Constructed in 1878, the Mendocino Hotel is “location, location, location” personified. Anchoring historic Main Street in the village of Mendocino, California with a commanding view of the Mendocino Headlands and Pacific Ocean, the hotel is a charming structure of Victorian history and style. If not a guest of the hotel, when visiting Mendocino, at least take a peek inside and marvel at the beautifully period lobby with its conversation nooks, intimate window seating, along with the beautiful oval stained glass ceiling of the lobby bar and period Victorian dining room is a must.
My caregivers and I have often strolled through the charming and colorful gardens at the back of the hotel and had a seat at one of the marble and wrought iron tables to savor a scoop of ice cream that is available at a little creamery at the back of the hotel’s Garden Café. We had never seen the patio tables used for alfresco dining at lunch. As I am usually always accompanying my caregivers, on a whim one beautifully sunny coastal day, we decided to see if we could have lunch in the garden.
As I made myself comfortable in one of the chairs and admired the gardens full of their vivid flora of lilies, lavender, agapanthus, bear claws and a plethora of wild flowers and ornamentals with their heavenly bouquet, one of my caregivers went inside the Café to see if having our lunch served outside would be possible. He talked to a very helpful server, Hannah, who said that even though the patio was not scheduled to be open that day, she would be happy to take care of us. When my caretaker came out with the news, we were all very excited.
Hannah soon appeared and wiped off the table we had chosen and welcomed us to the cafe. She efficiently set the table and handed out menus, then told us about the lunch specials along with the prices (a welcome touch). My caregivers asked for a few minutes to look over the beverage list, but asked Hannah if it would be possible to get some water for me. She said, “Of course” and focused her attention to me which I couldn’t help but enjoy.
Hannah returned promptly with my water and by this time my caregivers had decide on beverages. They both ordered the passion fruit iced tea and water with lemon; this was soon delivered along with a basket of warm sliced Ciabatta Bread with a side of olive oil that had a delicious distinct nutty flavor. My caregivers liked it so much that they asked Hannah if she could find out what kind it was, which she did willingly and it turned out to be Greek, cold pressed, extra virgin.
For the uninitiated, I am not your average canine diner, in fact, I am quite the opposite. My caregivers believe in excellent table manners and have taught me accordingly. I sit in my seat at the table with silverware and my water bowl and when my food selection is placed in front of me, I wait until one of my caregivers cuts bite size pieces (sometimes this has already been done by the chef). Then a piece of food is placed on a fork and offered to me to savor. Sometimes my caregivers get a little too preoccupied with their own food or conversation and I have to gently remind them that I am ready for another piece of food by tapping them with my paw. Sometimes the food is so yummy that I get over enthusiastic and the word ‘easy’ is used and that is my cue to take the food more gently.
One of my caregivers asked Hannah what from the menu would she suggest might be especially appealing to me, my caregivers having explained that I am unusual for my species and ‘somewhat of a gourmet’. Hannah thought that the Chicken Apple Sausage might satisfy my gastronomical palette; I licked my lips enthusiastically at the suggestion. The other items ordered were the Reuben and the steamed Prince Edward Island Mussels (a choice of French or sweet potatoes fries accompanies both the Reuben and the mussels; with the Reuben a garden salad is also an option instead of the fries). With choices made and order in, we waited contentedly soaking up the ambiance of this tranquil outdoor setting.
Enjoying a bite of Chicken Apple Sausage
Soon our food arrived and as Hannah unloaded her tray, “oh’s” and “ah’s” came instinctively out of my caregivers mouths (I have learned that this is a good sign). As previously noted for those regular readers of my blog reviews will know, my caretakers like many of us, have certain foods that they love and order regularly at different establishments, this they often use to gauge the caliber of the restaurant and chef. These items in past reviews have included Banana’s Foster, New England style clam chowder and in this particular instance, the Reuben. My caretakers have eaten Reubens all over the country including at such legendary establishments as Canters in Los Angeles, and the Carnegie Deli in New York, so they do know a good Reuben when they taste one. It would be unfair to judge the Mendocino Hotel’s Reuben for not being faithful to the Jewish deli traditional Reuben, theirs naturally has a Californian twist that enhances rather than detracts and it is a yummy example of the genre. Lean thinly sliced corned beef, piled high with white wine sauerkraut, melted aged Gruyere cheese and smothered with house made dressing then sandwiched between two slices of delicious artisan Rye bread. The garden salad with its baby lettuce, grape tomatoes, cucumber slices and wonderful buttermilk, tarragon and Dijon mustard vinaigrette was a perfect accompaniment.
The steamed Prince Island mussels were served in a large bowl brimming to the top with a generous helping of the beautifully shiny black/blue shells that held the plump orange flesh that were hungrily soaking up the aromatic flavor from the sauce of white wine, diced fresh tomatoes and shallots, plenty of whole garlic cloves (a garlic lover’s paradise) and garnished with chopped scallions. Accompanying the mussels in a French cone were the best of all things, my first taste of a sweet potato fry. I was a canine in doggie heaven along with my human companions. They are now my all time favorite and I have learned they are good for me, in moderation of course, they should not be greasy if being fried and these delectable morsels were perfectly firm on the outside and soft and sweet on the inside. The saffron aioli that was served alongside the fries for dipping was unfortunately bland and uninspiring, which is a shame because with a little more of a kick, it would be a perfect match for the exquisite fries. Hannah was thoughtful enough to bring an extra bowl for the shells, an appropriate fork to prey the mussel from the shell, and at the end of the meal a hot towel for a refreshing clean of the hands. We were so contentedly full that we abstained from dessert.
A few weeks later, we decided to see if our first experience to the Garden Café was just an anomaly. This time I invited more of my human friends to join me and again it turned out to be another beautiful sunny day when the six of us arrived at the patio of the hotel. Once more, one of my caregivers went and asked if it would be possible to accommodate us dining on the patio outside. The person said they would check with the Manager and excused themselves, shortly they came back and said that it would not be a problem. As we were all getting situated two servers/bus persons arrived and quickly set up our table. Jesus introduced himself as the person who would be taking care of our party and got to work immediately explaining the specials (with prices), then excusing himself so he could give us a few minutes to peruse the beverage menu. Jesus soon returned with a bowl of water (unsolicited) for moi.
This time some of my guest ordered glasses of wine and beer along with iced tea and water. The hotel has a very comprehensive wine and beer list featuring many Mendocino County produced labels. Once again the Reuben was ordered along with the California Club Melt: a Ciabatta Roll piled high with rock shrimp, avocado slices, melted white cheddar cheese, arugula and red onion slice. The pasta of the day was another choice, salmon pieces, asparagus and roasted bell peppers with herb cream sauce over penne pasta. The individual pizza special of roasted vegetables, pesto and several cheeses was another selection chosen, the quiche special including caramelized onions, gruyere cheese and the hummus sandwich that contained generous amounts of alfalfa sprouts, roasted red bell peppers, pickled red onions, tomato and avocado slices, piled high on herbed Foccacia bread, rounded out the human orders. I decided that the Certified Angus Beef Patty would be to my liking on this visit, holding all the usual hamburger accompaniments except, of course, the sweet potato fries.
Even though we had enjoyed attentive service from Hannah on our initial visit, I couldn’t help noticing that my party and I seemed to have on this visit a lot of extra attention paid to us. We had two servers and two bus person in attendance constantly, not obtrusively, but professionally and efficiently. Then it dawned on me, the word is out. I HAVE BEEN RECOGNIZED!!! I should have come in disguise as Ruth Reichl does in “Comfort Me with Apples”.
Knowing that our requests to eat outside occurred when the patio was technically closed, my caregivers contacted the manger of the Mendocino Hotel to ask if this practice would be available to other customers who had canine dining companions. He said that the hotel always strives to accommodate guest who have pets. He recommended that to avoid disappointment, potential diners with pets should PLEASE call the hotel at 707.937.0511, before arriving to make sure that your party can be accommodated on the patio. Diners please remember that it may not always be possible to be served outside on the patio and to understand that without prior warning, the hotel may not have the staff on duty to accommodate patio service.
If you are lucky enough to dine on the patio at the Mendocino Hotel, you will hopefully experience as I have, a glorious lunch, in beautiful surroundings that are quintessentially Mendocino.
Due to the fact that the hotel cannot always guarantee being able to accommodate canines, I can only award three paws, but they are three paws well deserved.