After 30 years, Jim Garland is as committed to his restaurant as ever
Jim Garland admits that after 30 years, he was almost ready to sell Reflections. It had been a great run, but the thrill was gone. Things just weren’t the same as they were when he was 29 and a young, hot chef with his own kitchen and a partner in his own restaurant.
Yet, here it is – the official 30th anniversary – and Garland’s not just still with Reflections. He’s recommitted and excited.
In a relationship, it might take an always-dreamed-of vacation or a shared hobby to put the spark back into things. But in the restaurant business, it takes (apparently) a new porch.
In late summer, his plan, Garland says, was to “sit back and be a bookkeeper” while new manager Kelly Kapinos (who was the chef at Lily’s On Main in Ephrata) and chef Kerek Shoff took over the operations and kitchen. The porch – the latest in a series of refurbishments to the historic property – was getting its final touches.
The result is an L-shaped space, running along the front and side of the historic building. Bright with sun streaming through windows and doors that can be opened easily on any day the weather allows, it literally provided the breath of fresh air Garland and the restaurant crew needed.
Garland likes the porch and the excitement it’s generated among staff and guests. So he reconsidered his plan. Instead of ending a 30-year run, he decided to stay.
The porch does well by customers. It’s a lovely place to enjoy Sunday brunch, which I did recently with a friend. I ordered the eggs Benedict, since it’s a traditional brunch dish, and, when paired with a mimosa, seemed appropriate to celebrate an anniversary.
The eggs Benedict is very, very good. The hollandaise is house-made and has just enough lemon to offset the rich butter of the sauce. The ham, which is slightly smoky and comes in hand-carved slices, was much better than the rubbery Canadian bacon often found in the dish. It’s a nice twist on the classic.
But since it wasn’t my anniversary (the only thing I’ve ever committed to for 30 years is breathing air), we actually started the meal with a non-standard brunch dish: poutine.
My friend couldn’t say enough about the fries, cheese, gravy and shredded pork pile of poutine. What he managed between bites sounded something like, “This is good. This is, wow. The sauce – it’s almost like barbecue – but, wow.”
Yeah, it’s pretty wow. It’s also new on the menu.
Garland says he wants Shoff to have freedom in the kitchen, and if freedom means poutine, then it’s a wise move. Garland’s wisdom was hard learned over years in the business.
A graduate of the Culinary School of America in New York, Garland knows food. It was his work helping to set up Mosby’s Pub that earned him a backer for his first restaurant. In 1984, he and his partner took over the Oregon Hotel and, “working crazy, 100-hour work weeks,” turned it into Reflections.
It took off almost immediately.
The relationships – both personal and business – grew over the next few decades. Garland partnered with various Central PA restaurateurs and had a hand (or more) in Carlos & Charlies and Portofinos (now Stubby’s Bar & Grille.)
“If you own a restaurant, you have to be there all the time,” Garland says. By 2003, the names and locations of the multiple restaurants had changed several times. The business partnerships came and went, and still Reflections remained.
Like all 30-year relationships there were ups (like moving the smoking room upstairs) and downs (like new carpeting). Garland says he did little things every year to “keep it fresh.” But when something is 30 years old it’s pretty easy to “keep going through the motions.”
The porch changed his way of thinking. “I love the fact that if we get a nice day in December we can open up the doors,” Garland says, delight clear in his voice.
As for Kapinos, she has opened a few figurative doors that have brought spark to the restaurant. She’s bringing in local suppliers, which lets the menu adapt to the season. The results might not be perfect yet (the pumpkin grits I ordered had a great, lightly spiced flavor, but the texture didn’t quite work) but it’s clear that the team – kitchen crew, management, servers – are trying hard.
In fact, they plan to leverage the new seasonal thinking and be open on Thanksgiving this year for the first time ever.
And they’re having fun. Our server joked about the artery-clogging potential of the poutine, tempted us with wedges of cakes (we were too full to indulge, but will definitely go back just for dessert), took us on a tour of the building (there’s a well that dates to the 1700s, when the site was first developed) and took seriously my need to have properly poached eggs in my Benedict.
Garland sounds content to let it all work out – the menu, the shifts in management, the holiday dinners – and stick with Reflections through it all.
But not from a retired spot, sitting in a chair on the porch.
As much as he loves the porch, he’s not ready to spend his time simply reflecting on Reflections. If you want to find Garland these days, you’ll find him working behind the bar, still committed – even reinvigorated – after 30 years.
• 1390 East Oregon Road, Leola; 656-3717
• Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-12 a.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.