Tucked into the Sierra Nevada Foothills in the cozy town of Murphys, California, Mineral is a vegetarian gem. Featuring inventive dishes such as “Land Scallops” and Beet, Avocado and Honey Blistered Lychee, Mineral is the brainchild of Chef Steve Rinauro and his wife, Maya Radisich, who, along with baby daughter Gia, typically staff the restaurant themselves.
Mineral was voted “Best-Kept Secret” by Vegetarian Times in 2009, and often plays host to the nearby Performing Animal Welfare Society, which has brought in VIP guests such as Bob Barker and Lily Tomlin. More recently, rapper Killah Priest was spotted dining on the patio. The restaurant is also well-reviewed on Yelp, with comments highlighting the “attention to detail”, the “creative, high-end food”, the “beautiful presentation”, and the “best hosts ever.”
With praise and celeb visits like that, we just had to know more, so we spoke with Maya to get the scoop on Mineral, including its menu and its mission.
Tell us a little bit about Mineral. When did you open, and why did you select Murphys as your location?
I grew up here — part of my family has been here for six generations, since my great-great-grandparents came here from Italy. Previously, we owned an organic vegetarian bakery in Murphys, but Chef Steve has more than twenty years’ experience in restaurants, and was looking to get back into a restaurant kitchen. So we opened Mineral in October 2006.
What are your dreams and goals for Mineral?
We are happy to support our family by sharing our passion for food, and hope to continue to reach a growing clientele. Part of our philosophy about food is that we would like to serve you something that you either can’t or wouldn’t prepare at home. Dining out should be a small luxury. And we want to show that vegetarian food needn’t lack in taste, texture or style.
You have a rotating menu. How do you decide what dishes will be served?
Menu changes are dictated by availability, the season, and the Chef’s whim. The food is inspired by mother nature, ingredients, art, people…daily life, and there are always new menu items in the works.
What’s your most popular dish?
Our handmade Mineral burger is the one staple that is always on the menu. We also have a beautiful, hand-selected global wine and beer list specifically designed to complement the menu. We offer lots of organic, sustainable and biodynamic selections, and we have our own kitchen garden where we grow all of our own herbs, greens and edible flowers.
Who is your target audience?
Foodies: people who love food and love to eat. Because of our location, the majority of our guests are not vegetarian. We serve more of a haute vegetarian dinner menu so we often have people celebrating special occasions, as well as tourists. We offer a more casual ‘local lunch’ menu during the week that appeals to more locals and more casual diners and families.
How would you describe the atmosphere at Mineral?
There is a petite dining room, an exhibition kitchen counter where you can interact with the Chef, and, weather permitting, a lush street side patio. We’re located in a quirky, semi-historic building wedged between two wine-tasting rooms on the main street. Murphys used to be a gold town, but is now known primarily for wine, food and boutique shopping.