Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mary's - Sierra Madre's Hidden Gem

You know you’re in for an experience when the first question you’re asked before entering Mary’s Market and Café is, “Do you wanna paint a rock?”

I look down and find a bright, hand-painted collection of river rocks that pay homage to Mary, the namesake of the market and café in Sierra Madre.

“I don’t have time today,” I explain, in an attitude not in keeping with the laid-back vibe of Mary’s, The tiny restaurant and store is tucked into the foothills of Sierra Madre, off the beaten path of the two main drags in town, Baldwin Avenue and Sierra Madre Boulevard.

Drive less than five minutes away from that downtown intersection, up a couple of narrow, curving roads, and you’ll find Mary’s, in the center of a quaint mountainside residential area. Mary’s looks as though it’s always been there. In fact, the institution has served the foothills community since 1922.

Walk in and you’ll find old-fashioned bar stools at the front counter or by the front window over looking the tree-lined street. Or choose one of the three comfy booths or one of the tiny outdoor tables.

The oil-splattered menu, glued on to the back of a brown lunch bag, is as simple and unpretentious as the setting. On my first visit, I chose Mary’s equivalent of an egg McMuffin for $3.50. On my last visit, I went with yogurt, served in a vintage brown transfer-ware bowl, with fresh granola and three kinds of fresh fruit (strawberries, blueberries and bananas) for $3.50. I’ve paid nearly $10 for a similar bowl at high-end cafes. Other options include a breakfast burrito, bagel with cream cheese or oatmeal.

Wherever you choose to sit, take some time to lounge outdoors for a few minutes before moving on. Breathe the fresh mountain air. Close your eyes and listen to the sound of chirping birds and water streaming down the storm drain. Watch the sycamore tree leaves blowing in the breeze.

And, before you head back to the hustle-bustle world, don’t forget to take time to paint a rock.

Mary’s Market and Café

561 Woodland Dr,

Sierra Madre, CA 91024


No need to rush after that second cup of coffee - free parking for 48 hours.

Special thanks to Altadena Hiker, who introduced the Restless Chef and me to Mary's.