When Char and Marie-Claire Kundu bought what became twenty-two years ago, Marie-Claire went on an ambitious advertising campaign. She wore a rooster mask and an apron and handed out menus and coupons throughout historic Occoquan.
The Garden Kitchen has not changed much since 1989. An old fashioned cabinet space provides a condiment area for coffee and a space for posting events. Wicker church pews refashioned in white paint and colonial furniture dot the dining room overlooking the street.
Three different rooms provide three different ambiances—the main dining room has the feel of a cozy, old-fashioned country restaurant. The café room is a room fit for tea and crumpets. If you go to the Garden Kitchen and do not walk around, you will miss the different aspects the restaurant has to offer.
Once you walk up the narrow brick and stone stairway on 404 Mill Street, you step into the other dining atmosphere provided—The Garden Kitchen’s outdoor patio and terrace complete with gardens and a sense of quiet. Tables constructed by a previous owner sets a historical tone that runs through the whole place.
The Garden Kitchen is nestled inside an old house, which predates the 1860s and is held together with tongue and groove joints, and no nails, showing itself to be a notable example of colonial construction.
Before it became The Country Kitchen restaurant in 1974, the house served as a pharmacy and as an automotive supply store. This was the location of the first pharmacy in Occoquan, where the owner, Mr. Hammill would tell stories to his customers of the Civil War.
Dr. Grace Claire Hornbaker lived and practiced in the building from 1937 to 1967. A framed portrait of the doctor hangs on the fireplace in the main dining room at the Garden Kitchen. Pictures of the town and building’s history are strewn across the walls connecting the two dining rooms.
The Garden Kitchen has a wide and varied menu and also offers catering services. They specialize in baking cakes and pies and fresh homemade bread every day. Marie-Claire’s Sinful Chocolate Cake is decadently rich chocolate, with a caramel pecan topping. Marie-Claire also bakes seasonally for the Autumn/Thankgiving season with Pumpkin Pies and Pecan Pies. Her personal favorite is her coconut cream pie.
The menu, like the restaurant itself, is highly traditional. Char and Marie-Claire have served many of the same dishes since they opened the restaurant. As vegetarian options became a need, they added paninis and cream of broccoli to the menu. Marie- Claire loves seeing customers who came when they were kids and now take their children to eat the same chicken salad sandwich they experienced when they were young.