It takes a little work to find Cafe Solstice, Ginger's Garden Cafe and Rosie's Deli. These three small, locally owned restaurants are hidden inside an import store, an herb shop and a market, respectively. But diners who have discovered these gems, either by accident or word of mouth, are rewarded with fresh food, reasonable prices and neighborly service. The three eateries also share something else in common female owners. Take a peek inside these three dining darlings.
Where • Inside the Dancing Crane Imports, 673 Simpson (2240 South), Salt Lake City; 801-487-0980.
Menu • Owner Erin Arrigo and her staff serve salads, sandwiches, wraps and a soup special that changes daily. One day there might be a spicy three sisters stew with butternut squash, corn and black beans; on another day, what's served is a Portuguese potato and kale soup. While almost all the menu offerings are vegetarian, there's also a turkey pesto sandwich for carnivores. In addition, there's a generous selection of loose-leaf teas, chai, espresso, smoothies and specialty drinks. The cafe also makes muffins, English scones, biscotti and other cookies in-house.
History • The Dancing Crane has been in business for several years and was once home to the Singing Cricket Cafe. In April 2010, Carlene and Jimmy Carlson bought the import-and-gift shop and asked Arrigo, their long-time friend, to resurrect a restaurant. After Arrigo opened Cafe Solstice in August, one of the first things she put on the menu was the Solstice Tacos ($7.25), her version of the popular Sun Tacos that "she made a thousand of" while working at the old New Frontiers health-food store.
Why it works • "Dancing Crane has been around for so long and has a loyal customer base, so we have this instant community," Arrigo said.
Location bonus • Buy a cup of tea or chai, and then wander around looking for gifts and trinkets. When you're all done shopping, sit down for lunch.
Best bets • The hummus 'n' olive sandwich ($6.75) contains a house-made black and green olive tapenade that will make even an olive-hater happy. For something lighter, don't miss the refreshing mango-basil smoothie ($3.50 or $4).
Details • Open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Daily specials posted on http://www.facebook.com/CafeSolstice
Where • Inside Jade Market, 353 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City; 801-363-2430
Menu • The average home has a bigger kitchen than Rosie's Deli. But owner Amber Rose Radman still manages to prepare soups, salads, sandwiches and daily specials fresh each day. She roasts chicken, slow-cooks pork, crisps bacon and sautÃ©s peppers and onions, which is why customers line up at breakfast and lunch. If there's a line, diners politely wait, browsing through the chips, nuts and other items on the grocery store shelves. When it's their turn, customers step up, give Radman their order and she prepares it while they watch, making it exactly how they request, whether that's with extra avocado or salad dressing on the side. There are a few tables at Rosie's deli, but most customers get their food to go.
The history • Radman said she worked in dozens of restaurants in high school and college, even working for a short time for Tony Caputo's. Then friend Mary Gordon offered to lease her the kitchen space inside The Jade Market. "We've been in business together five years in November, and I just signed a lease for another five years," Radman said. Even if she had a chance to move to a larger space, Radman said she wouldn't. "I like this neighborhood a lot."
Why it works • Customers range from doctors to the homeless. "The majority of my customers come by word of mouth and they go out of their way to find the place," she said. "I'm always stunned by that."
Location bonus • Since it's in a grocery store, customers can grab a drink, fresh fruit and chips and pay for everything at the front counter.
Best bets • The turkey, bacon, and avocado sandwich ($6) is a winner. But don't miss the breakfast sandwiches served on Vosen's bagels or the daily specials, such as meatballs on Monday or pulled pork on Thursday.
Details • Open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.; http://www.facebook.com/pages/Rosies-Deli/236993070901
GINGER'S GARDEN CAFE
Where • Inside Dr. Christopher's Herb Shop, 188 S. Main St., Springville; 801-489-4500.
Menu • There's something for every eating regimen here: vegetarian sandwiches and pizzas, vegan burgers, raw soups and even wraps and salads for meat-lovers. Bobbie Henderson, the owner, serves a balanced menu and proves that healthy food can taste good really good. She buys fresh fruits and vegetables from farmers markets and a local co-op, insists on serving free-range meats and she even has her own tomato grower. The vegan nachos are a feast for the stomach and the eyes: blue corn tortillas, covered with a "cheese" sauce made from nutritional yeast and topped with black beans and fresh salsa. The restaurant should probably put its vegan ranch dressing on tap, says Katie White, the kitchen manager. "It's incredible how much we go through."
History • David Christopher founded the School of Natural Health, located on the building's second floor, about 17 years ago. He always wanted a restaurant and herb shop to complement his lessons. His wish came true in October 2005, when Henderson opened Ginger's, which is named for Christopher's granddaughter.
Why it works • "People who come in the shop looking for herbs are usually pretty health-conscious and are really excited about a menu like ours," White said.
Location bonus • Large east-facing windows offer customers a mountain view to enjoy with their meal.
Best bets • Any raw soup: It might be green pea and avocado one day, and cucumber and-cilantro the next ($4.40, cup; $6 bowl). The Mandarin chicken salad with sesame dressing is another good choice, featuring free-range chicken layered on a bed of greens, with purple cabbage and sugar snap peas, with all of it garnished with fresh (not canned) Mandarin oranges and toasted almonds ($6 half;-$9 whole). If you're adventurous, order the turkey-avocado club with "bacon" made in-house using sun-dried tomatoes and sunflower seeds ($6 half; $9, whole).
Details • Open Monday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; http://www.gingersgardencafe.com.
Cafe Solstice olive tapenade
1/4 cup fresh cilantro with stems, or more to taste
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 of one jalapeÃ±o pepper, chopped with seeds*
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1 cup pitted green olives
Place cilantro, garlic, jalapeÃ±o pepper and olive oil in a food processor. Using the "s" blade, blend well. Add olives and pulse until desired consistency.
Spread on bread or crackers. Add a dollop on top of cooked spaghetti or other pasta dish. Stir in hummus for a dip. Use it to make a jazzed up grilled cheese sandwich.
*For less heat, remove seeds from jalapeÃ±o.
Servings • about 1 cup
Source: Cafe Solstice