Coral Strong and her husband have always enjoyed exploring San Diego’s dining scene, and in May 2015 decided to turn that shared love into a business venture.
After working as a bartender followed by accounting work for a large construction firm, Strong set out on a mission to find the perfect place to launch a 100% organic and from-scratch restaurant. The location: Rolando.
“Ultimately, I was the crazy lady,” Strong said about opening her business in what she refers to as a “food desert.”
While the Rolando and College Areas have a lot of fast casual restaurants, what Strong brings to the neighborhood with Garden Kitchen is amazingly fresh foods.
So fresh, in fact, that Strong sources all of her food (with the exception of garlic and onions, which are not grown by any area farms) from purveyours within 25 miles of the restaurant. And, if that wasn’t fresh enough, Strong also rotates her menu daily to center around what the farms have available.
Strong recently sat down with Facebook group Eating and Drinking in San Diego founder and PACIFIC podcast host Edwin Real to spread the message of what she’s doing at Garden Kitchen and the following tidbits:
- Running a truly farm-to-table restaurant with a menu that changes daily based on what farms have available.
- Starting out as owner/operator, then jumping into the kitchen after original chef quit sighting daily menu change was too difficult.
- A lack of fresh food options in the Rolando area.
- Finding supportive customers that don’t just go because of convenience.
- Opening Garden Kitchen in May 2015.
- When Coral knew the restaurant was going to make it.
- Name dropping some of the local purveyors she works with including local farmers, fishermen, breweries and wineries.
- Solely supports Benchmark Brewing as beer vendor.
- Carries wines from Valle de Guadalupe, Santa Isabel, Ramona, Fallbrook and other local regions.
- Not just a commitment to local food, but also beer and wines of the region.
- Most food comes from within 25 miles of her restaurant; Wild Willow Farm and Stehly Farms are among the furthest away.
- Every piece of produce (aside from garlic and onions) comes from local farms.
- Where Coral eats locally.
- Coral is not a fan of rebranding; calling it a bad PR move.
- “If you have a good product, they will come.”
- “Failure is not an option.”
- Coral recently created a new space (got the space next door to the restaurant), so she expanded the patio and kitchen and added an indoor wine lounge.
- Parking is bad in San Diego; get over it.
- Next big food destinations, according to Coral: National City and Chula Vista.
- Restaurants fail because they focus too much on bells and whistles/aesthetics and not on food quality.
- Don’t go into the restaurant business unless you have thick skin.
Dish It Up is a collaboration between PACIFIC and Facebook group EDSD.
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4204 Rolando Blvd., Rolando, gardenkitchensd.com
Facebook.com/gardenkitchensd, find daily menus posted here