Steppin’s Out – Rose’s Garden Café

A few weeks ago Rose’s Garden Café, which is located at 4916 Marshall Grade in Garden Valley (next to the real estate office), had a huge party celebrating their tenth anniversary. I wasn’t able to make the celebration, but a couple of Fridays ago Russ Salazar and I drove over there and were happily greeted by both John and Rose Anderson, the owners.

Rose’s is an old fashioned diner with all kinds of neat pictures and maps on the wall, a place to post your business card and even a group of regulars and families eating and enjoying themselves. And everyone who walks in is greeted by John, Rose and often other diners. When was the last time you were in a restaurant where people said, “Love you,” to the owners as they left?

As it was the last time I was there, the menu is on several large whiteboards, covering two walls, plus a movable specials board. Don’t bother asking for a menu to look at or take home, there isn’t one.

“We first started serving deli sandwiches, hot dogs and ice cream” John told me the last time I was there, “and things expanded as customers asked for something different, which we then named after them. The menu just evolved.”

The menu is huge and includes items such as Stephanie’s spicy Buffalo chicken sandwich, Ian’s jalapeño pepperjack burger, Margie’s chef’s salad, Johnny’s spicy chicken salad, Erin’s veggie sandwich, Bill’s BLT, Mr. Spencer I and Mr. Spencer II (pastrami and Swiss with lettuce ‘I,’ or coleslaw ‘II’). There is even a very popular “Grizzly burger” named for nearby Golden Sierra High School’s mascot. It is a burger with bacon, onions, barbecue sauce and all the trimmings ( I’m going to have one next time).

“Our burgers, sandwiches, and especially the French Dip, are the number one sellers,” said John, “and we get a lot of to-go orders for them, especially at lunch time.”

Years ago John and Rose worked for a company in Auburn. They were both laid off and started making their third generation (grandfather, father and son) Scottish shortbread which they sold to local businesses, including Mochas and More, which was at this location.

“One day we showed up with a delivery and there was a sign that they were closing,” said John. “Rose had some restaurant experience, so I looked at her and said, ‘What do you think?’ she said, ‘Let’s do it,’ so, ten years ago, we opened Rose’s Café.”

Since it was the first Friday of the month, it was Lumpia Day (Lumpia is a traditional Filipino dish similar to a spring roll). I had tried the Lumpia before, but never with the accompanying rice noodle dish called Pancit.

The lumpia came with two dipping sauces (sweet and sour and garlic-vinegar) and is a thin shell filled with chicken and vegetables. The rice noodles in Pancit were loaded with seasonal vegetables and both were wonderfully delicious. They even got a smile from Salazar.

“In the Philippines we serve Lumpia on special occasions and holidays,” said Rose. “We started serving them here every Friday, but it became too much. So now we only do them for dinner on the first Friday of the month. We usually sell out and should today because the Jeepers Jamboree is on and we have a reservation for 16 this evening.”

Our next sample dish was some of their marinated and grilled tri-tip that they use in their sandwiches. By itself it was quite tender and had a nice flavor. In a sandwich it would be even better.

Next we were given a piece of their outstanding battered fish and some fries to try. I had sampled this before and wanted Salazar’s opinion.

They use cod and it has a very thin batter, which keeps the fish moist and delicious. As I expected, both of us loved the fish and I liked the crinkle-cut fries they use. They are crisper than regular fries.

Fries are not on the top of Salazar’s list, so I snacked on his while he and John got into quite a lengthy conversation about everything.

John then decided we needed to share a cappuccino shake, made with real ice cream. While we were enjoying it, he decided we also needed a hot fudge sundae to top off the meal. Fortunately he understands the word “small,” because last time he gave me a large sundae.

Something I didn’t know before is that Rose’s Café has been involved with the high school’s Workability Program, where they send students to businesses to learn while working. “We have had about 40 students over the years.” said John, adding, “Everyone knows the first job sets a precedent and we are proud to be a part of the program.”

While we were there one of their former students, Dylan Albert, who is now a culinary arts student at American River College, was in the kitchen. “I like to come in and volunteer some time now and then just to learn,” said Albert, with a very excited look in his eyes. You can see he has what it takes and I am sure it won’t be long before Chef Dylan will make his debut in the restaurant business.

The food it great, the atmosphere is great, the people are great. What else can I say?

Rose’s Garden Café is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Closes both Sunday and Monday. For more information call them at 530-333-9900.

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