Photos by Jonathan Greer
“Farm to Table” is a familiar term to anyone who has eaten at a restaurant in the last few years.
For over a decade, chefs have been looking to local sources to create menus based on food seasonality within their local area. Though this trend is now commonplace, it was still a young movement in the early 2000s. In a cozy neighborhood just East of downtown Dallas, Garden Café opened in 2002, securing its place as one of the key institutions of the farm-to-table movement in North Texas.
Garden Café is truly a neighborhood joint. Tucked within a small strip center within Junius Heights area in East Dallas, the restaurant is a tough one to find without the use of GPS. It seems to pop up out of nowhere, right across from an adorable postage stamp of a park complete with a swing set and giant slide. On weekends, the curbs around the park are hugged by the cars of customers eager to get their brunch fix at the popular spot.
Entering Garden Café, the dining room looks much like a café should. The café has counter service and has a cute menu with breakfast and lunch offerings. The menu stays true to the establishment’s commitment to local farmers and purveyors, providing a list of their local collaborators. Prices are a bit higher than a regular café, but the organic ingredients are worth the extra dollars. The counter provides an ever-changing list of fresh sides based on seasonality and availability.
If it’s a beautiful day, don’t even think about sitting inside. Pick a coffee mug from the peg board wall and fill it up with that much needed jolt of caffeine, grab your utensils, and venture outside to the most relaxing patio in Dallas. Garden Café’s patio seats about 30 guests, so
tables can be on a bit of a premium on the weekends, but when busy, it’s worth taking your time to find a seat. There is no rush in finding a seat when you have an amazing garden to explore.
Garden Café has a gorgeous garden full of herbs, greens and a variety of vegetables including peppers and tomatoes. Even better, you are encouraged to roam the gardens, discovering the organic foods that will grace plates of food.
Service is slow at Garden Café, but that’s part of the charm. Every dish is cooked to order and served by cheery and friendly staff. And, if you are dining on the patio, you’ll surely be greeted from time to time by the chickens that reside at the far edge of the garden.
Everything is delicious but the Country Boy Benedict is a favorite at Garden Café for a reason. A homemade biscuit is split in half, topped with 2 over easy eggs, ham, and creamy gravy. You get the option of a side, and you can’t go wrong with the hash browns. They’re the perfect balance of crisp and yummy starch. The plate is a solid brunch option, but the true stand out is the biscuit. The buttery biscuits from the kitchen are absolute heaven . . . so heavenly that it’s a smart decision to order one on the side with house-made apple butter. It’s a delicious dessert and the perfect segue to an afternoon siesta.
Alcohol isn’t on the menu, but you are encouraged to bring your own. A lovely morning at Garden Café seems even better with a chilled bottle of champagne ready to be partnered with fresh squeezed orange juice. Mimosas are a lovely match to the stellar comfort food.
From traditional breakfast offerings like pancakes, bacon and turkey sausage to superb lunch classics like chicken fried steak and meatloaf, Garden Café is a must visit when you’re in East Dallas. It’s the ideal spot to get a short hiatus from the hustle and bustle of daily life and enjoy the beauty of natural, organic food from local farms.