As It Happens

When restaurants closed during the pandemic, a food writer opened her own — for a chipmunk

Soup noodles with bamboo shoots and mushrooms. Or pizza with an almond flour crust. Those are some of the dishes that Atlanta food writer Angela Hansberger has been serving up recently at her tiny, very exclusive "restaurant." It's so exclusive that it's impossible to get a table ... unless you're a chipmunk.

Dining options at Angela Hansberger's chipmunk restaurant include sushi counter, campsite and beer garden

Dinner for one. At a miniature picnic table on her porch, Atlanta food writer Angela Hansberger has been serving tiny — but elaborate — dishes to a chipmunk. (Angela Hansberger)

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. 

Thelonius inspecting the grill. (Angela Hansberger)

"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."

Thelonius enjoying sushi. (Angela Hansberger)

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."

Thelonius at the beer garden. 'I named it the Peanut Club because that's always been my nickname, Peanut,' said Hansberger. (Angela Hansberger)

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.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?