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Gardenia’s Cafe is Maryland’s Highest Rated Independent Restaurant

The top-ranked independent eatery in Maryland, as indicated by a recent study by OnDeck, is nestled in Montgomery County. Gardenia’s Cafe, situated at 8377 Snouffer School Rd. in Gaithersburg, commenced operations in 2020 and swiftly garnered local acclaim.

On Deck conducted its assessment utilizing data from, scrutinizing ratings and reviews for 149,099 independent dining establishments across major urban centers nationwide. These eateries were classified according to the cuisines they offer, spanning pizza, vegan, burgers, breakfast, and international fare such as Chinese cuisine. Gardenia’s Cafe emerged as the premier choice across all categories, boasting the highest overall rating.

Stepping into @gardeniascafe in Gaithersburg, guests are promptly greeted by Genesis Gardenia Ortega and/or her mother Maritza. The Ortega family—comprising Fernando and Maritza as well as their children Gardenia and Joshua—pioneered Gardenia’s Cafe just a month prior to the onset of pandemic-related shutdowns in early 2020. Gardenia describes the cafe’s ambiance akin to a homecoming: “Walking through those doors feels like stepping into my own home. Vibrant hues, immaculate surroundings, blossoms, the aroma of freshly prepared meals, and wholesome ingredients.”

Their menu boasts homemade, multicultural fare crafted from quality ingredients. Breakfast delights are available throughout the day, complemented by a rotating array of cakes, pies, muffins, and other delectables that Gardenia bakes on a whim. For lunch and dinner, patrons can indulge in an assortment of burgers (veggie, lamb, beef), cheesesteaks, seafood, pastas, salads, and pastelles (a family recipe). The cafe also caters to diverse dietary preferences, offering a plethora of vegan and gluten-free options.

Both of Gardenia’s parents migrated to the United States from El Salvador during the 1980s. Prior to launching the cafe, Fernando, Gardenia’s father, served as a sous chef at Columbia Country Club. Reflecting on the journey, Gardenia shares: “My father, Fernando, made the bold decision to leave his 30-year tenure to pursue our collective dream. Our aspiration has always been to spread joy and warmth through our culinary creations. While I’ve long harbored dreams of owning a bakery, I never envisioned doing so at the age of 23 alongside my family. Initially, I doubted my readiness for the challenges and responsibilities. Yet, I came to realize that readiness is a subjective notion; delaying until one feels ‘ready’ risks missing the opportunity altogether. Thus, I poured my heart and soul into our venture, determined to succeed with an open mind and heart.”

The cuisine is a fusion of flavors, prepared with love, making every diner feel like a cherished regular. Spearheading the culinary creations is Joshua Ortega, the head chef, guided by the culinary expertise of his father Fernando, and complemented by Gardenia’s baking finesse. Every morsel savored during my recent visit was an absolute delight.

Featured image courtesy of Gardenia’s Cafe

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