The Garden | Santa Rosa Vegan

Vegan food always seems like a punishment rather than a lifestyle choice. Like wearing a hair shirt or flogging yourself with a cat ‘o nine tails. I mean, go for it if that’s what you’re into, but leave me out of it. Because humans are natural omnivores. We have canine teeth for a reason and bacon wasn’t invented because it tasted bad.

But here’s the thing: There is something to be said for eating more fruits and vegetables. For limiting that big old carbon footprint, taking a more humane approach to life, and knowing that your meal came from the ground rather than a feedlot. So, yeah, I get it.

So it should come as no surprise that I’ve been foot-dragging on the latest entrant into the vegan restaurant game, The Garden (90 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa). Suffice to say that before cautiously embarking, I made sure that nearby Cricklewood would be open and standing by with a steak should things go south.

Despite some ambivalence about the whole thing, they didn’t.

The Garden wins you over immediately with sweet, chewy slices of whole wheat bread dipped in olive oil. Fresh spring rolls filled with veggies and dipped into peanut sauce could use a use a lighter rice paper wrap, but (aside from not being filled with pork and shrimp) were refreshing. Hummus fails, but the Crispy Thai Tofu Salad (that wasn’t really all that crispy and shouldn’t have had out-of-season tomatoes, $11.95) was beautifully plated and tasty.

Best bet: The Carl Burger ($10.50). Ignore the fact that its made out of oats and a host of equally unhamburgery ingredients. Delish. Amazing bun, sweet sauce, a deliciously spicy patty, crisp veggies. Yeah, I’d eat this again, probably with some Fakon, vegan cheez and avocado. With little nuggets of baked sweet potato, its a huge, filling and ultimately satisfying lunch.

Carob cake, well, it looked pretty.

The restaurant also offer smoothies for take-out, but I was left wondering if perhaps they might make more of a killing on selling some
of the great housemade breads and buns (including gluten-free options). The Garden also features dinner entrees including pastas, eggplant parmesan, bbq tofu, quiche Lorraine and enchiladas ($13-$15). The interior is light, sunny and warm with friendly, if not totally informed staff. (Hint: If I’m new to this cuisine, please be able to tell me what’s in it.)

The Garden is working hard to bring flavor and good taste to a cuisine sorely in need of some good pr. And starting with a darned tasty burger isn’t a bad way to start.

The Garden, 90 Mark West Springs Road, 829-1410.

Author: biteclub

Food Dining and Restaurants in Sonoma County and beyond, BiteClubEats.com is Wine Country dining with Drive-Thru Sensibility.

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24 Comments

  1. I give restaurants 1 shot sometimes 2. I don’t’ like to eat out,there is hardly any outstanding restaurants(per ratio of restaurants) in santa rosa and surrounding areas, not including sonoma or healdsburg, they have some really great restaurants in those areas. I am not to concerned with price but quality of the food. I have not been to the garden for fear I will be disappoined. I have decided to give them a chance in the next couple of weeks..I’ll post my experience,

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  2. I’m going to be in town next week and will swing by and try them out.
    Thanks for all the excellent (and entertaining) feedback :)

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    • Sure is! Expanded Hours too. Open from 6am to 8pm weekdays except friday. 6am to 3 pm Friday. And 6am to 8 pm onSunday.

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  3. I ate at the Garden last Thursday 4/22 and thought the food and the service was divine! Especially the cheesecake…Wow! I will definitely return and have highly recommended it to my friends! Yes there is a bookshelf by the front door with religious tracts-so what! (this is directed at the person who left a comment that he would not return or recommend because of tracts) This is a country where we are free to worship and believe in any religion or none! I myself am a christian from birth and belong to the far left, all are welcome here, God is Still Speaking!!! United Church of Christ! I will return to that restaurant and recommend! Go Vegan!

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  4. I am glad these comments reminded me to visit this new vegetarian restaurant. while i enjoy the food,respecting hard work of these newcomers whom open a new business for all of us while helping our city with additional revenue brought in by vegetarian residents in vegetarian restaurant as well as a bike shop liquor store or any other business.
    Dear neighbors citizen of this city lets give each other
    small chance to improve stand by and for each other specialty in the food business or any other small business, My 2cents is: once in a while it is essential for all customer Putin thier inputs as the chef /owner and staff should welcome all criticism same as they accepts complements so thier business is improved and customers are more satisfied. we all be happy and live in friendly neighbor hoods.be well see you for lunch in lark field and all other restaurants of this good city.

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  5. While waiting for friends to arrive for lunch I noticed some information in a bookcase near the door, mostly pamphlets on vegetarian cooking but there was also one on Taking a Stand for the Ten Commandments and one for Let it Shine SpiritRenew. I picked up the pamphlets and asked the person at the counter if a customer had inadvertently left them behind as I did not see what they had to do with vegetarian dining. She explained they were Christian reading material and as she is the owner she can have out whatever she wants to display. Although I was originally excited to try this place and I was the one who recommended my friends meet there for lunch, I will never go back and will recommend others not as well. If I was interested in religious information I would have gone to a church. If I was interested in better service from an owner I could have gone anywhere else and will in the future. I notice I was not the only reviewer that mentioned the religious pamphlets and gave negative reviews on Yelp. The comments on the short hours (and closed on Saturday) also reflect the religious beliefs of the owners. Customers do not come first here.

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  6. I’ve eaten at The Garden twice. With the exception of the way overpriced and really tasteless brushetta, the food was quite tasty. But I think they are forgetting that they are running a business– they close at 7:00pm. This is because they feel that we should not eat later than that. Okay, fine. But by restricting yourself to a location in the somewhat out of the mainstream Larkfield area, knowing you won’t appeal to everyone (lots of carnivores out there!) and then to reduce your hours– this is business suicide. Perhaps they can talk to the folks that ran the very delicious GG’s Earth and Surf and get a lesson in how a restaurant is also a business.I hope they make it because it is nice to have the choice to eat vegan. We’ll see…

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  7. my mom took my husband and me to the garden a couple of weeks ago. neither of us are strictly vegetarian and it would take something catastrophic for me to give up my dairy, but we were both thrilled with our meals! quite honestly, had my mom not mentioned that the food was vegan, i would have had no idea. i have nothing against veganism, but i do think that, to those unfamiliar with the lifestyle, it might be a little intimidating. MAJOR props to heather for even trying it out. of course you would drag your feet! what self-respecting meat-eater wouldn’t? but you got there, didn’t you? AND you overcame your skepticism and enjoyed yourself. and to kathy and the rest of the staff, keep up the good work. i’m spreading the word… :)

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  8. Uh, someone’s projecting a bit.
    I’m female last time I checked. I cry every time I see those polar bears on the melting ice, I recycle regularly, if I ever met Sarah Palin I would fart in her general direction, I do own a small SUV (but its 10 years old and I’m too broke to buy a new greener car), I’ve been to dozens of intentionally “vegan” and raw restaurants, and most of them are truly appalling to the senses (though not all) which I honestly don’t understand, and I did see the movie Taledega Nights (hilarious). So what was your point, exactly?

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  9. This reviewer sounds like the kind of guy that left his SUV running in the parking lot while he had his dinner because “you can’t make me believe in global warming”.
    Straight out of the 1950’s or Talledega Nights.
    And, no, I am not an angry vegan, just a grouchy old guy.

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  10. I LOVE this restaurant! Welcome to the new age of socially responsible and HEALTHY eating. Finally someone ‘gets’ it— there is no need whatsoever to sacrifice taste in making healthy and environmentally supported compassionate food choices. Food that not only tastes overwhelmingly delicious, but also provides easily digested full tilt nutrition. As a 28 year veg/5 year gluten free diet I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I have been craving the Fakon Mushroom Burger ever since the last bite. OMG SOOOO GOOOD!
    Bite club— I’m glad you gave this restaurant it’s due review, but I never feel like you represent me and I know a huge number of unspoken people feel the same given Sonoma County’s health demographic. Your approach to this article was archaic at best. I do, however, agree that Kathy and staff could easily market their gluten free breads on the shelves by the door. But then again, perhaps it’s smart to leave your clientele with a crave to return for.
    PD—perhaps it’s time to have another person on staff who does understand and represent this health aspect of Sonoma County culture, from yoga to restaurant reviews. We are not ‘fringe’ for simply desiring healthy life affirming choices. Rather, it seems the very essence of Sonoma County to me.
    SERIOUS KUDOS FOR THE GARDEN!!!! The only drawback is choosing between dishes!

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  11. BiteClub I’m glad you reviewed The Garden. I’ve been wanting to eat there and from your review it sounds like a great place. How wonderful that Santa Rosa has another vegan restaurant (in addition to Seed)! I wish you didn’t feel the need to denigrate the entire cuisine and lifestyle at the start of the review. It seems as if you’re embarrassed to be caught actually liking vegetarian food, as if your diehard fans might think you’re going soft. As an omnivore, shouldn’t it be okay for you to enjoy all types of food? Be proud that you’re expanding your repertoire – it will make you a better restaurant critic, and allow you to reach a wider audience.

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  12. We are a vegan restaurant. We do not use any animal or any dairy products which come from animals. We are strictly “vegetarian”, plant based only. We believe that the true definition of vegetarian is vegan. We strive to serve only those things that are good for your heart, good for your mind, good for your friends, good food all the time!

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  13. So, is this a vegan restaurant or vegetarian?

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  14. I am the owner of the Garden, and I am not in any way offended by any of these posts. I’m just glad to see so many thinking people trying out our restaurant. We purposefully designed the menu to have lots of familiar foods – vegan style – to appeal to the meat eating folks. We hope to offer good choices that are easy to swallow :-) I do apologize for having my busser put up the chairs when guests are still in the restaurant….you are right, bad, very bad…just trying to save a few bucks by getting the job done sooner than later, bad move. Won’t happen again, so sorry :-( As a new business we are still working out the kinks and appreciating all the encouraging feed back we can get. We really do want to be an extraordinary place where you love to be. Our Open House/Grand Opening is this Sunday. Hope to c’ya at The Garden :-)

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  15. To say that we have canines for the purpose of eating meat is ridiculous. Evolution has reduced our canines dramatically, they are no where near the size they once were, when their purpose was primarily for tearing very tough vegetation (our relatives of the genus Homo are estimated to have ate a diet that consisted of about 80% vegetation). Can you tear into raw meat with your canines? Anyway eat whatever you want, I’m just a crazy stickler for factual details :)

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  16. The wife and I decided to try the new eatery less than a half mile from our house. Neither one of us are vegan but what the hey, we’re foodies. She had a salad with a tofu we had never had before, very tasty and very un bean curd like. I had a fettucine dish which I enjoyed. I have a problem with the lack of a decent wine list. Every restaurant should have one. But my biggest gripe was the tabling of the chairs and closing regime when there were customers in the restaurant. Very bad.

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  17. Go eat a burger darling. It might help your sense of humor.

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  18. If I owned this restaurant I would be offended that you ate there. You sound so ignorant I feel like we’re in the south.

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  19. Hilarious yet accurate review! As a diabolically dedicated un-vegan pro-meatasaurus I expected the worst (I.e. Movie – Baby Mama – “please enjoy a delicious yeast ball for the table”, bleh & ick gimme back my $$$) & was completely unprepared for the yummy normalcy of 100% vegan renditions of all my old fav’s. Try the enchiladas or (believe it or not…) the Haystacks! I’m with you on the carob cake but the not-cheesecake is perfectly divine!

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  20. You would have to taste the food…it really is delicious! Flavorful, to say the least! And a great option for those of us who don’t eat meat.

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  21. This review is hilarious! I cook meatless at home quite a bit and tend toward meat dishes when dining out- so this place isn’t really high on my list, but enjoyed reading the review nonetheless.

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