Los Osos restaurant is a local favorite
—If you’re looking for a hearty breakfast or satisfying lunch, make the drive to Celia’s Garden Café in Los Osos and enjoy comfort food at its finest. Situated inside a little red house, the restaurant is conveniently located on Los Osos Valley Road, and is known to most locals as the Garden Café or, simply, Celia’s.
Owner Celia Alfirevic is celebrating 17 years in business this December and the restaurant is busier than ever. Her dedicated staff handles the daily operations, with Celia helping out on weekends with hostess duties, special events, and party catering on or off-site.
“Most weekdays I stop in to say hello and check on things or maybe enjoy a meal with friends,” Alfirevic said. “It’s truly one of my favorite places to be. We have a close-knit crew. I call everyone ‘my girls’ and there’s a lot of comradery. On weekends, we tend to have a waiting list, so I like to come in, greet people, and keep things flowing.”
Comfort food at its finest
It’s no surprise Celia’s Garden Café is a favorite of locals and visitors alike. With a menu featuring dishes made from scratch using fresh, local ingredients, the restaurant has a loyal following and consistently receives stellar reviews. Decorated with garden-themed paintings from a local artist, the café is cozy and warm, and everyone is greeted with a smile before being seated indoors or at an outside table on one of the café’s two dog-friendly patios.
Celia’s Garden Café keeps people coming back for more with traditional breakfast and American-style lunch offerings. Alfirevic makes the now-famous apricot jam and house salsa, and every dish from the chili relleno to the fish and chips is prepared fresh daily. The soup changes daily, and local favorites include the blintzes, corned beef hash, chicken fried steak, and biscuits and gravy.
“We definitely specialize in comfort food,” Alfirevic said. “We have a deep-dish quiche with fresh, homemade buttermilk crust, and everyone loves our fresh-squeezed orange juice we prepare each morning. People always rave about our Hollandaise sauce; we make it fresh each morning and it is quite excellent. We get fresh fish from Morro Bay, and our muffins and desserts are amazing – everyone loves the Mud Pie!”
Being part of the food and hospitality industry was not originally part of Alfirevic’s plan. After attending art school in the Bay Area, she lived and worked in Hawaii where she received her formal dining training. After 40+ years working as a waitress in various locales, the opportunity to purchase her own restaurant came about in 2005.
“I have always enjoyed this industry, and I have worked in a lot of different restaurants with different styles,” Alfirevic explained. “Owning a cafe never was a dream of mine; it kind of just fell in my lap. When my husband, Mark, told me the previous owners decided to sell, I was at the stage in my life when it was just the right time.”
Owning and operating a cafe proved to be much different than working as a waitress.
“I just figured I’d do what I’d always done; be nice, attentive, take care of the clientele but I didn’t realize all that was involved with running a business,” Alfirevic said. “I learned quickly and I still enjoy what I’m doing. I just wear different hats as an employer, accountant, greeter, a fix-things-as-we-go person; I do it all and I love it.”
Better than ever
Alfirevic quickly focused on improving upon the best sellers on the menu and added more offerings. She brought in fresh ingredients, and updated the lunch menu.
“You can’t change bacon and eggs, so I had to change the quality,” she explained. “I brought in better quality bacon, extra-large eggs, and served fresh potatoes every morning. Instead of one kind of Eggs Benedict, we offer six or seven. Instead of a few omelets, we offer eight or nine.”
Customer favorites include the quiche, lunch salads, hand-carved turkey, and the Rueben sandwich. Breakfast is served throughout the day, with light menu and kids’ menu options available. Beverage offerings include locally-roasted coffee, fresh-squeezed orange juice, local beers and wines, and her nephew’s wine from Mendocino County, Es Okay.
“I am always getting compliments on my staff, whether I’m at work or out in public,” Alfirevic said. “Everyone is welcoming, friendly, attentive, and happy. I take pride in saying we do our best to ensure everyone visiting our cafe enjoys a great meal and understands we are appreciative they chose to be here with us.”
Celia’s Garden Café, located at 1188 Los Osos Valley Road in Los Osos, is the perfect place to enjoy a meal on your way to or from Montana de Oro State Park or beautiful Morro Bay. Open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on weekends, with dinner served during the spring and summer months. For more information, including catering, call (805) 528-5711 or visit celiasgardencafe.com.
— Meagan Friberg