the chipmunk with some assistance.
"My husband helped me build a bar for him," she said. "I thought, there's no way that he's going to jump up on a bar seat and sit there. Then the minute we sat it down, he sat on the bar stool."
Over the months, she has documented the chipmunk's visits and shared photographs online.
"It's been quite shocking. I just put them up there because every once in a while I just want to make people laugh," she said.
"Then suddenly people started sending these sweet notes, thanking [me] that it was something joyful to look forward to."
Written by Tahiat Mahboob. Interview produced by Katie Geleff.