Garden Cafe had been a staple in East Dallas but closed for over a year because of the Covid-19 pandemic. During the time closed they were able to do many renovations and also finally obtain a liquor license, so you no longer need to bring your own. They still have a large patio out back and now have a real bar serving cocktails out front, Thursday through Saturday with brunch on Sunday. There is music in the background and the lights were dimmed midway through our meal. Inside are booths with tile topped tables, high-top tables and regular small tables for 2. On the walls were photos for sale. Service was friendly and well paced but the wine list had already sold out of a number of options. The menu reads nicely but the food has little spark.
Bread service came by the table and had 3 choices. We tried the cheese and pepper as well as the white. Both were on the dry side but edible. The crust was not crisp. The butter with it was whipped.
We wanted to try a number of things to give the place a good check out.
Fried okra and zucchini was served with 2 dipping sauces, remoulade and pickled mustard seed. The zucchini were cut into fairly large pieces that were too much for the crispy coating. Okra was cut into half pieces and still managed to keep a sliminess. It was the better of the two choices. The sauces were good to add flavor to the fried options.
Beef Cheek Fries was mixed with pickled veggie relish and cotija cheese. The braised beef cheeks are also offered as a dinner plate but this starter was big enough to be a dinner plate. The soft small fries melted into the perfectly cooked meat and gravy. The pickled veggies added a little texture and the tartness was nice to pair with the richness of the meat and gravy. It was a good plate.
Blistered Shishito Peppers were mixed with lime juice, fresh cilantro and questo fresco and then topped with crispy shallots. The server warned that they had been running hot and that was fine. Indeed some of the peppers had a good spicy heat to them. There were a lot of them on the plate in varying degrees of blackening. I didn’t detect the cilantro but the crispy shallots were wonderful and a good addition to the dish. For the most part I liked these.
For a main plate the Meat Loaf was topped with house red sauce and served with whipped potatoes and broccolini. The meat loaf slice had been well seared on all sides – almost too much as it made the meat feel dry. The red sauce was a simple tomato sauce and worked with the loaf. The potatoes were a bit dry and had little butter mixed in. The broccolini was way past its date to be used. The florets were more yellow than green.
Nana’s Chicken and Dumplings was somebody’s mother’s original recipe from 1941. The dumplings were large gummy clods in a overly thickened broth with tiny pieces of chicken, carrots and frozen peas. It was topped with 2 large pieces of crispy chicken skin. The flavor was okay but the texture was not and the balance of ingredients bothered me. I think something has been lost in this recipe over the years.