Gilroy, California – Garlic Galore

Posted on February 1, 2013


Personally, I am spontaneous and fun. When working, I’m dedicated, driven, and boring. I usually stay in San Jose, near where my business appointments are, order room service, and catch up on work and reading. Yes I can be boring when I travel for work – although I will have to share my Taiwan Snake Alley story sometime with you all, not so boring there! On this last trip, I had meetings in Gilroy, and decided to change things up and stay overnight there to get a feel for the rural countryside.

Garlic City Cafe

Hometown cafe in downtown Gilroy

Arriving at my hotel after a full day, I thought I would be funny and ask the young smiling guy at the hotel front desk, eager to be service, where I could find some garlic around here, when I noticed a flyer on the counter called “Guide to Garlic in Gilroy” – including  a list of restaurants and shops all ready to fill my suitcase full of the smelly healthy stuff. I asked the cute guy behind the desk anyway for advice where to eat and shop and ignored the flyer. He told me that the top two restaurants I should try were closed on Monday’s. Damn. So I ordered room service as I usually do, and planned for an early breakfast in downtown Gilroy – at the Garlic City Café.

Garlic City Café in Downtown Gilroy

  • Sidewalk tables
  • Popular breakfast and lunch spot with the locals
  • Famous for its garlic soup and garlic ice cream
  • Now open for dinner

I was hoping that on the 1.5 mile drive from my hotel to the cafe the “downtown” would get quaint. After passing the meat market and auto salvage shops it did – historic shops and cafe awnings, lined the small downtown street. I imagined what the downtown would look like during the annual Garlic Festival, much different that this average Tuesday morning.

At first, I felt a bit out of place being the only one in a business suit – well the only one in business attire at all.  Yet, the service was great, I felt welcomed by the locals in this cafe, and had the most amazing banana walnut French toast, piled high with homemade whipped cream and shaved walnuts on top.  I didn’t eat again until dinner!  Homestyle and charming is what I categorized this cafe – The sound of light rock and roll in the background, and the cook singing along, old world tapestries lining the walls – perfect for this rural town. I was plleased with myself that I had made the effort to venture down the road a bit, and not eat in the hotel lobby – again.ImagePark in the alley behind the cafe and you’ll be on Gourmet Alley

If you come on a day other than Monday, and want to explore some Gilroy history, stop in to the Milias Restaurant originally opened in 1920 by the Milias family who lived upstairs. Closed for many years after changing owners several times this historic restaurant, allegedly visited by Clark Gable, recently restored and reopened as a casual upscale destination restaurant in the downtown area. Try it, since I couldn’t, and tell me what you think of it.

Where to stay:

Hilton Garden Inn 6070 Monterey St. Gilroy CA 95020


  • Comfortable, clean, convenient, free internet and parking
  • 24 hour business center including computers, printer, copier, paper cutter
  • Great American Grill for breakfast and dinner
  • Lobby Lounge
  • Fitness center (open 24 hours) and pool
  • Pavilion Pantry for snacks and sundries open 24 hours

Top things to do in Gilroy, not necessarily in this order:

Shop at Gilroy Premium Outlet’s, boasting to be the largest outlet in California with 145 outlet stores including the popular designer shops Coach, Banana Republic, True Religion, Calvin Klein, 7 for all Mankind, Lucky Brand, Polo, and so many more.

Visit the Annual Garlic Festival – attended by over 100,000 people and lasts three days in the summer (usually July). Food, wine, music, cook-off demonstrations, arts and crafts.

Wine Tasting – Rapazzini Winery $7.00 for five tastes – which can include imported Italian, sparkling, and even garlic wine for cooking or drinking.

One thing is for sure! You won’t find any vampires in Gilroy!

Some facts:

Just under 50,000 people live in this rural country town (2011 US Census data)

Average home prices ($433,000 according to “Source Data Quick for Nov. 2012)

45 minutes south of San Jose (north of Gilroy)

50 minutes to Monterey (south of Gilroy)

50 minutes to Santa Cruz (west of Gilroy)