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Friday, February 25, 2011

California Garden Family Restaurant

  I had taken notice of this small restaurant near a Best Buy when I was recently shopping at Big Lots.  Mrs. Dayton Dining and I were trying to decide between this place and another, and decided to swing by for a closer look.  The sign out front was not lit up at all, but I remembered the place had California in the name from earlier.  This is the second time in just the past few weeks where I've wondered if a place is open when approaching it.  A slow drive-by made it pretty obvious it was a family restaurant, and there were small but bright LED signs on at least 3 sides of the building proclaiming it open.  Even so, we got there just before 7, and they were about to lock the door.  You can get it just before 7, then sit down and have a nice meal, but they don't want anyone new coming in after the 7pm mark, evidently.  (note that while the menu says they close at 5, the doors admit new customers until 7)

  The main area inside has roughly a dozen tables, with another small, more private dining area on the north side with about 4 tables there.  A single medium to large sized flat screen TV dominates the central eating area, but thankfully it was not turned on while we were there.  The walls have some ornamentation depicting various locales in California.  The menus were the largest I have ever seen - any larger and they might have been difficult to hold without them flopping over.

  The restaurant is essentially American fare, but also has all day breakfast, some healthy California style selections (veggie reuben, anyone?), Italian, stir fry and Mexican.  On the table, underneath the glass, I noticed a flier of sorts advertising the restaurant's 9th anniversary.  According to the flier, from Feb. 17 to March 17, they are having a month long anniversary celebration, offering buy 1 get 1 free on any meal. (1 per check)  We verified this, and that no coupon was needed for the offer.  It is always nice to run into an unexpected buy 1 get 1 deal!
  Both of us were in the mood for some healthy fish this time, so Mrs. Dayton Dining ordered the broiled trout, while I got the broiled orange roughy.  For sides we got applesauce, broccoli and hash browns.  I also ordered onion rings as an appetizer.  The appetizers and sides were brought out in only about 5 or 6 minutes, while it took about 14 or 15 minutes for the fish to be ready.

  The broccoli seemed a bit tough, almost as though it was harvested a bit late, or perhaps it had dried out a little during cooking.  Hash browns were actually a bit soggy, and not very browned at all, except a tiny bit on the outside.  This is unfortunately very common at many of the restaurants I've visited - I suppose I need to specify that I want them to be nicely browned and crispy next time.  Onion rings were decent enough, but I was hoping I'd be able to lavish a little praise on them.

  As for the main course, I was very happy with the broiled orange roughy, which had a slightly buttery and lemon taste, with a bit of black pepper.  Unfortunately, I was barely 1/4 done with it when Mrs. Dayton Dining told me how disappointed she was with the broiled trout.  She said it had a very strong fish flavor.  Now I know from past experience that she doesn't tend to like fish cooked with the scales/skin on it, so I went ahead and swapped with her.

  She had a point this time - the trout was a bit fishy, but the slightly too strong flavor was ameliorated by separating the flesh from the scales, leaving it acceptable to my taste, though certainly not as good as the orange roughy.  Thanks to my Grandfather, I have some experience fishing on Lake Erie, and have eaten a number of species of the fish we caught up there.  If I had to make a comparison, I would say that the trout being served at this restaurant has a taste very similar to sheepshead (freshwater drum) taken out of Lake Erie.  I think it is fine, though nowhere near as good as perch or walleye.  Since the prices are within a dollar of each other, I would caution you to steer clear of the trout, and try the orange roughy (or perhaps the halibut) if you are interested in broiled fish.

  At just under $14, we went with some of the more expensive choices on the menu.  You can spend a bit more with the ribs and shrimp & ribs choices ($17 & $15.80, respectively), but most of the meals are in the $7-$10 range.  Considering the variety of choices they offer, and especially given that the place is offering buy 1 get 1 free meals through March 17, it seems like this would be a good time to give the place a try.  Next time, I believe we may try the breakfast menu.

California Garden Family Restaurant
address: 2190 Shiloh Springs Rd.  45426
telephone: (937) 837-3518

Copyright 2011 Dayton Dining

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