- MICHAEL WILSON/THE LEDGER
Published: June 7, 2012 11:11 a.m.
Last Modified: June 30, 2012 11:15 a.m.
Last Modified: June 30, 2012 11:15 a.m.
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Hours:11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Friday. 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
Price:$6.95 to $9.95.
FYI:Different menu for Sunday brunch.
Must Try:Turkey bacon Beulah, salmon burger, tabbouleh, chocolate cobbler.
Payment:All but American Express.
You sit back on the patio and watch the birds on the lake and the bees in the flowers.
The decor is quaint, gardenish, with vines painted on the walls inside, and modern food to contrast the atmosphere. Sugars are in flower pots and sandwich platter are plant saucers. And, not only is the food avant-garde, it's delicious.
Beverly Owenby opened the little place in the basement of the Magnolia Building in 2003.
In spite of its out-of-the-way location, enough people find the restaurant to keep it going.
Get there a few minutes before you need to order because, after you read the menu, it takes a while to make up your mind.
Dishes with smoked salmon, lobster and rare tuna are not normal lunch time fare.
I don't think I ever saw a Monte Cristo and Muffaletta on the same menu.
If you don't want to design your sandwich (the menu lets you do that), you can pick one from the list of 15, including light fare and vegetarian choices.
The Lobster sandwich ($9.95 including chips and a pickle) came as a pile of lobster salad made of tender claw meat with flavors added with a subtle hand, and a big leaf of romaine on a soft roll. Eat some of the heap of salad before you try to pick it up as a sandwich.
Representing non-meat eaters, I tried a Portobello sandwich ($8.95), a roll piled high with a large portobello mushroom, a thick slice of tender eggplant, slices of ripe avocado, bright roasted red pepper and provolone cheese topped by alfalfa sprouts as a touch of culinary whimsy.
Note to carnivores and you won't miss the meat.
A Monte Cristo sandwich is brother to a Croque Monsieur. In France that's a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. The Monte Cristo is made with chicken and, on this side of the Atlantic, dipped in egg batter and fried. Berry sauce is served for dipping.
You can let this sit a minute while nibbling your neighbor's salad. The sandwich holds the heat ($8.25).
There's one burger. A Bistro burger ($8.25) is a lean patty, cooked fairly well-done topped with onion, mushrooms and two cheeses. Mustard and mayo are on the side. So are onion, lettuce and pickle. The price seems like a lot for a burger, but it's a fine burger.
There are eight salads for $7.95 to $10.95. The menu says a Garden Bistro Salad is 'Tender, chilled smoked salmon, artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, sun-dried tomatoes and capers.'
What you get is spring greens and everything promised except the smoked salmon is not the thin slices you might expect but a thick, long portion of fresh salmon that has been herbed and fried. The arrangement is pretty, and the variety and contrasts of tastes are wonderful. Three-cheese crisps are like cheesy crackers made in the kitchen. They're nice, but I would have preferred bread.
Desserts change with the whim of the chef. Look before you order.
I passed on a thick berry pie in favor of Hummingbird cake and a pound cake made with Italian flavors. Each cost $3.95. None of the desserts went back to the office as leftovers for co-workers to sample.
Hummingbird Cake can be too moist. This was just right.
The pound cake came as a surprise. The thick slice was accompanied by whipped cream and berries, the juices soaked into the cake for an extra delicious flavor.
There are many more delicious-sounding offerings on the menu than there is space to write about.
According to the latest inspection report, the restaurant met required health standards.
A couple of things they can do to improve are:
Ask how a burger should be cooked
Offer optional bread with the Bistro Salad.
The restaurant is a wonderful, imaginative place to relax at lunch. The Garden Bistro earned three and 1/2 stars in 2005, and it keeps the well-deserved rating today.
Trent Rowe can be reached at 802-7512 or email@example.com. Check out his food blog at aquickbite.theledger.com