I rolled into wearing rolled up jeans and some sneakers because I was hungry, it was about to rain, and from the outside, the restaurant looks like a glammed up Acapulco’s. I figured I was dressed for casual Friday happy hour and ready to consume some sort of salad with hummus and garlic chicken thrown on top. I’d been intrigued by the banner outside advertising that they now served fries. What? Had there been a sit-in for fry service? Had guest comment cards continually come back demanding fries be added to the menu? Why the hullabaloo over fries? Psyched to try these fries and get my falafel fix, I sauntered in ready to get my grub on.
Insert screeching to a halt sound effect here.
The outside of Garden Grill does not adequately prepare one for the inside. It’s a trick. I should have worn something snazzy and maybe brought a date who drives a beamer. I was misled by the fry sign and plaster parrots in the foliage, not to mention the wrecked car parked out back that gave the hint that this place may double as a body shop. So it wasn’t really my fault. It was a case of false advertising. Garden Grill is nice. As in nice, nice. As in low whistle nice.
Anyway, it didn’t take me long to realize that this was in fact a classy, family-owned Persian cuisine establishment. The family was seated at a table by the door taking their afternoon break. I know they gave me the side eye, glancing at my canvas tote bag and previously mentioned rolled up jeans. I was escorted to a nice table, opened the menu, and hoped my credit card wouldn’t get rejected. I ordered tea and water and the waiter interpreted that as all I was having. He took my menu, smiled, and moved away. Ironic. Hadn’t I just learned that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover?
I asked a lot of questions. Sweet waiter, most likely the son, nephew, or grandson of the owners, quietly answered and smiled. He did this every time I tried to order or wanted to know something about the place. I feel like he gets A’s in school and volunteers teaching puppies to be guide dogs on the weekends. I wondered if I was freaking him out?
What freaked me out was what I ate. It started with a large serving of traditional mint and radishes, which, without the feta or nuts, seemed most likely to be enjoyed wrapped in pita. I thought about Googling it but it worked out. Next, I moved on to Fesenjoon, which is a chicken stew with pureed pomegranates and walnuts served with basmati rice topped with a bit of saffron rice. Both the rice and the meat were a little dry, but the stew sauce was rich, a bit tangy thanks to the pomegranate, and added the right amount of saturation to the dish. I don’t have a lot of experience with Persian food, but my first reaction was to swear and wonder what I was eating – in a positive way.
Followed with some hot tea and a baklava that left the aroma of lavender on my taste buds, the meal was a real treat. At the end, Lironzeh Shirazi stopped by to tie up my bag of leftovers and make sure I was happy. Kind, glad to hear I was pleased, and demurely polite, she probably hadn’t given me the side eye at all. In fact, she may have been more excited than I was by my discovery of Koobideh kabob and Ghormeh sabzi.
Garden Grill’s menu offers grill special kabob combinations with lamb, beef, chicken, pork, fish, and vegetable offerings. Appetizers include yogurt and cucumber and kashk badejan, a classic eggplant dish. Prices range from $11.95 to $22.95 for entrees. Servings are great for sharing as they are big and it would be fun to mix options.
Garden Grill is good choice when you want something different, an experience in food rather than just a dinner. When it’s warm out, lounge on the large foliage adorned patio that provides a calming buffer between the restaurant and Foothill Boulevard. Inside, ponder the magnificence of the oil painting/tapestries resembling covers of ancient Middle Eastern romance novels. Just don’t let appearances fool you. And don’t worry about the fries.
2309 Foothill Blvd., La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011
Open daily, 11:30 a.m. - 9 p.m.