After much harassment and forced tears over the tedium of my life, I got my boyfriend to agree to a little summer trip to Southern California. These days we eat out about, oh… zero times a month. It was time to splurge aimlessly on vegan food.
On our way down US-101 Thursday evening, we stopped in Ventura for dinner at Mary’s Secret Garden, a place I’d seen good reviews about on Yelp. And their online menu grabbed my tastebuds’ attention.
As I entered, the size and decor provoked a mental response of: “Oh, great. Little hippie place.” But I want food to speak for itself.
Although without reservations, we were seated right away at one of the little tables. Our server was very pleasant and attentive. My boyfriend got a $7 pistachio-mint smoothie. That’s a steep price for a non-alcoholic beverage, but it was big and was it ever good. I thought I made great smoothies, but I could learn a thing or two from that rich blend of almond milk, mint, pistachios, bananas, and agave.
He ordered the Secret Burger, while I went for a raw salad. (Yes, we really are that sort of man-and-woman couple. Guess who picked up the check.) I was really impressed by the flavor of that burger. I’ve never had a meat imitation burger that I felt was so nicely… well, meaty. The texture was not beyond any other veggie burger, and it came on a bun with plain fixings. I thought the quinoa on the side was an annoyingly healthy, unimpressive accompaniment.
My salad, though, was something else! I’d sell my friends to get the recipe for that sun-dried tomato and balsamic dressing. It was drizzled over some lovely fresh spinach salad, tomatoes, and onions. Rich macadamia “cheese” with dollops of pesto sat atop the tomatoes to round out this great choreography of flavors. A little nut “Parmesan” sprinkled all over made every bite even better.
I really have no regret over the amount spent (by my boyfriend) on my dinner, so I hate to end with a disapproving note. He just couldn’t resist a chocolate-peanut butter cake. And I would not let him feel uncharitable by not sharing it with me. It was just a piece of cake, though, and not worth $8. How special is sugary peanut butter? And after the last few chocolate chips are gone, there’s nothing to console me. Oh well.
I hope to return, but I’ll certainly trade dessert for a smoothie.