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A good friend called me one day and invited me to have lunch. I’m never one to turn away good food, so I enthusiastically accepted. As she explained where we would meet, I had to confirm the location. Carol said that we would have an experience tasting the cuisine delivered from the Crystal Garden at 1230 University Drive, Edwardsville.

I had to double-check to make sure I had heard her correctly. I have attended events at the Crystal Garden. I knew that they presented extravagant and beautiful events for weddings, birthdays, anniversary parties, seminars, and more. I had no idea that they served lunch.

I walked in very skeptical and saw very few people enjoying lunch. With hesitation, I quickly scanned a limited menu. Appreciation began to grow as I looked at the detail of what was being offered. Skepticism set in again as I saw how inexpensive the menu was. I couldn’t believe I could enjoy a premium cuisine for less than I paid for a burger and fries at a fast-food restaurant.

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My eyes grew very large as they delivered the food. It was the most beautiful sandwich and soup combo I have had in a long time. I joke that it was the best-grilled cheese sandwich I have ever had. It was actually a Bourbon ridge ham and brie grilled cheese with granny smith apples and honey mustard served on wheat. Served in combination with a seasonal Watermelon Gazpacho, my taste buds were very happy. I scanned the menu again to determine what I would get on my next visit. That is when I discovered the menu changes daily. The owner is a cuisine chef with too many accolades to list in a small column.

Taking some time to speak with one of the owners, Bill Hatton, I learned the history of the building. Understanding how much they have expanded, grown, and invested into the property was inspiring. I could see his eyes light up as he spoke of his wife Karol. She is dedicated to creating new, exciting experiences in culinary efforts. If a customer wants it, she can usually create it. It’s incredible to find a master chef that is as passionate about experimenting with new cuisines from around the world as she is to create memorable experiences with the venue. When asked about what could be done, the response was “What do you want? We can create it”.

In the past, Crystal Garden would host a European dinner tour. It included twelve different five-course dinners from Europe and the Mediterranean area that encompassed Lebanon, Greece, Germany, Italy, and more. It’s coming back this year. Experience the world as you travel through seven continents.

Beginning in September, the Crystal Garden is running promotions that allow customers to win a lunch for two. You increase your chance to win with every entry at each lunch you experience at the Crystal Garden. In December, one lucky person will win a Gift Certificate for $100. I encourage everyone to visit Crystal Garden for an enticing lunch and learn everything else they have to offer with this beautiful venue.

For more, contact (618) 655-1170.

I will continue to share my explorations of hidden gems across the Riverbend area. If you want your favorite hidden gem or business to be featured, please email Jackie at: jackie@riverbender.com

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