Nestled on part of a tree-sheltered acre off Los Osos Valley Road, the aptly named Celia’s Garden Café has blossomed as a tranquil spot for either indoor or al fresco dining.
Owner Celia Alfirevic has longtime roots in Los Osos. She’s lived there for more than 25 years and was a frequent customer of the existing Garden Café before “my husband came home one day and whispered in my ear that it was for sale.” A waitress since the age of 16, Alfirevic hadn’t planned on buying a restaurant, but “it kind of fell into my lap,” and Celia’s Garden Café opened in December 2005.
Beyond just adding a name to the title, the Alfirevics also put considerable work into what you see and what you don’t, especially “a lot of energy into the décor.” More open table seating replaced booths in the cozy but high-ceiling dining room areas, the color scheme was brightened up, and several paintings of flowers and landscapes “really set the garden theme.” The outdoor garden space also was spruced up, making the dog-friendly patio in back even more of a draw.
Alfirevic retained all of the kitchen staff (and wait staff as well), so beyond a few additions, the café’s menu saw little change once she took over. The signature Eggs Benedict with housemade Hollandaise are still a hit, with the traditional ham joined by a Country Benedict with sausage instead of ham, a Supreme with eggplant and even a Greek with spinach, tomatoes, goat cheese and Kalamata olives.
Other popular breakfast choices range from blintzes to a breakfast burrito, lox and bagels to steak and eggs, housemade hash to the Los Osos Scramble with snow peas, sausage, mushrooms and Monterey Jack cheese. You can also get a “Pan San” combo of two buttermilk pancakes served with two eggs and your choice of breakfast meat. Don’t miss out on a glass of fresh, hand-squeezed, organic, local orange juice.
The café’s menu is served all day, so if you’re in the mood for lunch, you’ll have lots of options regardless of the hour. Go for a French Dip sandwich or a Chicken Ortega burger, a Shrimp Louis salad or a deviled egg salad sandwich, a house-roasted/hand-carved turkey dinner with all the fixin’s or a pita filled with Celia’s Curried Turkey made with currants, dates, bell pepper, grapes and rice.
If you want to leave room for housemade desserts such as carrot cake, fruit pies and chocolate mousse torte, opt for something off the “Lite-Menu.” Mostly these are smaller portions of the main meals — half an order of French toast or half sandwiches with a salad or some housemade soup — but ironically it’s also where you’ll find the café’s buttermilk biscuits and country gravy.
In addition to breakfast and lunch, Celia’s Garden Café has quietly opened for dinner on Friday and Saturday evenings in the indoor dining room. Some of the heartier sandwiches and salads are carried over from lunch, as well as the half sandwich option. Full entrées include Chicken Cordon Bleu, pork chops and baked salmon and are served with soup or salad and a choice of sides. You can enjoy your meal with one of several Tobin James wines, and don’t forget about those housemade desserts.
“My customers had asked me for years to open for dinner,” Alfirevic said, “then my staff said they wanted to do it. I’d finally caught my breath from everything else we’d done, so with summer coming up, I just said ‘Well, why not?’ ”