The Garden – Santa Maria, CA | Restaurant Review

Off Broadway in Santa Maria stands a Mediterranean paradise with the fluffiest falafel you’ve ever had the pleasure of eating.

The Vegetarian Plate at The Garden - tabbouleh, falafel, baba ganoush, hummus, pita, and a tahini sauce.
The Vegetarian Plate at The Garden, Santa Maria

Tucked away off the main streets of Santa Maria lies this hidden gem – The Garden Mediterranean Restaurant & Cafe. Serving up Mediterranean classics like falafel, kofta, and tabbouleh, The Garden is definitely worth a visit!

The outdoor dining is spacious and comfortable. The staff incredibly warm and friendly, and seemingly as enthusiastic about The Garden’s tasty offerings as we were.

Spicy fries
Spicy Fries appetizer.

We started off with the Spicy Fries. Smothered in a mixture of spicy house sauce, garlic, and cilantro, these fries pack a punch! Served hot and fresh, a great appetizer for any spicy-lover.

Next on the menu, an item listed under The Garden Homemade Bakery section simply titled “Cheese”. Using housemade bread, topped with a Mediterannead cheese, this appetizer was reminiscent of a pizza. Instead of cheese sprinkled on top before baking, it seemed the cheese was added to the dough, and the crust folded over and formed around it.

The Garden Homemade Bakery Cheese appetizer.

The result: a beautiful cheese boat! Though this may look like a kind of pizza, the dough was soft and incredibly fluffy, without any crunch of a crust like you’d find on a pizza.

Judging by these two appetizers, I’d say select something that sounds intriguing to you, that caters to your specific tastes (like say, you like spicy or cheese) and order your appetizers based on that alone. You may have never tried anything like what you’ll get, but based on this experience, I’m going to bet you’ll love it.

Entree highlights include the kebabs: chicken; beef; and kofta – a traditional kebab made of seasoned ground beef. The kebab plates are plentiful, and of the four of us that had dinner, no one was able to clear their plate (not for lack of trying).

The rice rich with saffron, peppers perfectly charred — the details in the meals were immaculate. The tahini sauce provided a nice compliment, but the real star of the sauces was that incredible garlic sauce tied so deeply into Mediterranean cuisine. Have it with the kebab, the rice, some pita, on the fries, really anything. I’d by it by the pound if I could.

Vegetarians rejoice! There’s options for you at The Garden too. I had the Vegetarian platter (first photo in post) so I could sample all my favorites of Mediterranean cooking — tabbouleh, baba ghanoush, hummus, warak enab, falafel, and pita. I also requested a side of that delectable garlic sauce for my meal which they accommodated graciously. If you aren’t familiar with Mediterranean cuisine, here’s a quick description of everything that came on the Vegetarian Combo Plate:

Tabbouleh

Salad of finely chopped parsley, crushed bulgur wheat, tomatoes, onions, and spices, mixed in fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.

TASTING NOTES: If you like greek salad, try tabbouleh. It’s got a great zesty kick and powerful freshness to each bite.

Baba ghanoush

Smoky roasted eggplant pureed and blended with tahini, garlic, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.

TASTING NOTES: A very basic description of baba ghanoush is like a hummus with roasted eggplant. It’s got a stronger flavor and smoother texture than typical hummus. Eat it with pita!

Hummus

Puree of garbanzo beans (chickpeas) with tahini, garlic, lemon and extra virgin olive oil.

TASTING NOTES: Most of us have eaten hummus by now, but this one deserves a bit of extra credit because The Garden hummus was just so creamy. If you aren’t a hummus fan, I’d recommend you try this one. It may change your mind!

Warak Enab

Grape leaves stuffed with rice, tomatoes, onions, parsley and spices. Served cold.

TASTING NOTES: Warak Enab is a Lebanese-style stuffed grape leaf — different than the Greek-style that’s served hot and filled with ground beef. Instead, Warak Enab is vegetarian-friendly and taste great with that tahini sauce.

Falafel

Fresh garbanzo beans mixed with spices, ground, formed into balls and fried.

TASTING NOTES: Falafel is a cornerstone of Mediterranean cuisine. Typically crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, it’s delicious and filling!

A special note about The Garden’s falafel: They are, without a doubt, the fluffiest falafel I’ve ever had. Sometimes falafel can be more dense on the inside, but still maintain that crunchy exterior. These falafel were different. With the perfect golden brown crust and as light and fluffy as can be on the inside. Perfection.

All in all, I can see why The Garden maintains its 5-star rating. It’s friendly staff and consistently tasty food make it a great place to eat, enjoy, and try new things.


Industrial Eats – Buellton, CA | Restaurant Review

A Brief Prologue

I last dined in at Industrial Eats in February of 2020, before the lockdown. Since then, so much has changed for our local restaurants, including a slew of constantly changing Covid-19 health standards. Because of this, I pushed the publication of this review back month after month, waiting for things to “go back to normal” before sharing it. Now, five months later, I’ve decided it’s now or never. Our local restaurants need our support now more than ever, and that’s why I am sharing this review.

While some of the content of the review may not apply at the moment (see: dining indoors), what hasn’t changed is Industrial Eats commitment to serve the community incredible food made from locally sourced ingredients. Currently Industrial Eats is offering limited outdoor dining and take out. Visit their website or their Instagram page for current information.

Lauren and Kori in front of Industrial Eats, posing with a cow sculpture. Graffiti of different foods is painted on the wall beside them.
March 10, 2018 – Outside the entrance of Industrial Eats

Industrial Eats Restaurant Review

If you’ve driven any length of the 101 up from Santa Barbara or down from beyond Paso Robles, you’ve seen them. The great overbearing billboards, advertising, “Everything for the traveler!” Anderson’s Split Pea soup, seemingly the only landmark in Buellton putting the small town on the map. And it may have been, until 2014, when a small restaurant opened just down the road from the famous Anderson’s on Industrial Way.

Where an old warehouse once stood, Industrial Eats made its home. Though it may be in its name, the food here is anything but industrial.

The restaurant is located in a small open space, with high ceilings and two wood-fired pizza ovens in the back. The tables are large, with open seating, community-style. Everything about the welcoming atmosphere seems casual, laid-back and open. That may be why the food, which combines fine dining ingredients and techniques stands out so brightly against the overtly casual come-as-you-are vibe that permeates throughout.

Interior picture of Industrial Eats, showing stacks of plates on the counter entrance and a patina skull.
Casual decor

If this is your first time here, and the seats are available, I recommend sitting at the bar seating facing the ovens. On the counter in front of you, you’ll find a diverse array of cookbooks on topics from bread baking to how to use the whole animal, nose to tail. While I find these books fascinating, and admire the confidence required to put such a book on a restaurant table, the real amazing feats are happening at those wood-fired ovens.

Yes those ovens, and the cooks working in their smoke and flames to produce miraculously tasty pizza, and churning out so much more.

One stand out wood-fired dish is the White Shrimp, cooked in the oven with copious amounts of butter, garlic and herbs, finished with a perfectly toasted hunk of crusty bread. The dish seems simple written on paper but the quality of ingredients and finesse with which its assembled proves anything but. This is the Industrial Eats experience codified: what seems straightforward on the menu arrives on the plate an impossibly complex layering of flavors and techniques. These are the dishes that make you say. “That is so good,” out loud, without a thought, as a simple instinctual reaction to the seemingly impossible tastiness on your tongue.

For so long, I struggled to quantify the exact unique quality that embodies every aspect of dining at Industrial Eats. There’s nothing quite like it that I’ve seen anywhere else, so without a comparable counterpart, I struggled to define it. It left me, for lack of a better term, speechless.

Here you will not find abstract names of any dish. The menu items are described and identified solely by their featured ingredients. That’s all you have to base your order on, and here, that’s all you need.

Interior picture of menu hanging on the wall at Industrial Eats.

It’s common to encounter an ingredient that makes you go “What is that?”. And while you’ll feel wholly uncool asking the person behind the counter to describe Vadovan to you, you should. Because if an unidentified ingredient is what holds you back from ordering an intriguing dish, you are missing out.

Take for example, the Smoked Pheasant Salad. Have I ever ate pheasant before Industrial Eats? No. Could I find it again elsewhere? Maybe. But like this, with the freshest local ingredients, a perfectly balanced dish of rich smokiness, bright citrus and crisp greens? No way.

This is food with attitude. Not a bad attitude — a rebellious one. Where traditional fine dining says, “You can’t do that,” Industrial Eats says, “Watch me.”

This is the indescribable trait of the restaurant and it permeates every corner. From the Mall Rats poster in the restroom to the purposeful absence of structure on the menu. It is this quality that abruptly jolts you from your culinary comfort zone and propels you into a dining experience wherein anything is possible.

There is an acute lack of pretentiousness in Industrial Eats, every aspect of the experience solidifying their philosophy to create a restaurant where they would want to eat, where everyone is welcome, no matter your palate or budget. In its inclusively rebellious way, Industrial Eats pioneers the theory that good food should not require an unlimited budget, or a dress code and should always be accompanied by a sense of humor.

Good food is not defined by the starchiness of the table linens or whether or not your server is wearing a tie. Fine dining here is instead about feeding the community exquisite food, sharing the same values held so near and dear to us all on the Central Coast. That food is about bringing people, all people, together at the same table, enjoying local, organic products, feeding not only our palates (starving for culinary adventure) but satisfying our souls.

Recommended Eats

181 Industrial Way
Buellton, CA 93427

(805) 688-8807 | Website: www.industrialeats.com

Online ordering is currently available. We recommend browsing the Clipboards and Small Plates sections of their menu online — this is where you will find the Smoked Pheasant Salad and White Shrimp mentioned in the review.

However, if you are simply looking for a delicious way to feed your family, Industrial Eats also offers Family Meals. Add a Pizza to your Bolognese or Meatball family meal for an extra Industrial experience!

All opinions shared in this review belong to the author, Lauren Harvey. No compensation was received for this review and is solely based on the author’s previous experiences.