WinoEats Mineral Restaurant, Murphys, Ca.
Ah, Murphys… where you can spend the afternoon walking along Main Street going from one tasting room to the next. Then, just when you need it, you will stumble upon our number one pick for dining in Murphys, a great little place called Mineral. With some outdoor seating on a patio out front, and a small yet modern dining room, (the long red couch is ultra-trendy!)… Mineral is very inviting and comfortable. What initially made us look at Mineral was a small sign advertising the Wednesday special: 1/2 off all bottles of wine. Ummm… let me think?
Co-owners Maya and Steve opened the joint in 2006 to bring some gourmet vegetarian food to Murphys. But don’t get me wrong… Mineral does not play up the fact that it is vegetarian, nor would you immediately notice by looking at the menu. Chef Steve Rinauros made a name for himself in the Bay Area, then in southern California, working at some of the best restaurants around. At one point he worked as a chef at the Kali Ray Tri Yoga Center in Malibu, where he “honed his skills and his passion for vegetarian cooking,” as it says on the website. Maya, a cool artsy chick, is originally from Murphys. After art school and retail gigs in SF, she came back to Murphys to make some noise in the food biz.
Maya greeted us warmly and set us up at a table out front. We knew we were in for a great meal when we saw the fresh bread with a crazy tapenade made with orange, olives, and carrots. The water was brought out in a large clear glass bottle with a mint sprig floating inside. Nice touch. We started by ordering the Papaya Avecado Salad, with a madigascar vinilla vinigrette, mint, feta, black seseme, and saphron… which was amazing. We were licking the plate.
For an entree I had the X-Burger, which was the absolute best veggie burger I’ve ever had. On a house baked bun, the “vegetable platform” burger was covered with pickles, lettuce, shaved onions, and herb aioli. This burger was top notch, fresh and delicious… and I’ve had my share of veggie burgers, believe me. This ain’t no frozen pattie.
Miss Melody had the Spanish Pizza, topped with Spanish Red Sausage (soy chorizo), Cider Glazed Onions, Cheese, and Fresh Oregano. When I asked her how it tasted she just continued to chew slowly with her eyes closed. I don’t think she said another thing until she was two or three slices in. Only then did she inquire as to whether there was any Crack in the pizza… it was that good! (For the record, I don’t think there was any crack in the pizza).
For the wine, at 1/2 price, we went with a 2006 Plungerhead Old Vine Zinfandel from the Sierra Foothills, (bottled by Sebastiani and Sons of Napa). This proved to be a perfect wine for our meal, deep and spicy with smooth tannins. It also confirmed the fact that we were on a full-blown Zin kick.
The food and service was great. The prices aren’t cheap, there’s a mac & cheese plate for $18…but the food is of gourmet quality. The menu is small and precise. They manage to keep an informal enough vibe, making it completely unpretentious. A perfect microcosim of Murphys itself. We love it.
The economy has been hurting the business on Main Street, and Mineral has been feeling the pain. For a while we were the only customers in the joint, (later joined by some locals at two other tables), and once everyone was served, Maya and Steve sat with us and talked politics and the economy. They told us how they sometimes think they should have opened a place closer to SF. But we hope they ride out the storm and continue to provide Murphys with the best restaurant on Main Street.