On the edge of the Yahoo! Center/Water Garden business park corridor is a hidden breakfast/lunch restaurant and event space called Tiato Market Garden Cafe. Blink as you drive by it, and you’ll miss the discreet signs marking its location.
Tiato is tucked inside the Lionsgate building on Colorado near 26th Street, in what was once the entertainment company’s employee cafeteria. It’s a big, eco-chic space, and more than a restaurant — it’s also a venue for private events, and a convenient quick-service market and espresso bar for those who want to grab a quick bite. The garden patio is one of the city’s biggest outdoor dining spaces.
The restaurant is named after the “tia to” Vietnamese perilla plant, which has a fresh flavor similar to the Japanese herb shiso. The fragrant leaf symbolizes the cooking style of Executive Chef Helene An, who favors a healthy, light, refined approach to cooking and uses lots of flavorful herbs and antioxidant-rich ingredients. Chef An has a ready supply of fresh tiato and other herbs and lettuces thriving in the herb garden in the patio. Meyer lemons, kaffir limes, blood oranges, and mulberries also grow seasonally in the patio’s citrus garden.
Tiato is part of the House of An restaurant group built by family matriarch and executive chef Helene An and operated by her daughters. An had led a privileged life in Vietnam, but began a new life in California after fleeing Saigon with her daughters. She gradually opened a string of restaurants including the euro-Vietnamese restaurant Crustacean in San Francisco and Beverly Hills. An’s restaurants became known for her garlic noodles and roasted garlic crab, which are cooked in “secret kitchens” – an enclosed kitchen built within the restaurant’s main kitchen – where family recipes are kept strictly under wraps to protect the family’s culinary legacy.
An’s youngest daughter, Catherine, founded the family’s catering division and runs Tiato. “I’m lucky because I grew up in the restaurant business. Growing up, the kitchen was where my mother spent most of her time, and we all hung out in the kitchen,” Catherine said. She describes the Vietnamese dishes on the menu as the comfort food her mother cooked for the family.
On the lunch menu is a mix of east and west. There are appetizers like a flatbread pizza ($10) or a wagyu beef roll wrapped in tiato leaf ($11), entree salads ($10-$15), sandwiches ($11-$13), and hot entrees like a turkey meatloaf ($13) and a citrus glazed grilled salmon ($17). The grilled cheese sandwich with vegan roasted tomato bisque ($11) makes a satisfying hot lunch on a cold day. Asian dishes include a signature eggplant and tofu dish seasoned with a homemade black bean sauce and tiato, and An’s rendition of pho, the classic Vietnamese noodle soup, made with tiato and more herbs in the broth.
The famous An garlic noodles ($10) are available weekdays from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and on its Thursday night bar bites menu and Friday night beer garden menu. The dish will also be offered on the Thanksgiving takeout menu as a special side dish ($10 small, $18 large).
On weekdays, Tiato serves breakfast from 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and an evening take out menu from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The quick-serve market is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. On Thursday nights there’s a happy hour from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday nights are harvest beer garden nights with a DJ from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Weekends are reserved for private events.
Tiato Market Garden Café
2700 Colorado Avenue, Suite 190