Through the Garden is a fairly well-known restaurant to those in Blue Ash, Ohio. It's often regarded as a favorite lunch hangout for area workers and a vegetarian haven, though meaty dishes easily outweigh the meatless ones. Finding the restaurant is the toughest part: get on Pfeiffer Road from I-71, head west, turn onto Kenwood Road and keep going until you pass the railroad tracks. Soon the small, green-roofed building will appear on the right, often surrounded by a sea of cars.
We arrived at the restaurant on a Friday evening for dinner. The interior is small and every inch of the place is utilized to make the most of the limited square footage. The kitchen opens up to a bar area for additional seating. Tables are aligned closely next to one another, creating a cramped feel many fast-paced restaurants adopt to cater to the fast-and-furious lunch crowd. Some people enjoy this setup but I am not one of them. The seating arrangement makes for a noisy atmosphere and, because the tables are so close together, the diner has no choice but to eavesdrop on neighboring conversations.
It was obvious from the expressions of those seated around us that the service was not going to be very good. The couple beside us appeared to have been waiting a while and had not yet been served their food. Other tables received their entrees before their salads. Only one waiter and one waitress were on staff to tend to nearly 20 tables. They were both frantically sprinting about, trying to correct botched orders while neglecting new arrivals. One group of people had to get up and ask twice for someone to take their order; the manager finally did.
I started off by ordering the fried portobello mushrooms as an appetizer, while my girlfriend ordered a side salad. We waited at least 15 minutes before our stressed-out waitress finally darted by with only the mushrooms. She hastily placed them on the table and was quickly gone to attend to someone else, never saying a word. The long spears of deep fried portobello were served with a side of a honey-mustard vinaigrette sauce and were easily suited for dipping. We both agreed they had a pleasingly light flavor. Unfortunately, the mushrooms were only lukewarm. If only our waitress had served them when the order was first up, the appetizer would have been piping hot and perfect.
My girlfriend had to wait longer for her side salad, consisting of fresh greens topped with chunks of blue cheese, pine nuts, cranberries and a side of cucumber dressing. The salad was as flavorful as it was colorful, well worth the long wait.
Another 15 minutes had passed before we received our dinner. I was served a grilled salmon sandwich with homemade red-skinned potato salad, while my girlfriend ordered a grilled chicken sandwich with provolone and a side of homemade potato chips.
A few moments into our meal, we heard a loud crash and realized our waitress had accidentally knocked over a glass of water at a nearby table. A woman seated there had placed her leather purse on the chair next to her and water was streaming from the table into it. As the embarrassed waitress attempted to clean up the mess, she apologized and said that it was her first day on the job. If I hadn't heard that piece of information, I probably would have tipped her 10% or less.
Overall, the food was ok but the experience was marred by very poor service.
Price: Moderately Expensive ($11 - $16 per person)