917 E. Vine St. (6000 South), Murray ; 801-266-0997
A quiet garden spot, the perfect place to enjoy a simple, casual lunch.
Cuisine: Cafe, Deli
Hours: M-S, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
July 11, 2003
Comforting food, serene greenery at ivy-covered Garden Espresso
By Nancy Hobbs
A quiet little garden lunch spot, hidden behind a grassy berm and trellises of flowers, is tucked away on Vine Street just east of 900 East. It obviously is no secret to the many regulars who may have been grabbing a coffee and pastry or stopping for lunch since Garden Espresso opened nine years ago.
But for me and fellow diners who likewise said they had been driving 900 East for years and never peered beyond the greenery, it was a find.
The quaint café, open Mondays through Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., occupies half of an ivy-covered cottage that was turned into a gift shop -- The Art Garden -- even before the restaurant was added.
Now the two establishments seem to enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship, with diners browsing through kitchen linens, soaps and potpourris after lunch, and curious shoppers stepping in for a cold lemonade or quick sandwich.
The inside dining area is spacious, with a large stone-hearthed fireplace that would be most inviting in mid-January. This time of year it is comfortably air-conditioned and, from the looks of it, still the seating of choice for most diners.
But if you are a patio diner, outside is the place to be. There aren't a lot of tables -- two picnic tables and several small bistro tables -- but if you can snag one, the view is delightful. Beautiful purple clematis climb the trellis, gardens around the cottage are full of blooming plants and green ivy that is wending its way up the walls, and pots of rainbow-colored flowers fill in any empty spaces. The resident tabby, often sunning out on the warm patio stones or looking for a cool, shady spot, turns it into an artist's rendering.
It's the perfect place to enjoy a simple, casual lunch -- perhaps an egg-salad sandwich on a croissant, with potato chips on the side. Or a turkey, bacon and avocado sandwich complemented by a generous scoop of creamy potato salad.
The fare at Garden Espresso isn't fancy, which is undoubtedly its secret to success. Turkey, pastrami, roast beef or ham served on fresh-baked sourdough, wheat, rye or croissant ($5.25) -- not much could be simpler, or better.
Salads are also popular here, with a choice of potato salad or a spinach or chef salad. The Oriental sesame dressing is particularly good.
If you stop in for breakfast, coffee drinks run the gamut, from your basic brew to café mocha or lattes with any kind of flavoring you can imagine.
The shelf full of syrup flavorings also is used for Italian sodas and iced granitas, as well as in the café's popular lemonade. Kiwi lemonade, made with a shot of kiwi-flavored syrup, was especially refreshing in the heat of the day.
Muffins and pastries, including a popular "popover" that looks like a muffin with a creamy filling, are made in-house daily. So is the unique "quiche muffin," good at breakfast or lunch. As the name implies, it is muffin-shaped and crustless, mixed with ham, spinach and cheese. Instead of a rich, cheesy quiche, it tastes more like embellished and baked scrambled eggs (which isn't a bad thing) served with salsa on top.
For dessert, try a bite -- or more -- of the homemade fudge, with close to a dozen kinds made every week. It sells for 55 cents an ounce, which equates to a good-sized bite, or about $5 for half a pound.
Garden Espresso's food is not unlike what you might make at home, but offers that wonderful advantage of not having to do the work or clean-up. Simply relax and enjoy the food, the company of your friends and the garden view.