One thing’s for sure: you’ll know when you’ve arrived in Gilroy, California aka the “Garlic Capital Of The World.” From the declarative road signs to the garlic-themed murals and the scent in the air, all roads lead to garlic in this northern California town.
A good portion of California’s garlic is grown here, it’s pretty much all processed here, and the city is home to the annual garlic festival each summer. As a result almost every restaurant has something garlicky on the menu from bread to fries to ice cream!
If you want to get a taste of all the garlic specialties of the town without the crowds of the garlic festival, the time to visit is now during the Gilroy restaurant month when the town is hosting its first-ever “Fit and Sip” Gilroy Month, during which you can buy heart-healthy wine from a Gilroy-area vineyard and pair it with your garlic-centric dinner in town.
Whether you visit during California restaurant month, as part of the garlic festival, or as a weekend trip, here are the garlic dishes to eat when you visit Gilroy.
First things first, you're gonna want to beeline for garlic bread. Most every restaurant in Gilroy serves garlic bread but the fan favorite is at The Milias Restaurant. Located in an historic spot and one of the oldest restaurants in the region, they have a hopping bar scene and classic white table cloth vibes in the dining room. Aside from all things garlic, a few other must trys are the homemade potato chips served with onion dip, the crab cakes, and the surf and turf served with risotto.
Seasonal Garlic Dishes
To get an assortment of seasonally-driven flavors, head to Café Thyme where you can opt for one of their tapas or get a whole entree for yourself. The garlic dishes that are most talked about are the Garlic And Leek Soup, the Garlicky Roasted Mushrooms, the Lemon-Thyme Chicken With Garlic and the Creamy Pesto with Garlic Shrimp. For something non-garlic, go for one of the fresh salads like the one with spinach, pears, Blue Cheese, almonds, and a balsamic fig reduction.
The home-y café for everything from muffins to sweets is Josephine’s Bakery & Café but we’re really into their garlic dishes. For California Restaurant month, they’re serving Garlic Chicken Sandwich with Garlic Fries and what makes it is the uber garlicky sautéed mushrooms.
Garlic Ice Cream
The garlic recipe you need to try at least once is garlic ice cream. Most locals agree that the best version is served at Fifth Street Roasting Company the cute coffee shop in downtown. The slow roasted garlic with the creamy vanilla ice cream is well made but definitely an acquired taste. If you want coffee instead, try one of their not-too-sweet coffee drinks like their lavender or their slightly spiced Mexican mocha.
Considering the size of the town, Gilroy has quite a few Mexican restaurants. Ask locals and they’ll have their personal pick for the best tacos, burritos, but if you’re in search of a legit chile verde, the go to is Cielito Lindo. But they’re even more known for their camarones al ajo or shrimp in a garlic sauce. We say don’t pick favorites and just order them both!
If you want to go all in on the garlic, head to Garlic City Café where a good portion of the menu are dishes made with garlic. The classic dish to order here is the Garlic Soup where gets slow cooked and blended into a creamy soup. During California Restaurant month, they’re highlighting their Cajun Chicken Salad where cajun-rubbed chicken is paired with apples, caramelized walnuts, gorgonzola, and garlic dressing.
Like garlic bread, almost every restaurant in Gilroy serves garlic fries. To us, the best ones are where every fry is covered in garlic yet it's not overpowering and the garlic fries at Josephine's Bakery were just that!
The ultimate garlic snack in our opinions? Garlic-coated pistachios. Head to the Garlic Shoppe to get some to snack on or to bring home as a souvenir.
Those are our picks for where to eat garlic when you visit Gilroy. Any other recommendations we missed? Let us know in the comments below.
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