By MADOLINE MARKHAM
The Gardens Café by Kathy G. extends the pleasures of strolling through the Birmingham Botanical Gardens into a culinary experience. You can pick up a brown bag or picnic basket lunch to enjoy in the gardens themselves, or if you prefer more formal dining, you can order their garden bistro menu at a table on the café’s covered patio or the uncovered terrace.
When it’s cold, hot or rainy, you can move inside to the dining room for a view of the gardens and a fresh flower arrangement at your table.
“We really just want to make the restaurant part of the gardens,” manager Tamara Archer said.
Like the landscape that surrounds it, the menu at The Gardens Café changes seasonally, about every four months, and incorporates local and seasonal ingredients where possible. Although the vegetables grown at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens are donated to Magic City Harvest, the café sometimes uses some of their fresh herbs.
Their most popular dish stays on the menu all year: Kathy G.’s Pecan Honey Mustard Chicken Salad, served on a sandwich or salad with greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and flat bread crackers. The menu also features a selection of specialty sandwiches, appetizers, entrees and desserts.
In the summer a menu favorite is their tomato pie, an individual pie full of fresh tomatoes and cheeses and served with a salad. It will be available through September before the menu changes for the fall, Archer said.
Every Wednesday the café serves a crab cake with a mixed green salad, and every Thursday it serves shrimp and grits. They also have a soup of the day and other daily specials throughout the week.
Beyond lunchtime, the restaurant is a popular place for bridal lunches, garden club events and other special events. The entire restaurant is available for rent, or just the upstairs balcony, which seats about 30 and offers more privacy.
The Gardens Café is the only restaurant operated by Kathy G., a full service catering and events company owned by Kathy Mezrano.
Members of The Birmingham Botanical Gardens receive a 10 percent discount at the café when they show their membership card.
After your meal, you can venture around to see what is in bloom. The Birmingham Botanical Gardens are free and open daily from dawn to dusk.
“We hope guests enjoy the gardens while they are here,” Archer said.
The Gardens Café by Kathy G.
2612 Lane Park Road
Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.