Back to Mary’s Secret Garden, a Review

When Alan and I were in Ventura this weekend, the question came up, of course, where are we going to eat?”

There is one vegan restaurant in Ventura, Mary’s Secret Garden. We’d been there once four or five years ago, but our experience was only okay. The prices are somewhat high, and that, combined with a controversy a couple years ago had kept us away.

We’d made do, on our infrequent visits to Ventura, by finding vegan-friendly restaurants like the Nature’s Grill, and last year, Red Brick Pizza, both of which were nice, enjoyable dining experiences.

But sometimes, it is just so relaxing and enjoyable to go to a restaurant where you can order anything on the menu without worry, without asking the server a barrage of questions they usually don’t know the answers to anyway.

So I suggested that we go to Mary’s Secret Garden. I’m very glad we did.

Alan and I arrived at the restaurant, just a quick five minute drive from our hotel, about 7:00. I hadn’t even thought to make a reservation, but fortunately, there was a table, that, although it was reserved, wasn’t needed for an hour. Since we’d be making an early night of it anyway, because of the triathlon the next morning, we said that was perfect.

Mary's Secret Garden

Mary’s is small, with tables that are tiny and a little too close together. We felt that we were a part of the conversation taking place next to us. Apparently their table was needed for a reservation, too, because their server kept checking back every few minutes to see if they were ready to pay.

Our server, on the other hand was lovely. We never felt rushed, she was knowledgeable about the menu and specials, and she had a very low key and nice personality.

As we waited for our drinks (I had a beer, Alan stuck with water), we looked around the room. Like many vegetarian/vegan establishments, it has a bit of a hippy vibe, with new age paintings on the wall, and sayings written on the ceiling.

Mary's Secret Garden

The menu is small, and yes, the prices are a little high. They serve a variety of smoothies in addition to dinner entrees, and there are a few raw dishes from which to choose.

Alan decided on the Barbecue Bakin Burger. At $13, it came with a cup of split pea and lentil soup.

Mary's Secret Garden

Barbecue Bakin Burger. Barbequed veggie patty, melted cheeze and Fakin Bakin, Smothered with grilled red onions and Barbeque Sauce. Served open face with lettuce and Cilantro Vegenaise on a Whole Grain Bun.

Since my raw food class a few weeks ago, I’ve had the urge to try different raw items (and I haven’t got around to preparing any of the meals that I learned in class), so I decided to try the Deluxe Raw Tostada. Served with a cilantro pico salad, it was $16.

Mary's Secret Garden

Deluxe Raw Tostada. Pumpkin Seed Tostada Shell topped with Chipotle Cashew Cheeze, Mexican Seasoned Mushrooms, Pico De Gallo, Avocado, Shredded Cabbage, Raw Parmesan and sliced Olives.

After a short wait, which we enjoyed because the table next to us was temporarily empty and we could speak to each other, our food arrived. Alan’s burger looked juicy and of decent size. He thought it was very good. He shared a bite and I thought it was just a little too meaty tasting for the mood I was in. I loved the soup, though, it was hot and perfectly seasoned.

When my tostada arrived I first thought that it was a very small serving. The salad was tiny, but I loved just the slight taste of cilantro in each bite. What can I say about the tostada? It was absolutely delicious. Because it was small I made myself savor every bite. As it turned out, it was plenty enough food to fill me up.

Well, almost full. Alan and I saved enough room to share a dessert. We decided on the dessert special, a chocolate cream cupcake with hazelnut ice cream ((I don’t have a full description because it’s not on the regular menu). I think it was about $8. It was rich, creamy, and delicious.

Mary's Secret Garden

Our bill totaled $51 before the tip. Not too bad for a lovely meal for two, one beer, and one dessert. The service was excellent. In spite of the time limit, which we were aware of, our server made no mention of the upcoming reservation, and we never felt rushed in any way.

I would definitely recommend Mary’s Secret Garden for anyone, vegan or not, who is staying in Ventura, and is looking for a delicious, healthful dinner. We will most definitely be back.

Mary’s Secret Garden
100 South Fir Street
Ventura, CA 93001
(805) 641-3663

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