Huerto Cafe: Eating in a garden from the garden, the natural, yesteryear way

Huerto Cafe is a spotless little charmer aptly named, since it features an on-site organic garden of herbs and veggies, some of which will wind up in your salads.

A long nursery of plants, many newly fledged, in deep business-like pots, stretches back over a patch of garden alongside the restaurant. Some of the produce is for sale.  Huerto Cafe describes itself as Deli Agricultura Urbana, which you may translate as farm-fresh crops grown at the center of the city bustle. It’s Huerto Cafe’s notice of produce freshness.

Large industries call this vertical integration. Here, it’s just called “root, stem and leaf to your plate.” Not quite as exciting as choosing your own lobster, but a similar idea.

Just opposite the many-potted orchard, guests may consider the little art deco living/dining room setting at the front as you head toward the checkered table cloths inside. If unoccupied, it offers a long coffee table with sofa chairs furnishing a bright and spacious room by itself. It’s tastefully cozy and from another era. 

The Huerto Cafe menu is limited: salads of all sorts piled with fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs; sandwiches, including a nicely layered traditional Club served with potato salad; and several soup selections. Huerto Cafe is a luncheon stop for good food, not a dining original. And the handsome young people at service are a delight and enhancement.

In keeping with the Huerto motif, I ordered the vegetarian panino. It served up grilled mushrooms, sprouts, carrots, red bell pepper and zucchini with lettuce, tomato, and onion. The whole-grain bolillo was at ten inches and the innards were coated in a Huerto Cafe herb sauce and manchego cheese. It came with what else, a garden salad, all fresh with a Huerto Cafe special house dressing. Now, while this is simple luncheon fare, it is tasty and satisfying, and goes down easy.

My guest started with a request not on the menu, a bowl of guacamole with taco chips. So one was whipped up readily just for her. She followed that up with the roast beef panino – another “submarine” size sandwich on a whole grain bun, plump with rare roast beef, chipotle mayonnaise, and manchego cheese. A weightier version of the vegetarian.

Now, here’s the big non-vegan twist: the People’s Choice Awards listed Huerto Cafe among the top three restaurants at Lakeside for BBQ ribs – and the venue currently enjoys an avid following for the big meaty meal. The ribs come with corn, potato salad or other side requests. Regrettably, the ribs are available only on the weekends.

Anyway, our sandwiches were a perfect mid-day meal and presented without much adieu, and they left us with room for dessert, of which there were many standards to choose from. The apple pie (a la mode) and the chocolate cake were distinctly fresh, possibly even freshly baked, not just a restaurant afterthought for something sweet.  

Beverages run from smoothies and tea to cervezas, sodas and juices. Find this interesting little nook on the lakeside of the Carretera in Riberas de Pilar just east of  Lakeside Medical Group. No problem parking, but get there early for space if you’re wanting those ribs.