Joel Zaldivar can touch the produce he serves to customers while it's still growing in the ground.
At his restaurant - Juliana's in the Village - he cooks with mostly local veggies, fruits, poultry and meat. He aims to buy foods that are grown and raised under organic standards.
It's more difficult to buy local produce during the winter. However, in the spring, all produce will come from two local farms.
"I know where it's being grown," Zaldivar said. "I know how it's being handled."
Zaldivar opened the Shrewsbury eatery in October after stints in catering and teaching culinary students.
"I decided that if you were going to bust your butt for someone, it might as well be yourself," the 35-year-old chef said.
I stopped by Juliana's on a weekday for lunch. A server greeted me and asked if I'd like to sit in the more intimate dining room. Why, of course.
We walked past empty rows of sleek brown tables in a room painted with rustic desert colors, and into a smaller area with four tables, three of which were occupied by customers.
I glanced at the menu as the server filled me in on the daily specials. There were so many things I wanted to try - such as the roseda beef burger and Ryan's crab cake sandwich. I decided on a black bean burger on sourdough with apple cabbage slaw. I took in the atmosphere while I waited.
Guests chatted quietly over French-pressed coffee and sandwiches. Framed black-and-white family photos peppered the walls, and a piece of colorful blown glass adorned each table. White swinging, saloon-style doors led into Zaldivar's kitchen.
I enjoyed the consistency of the black bean burger. The sandwich was grilled and dressed with cilantro yogurt, which tasted like sour cream with a hint of lime. The apple cabbage slaw was light and sweet with a bit of a zest from red pepper.
Zaldivar said he cooks simply, , but with a twist. Juliana's menu fuses Italian and Cuban cuisines. His dad is Cuban, and his mom - who taught him how to cook - is Italian.
"I was always in the kitchen with my mom," he said. "I found that more interesting than changing tires with my dad."
Juliana's is open for dinner Fridays and Saturdays only. Zaldivar creates a new menu each week. A recent menu included duck napoleon, pepper crusted tuna loin, and grilled cheese and chocolate soup for dessert. Lunch and brunch are more Cheap-Eats friendly, but dinner looks delicious.
The relaxing atmosphere and eclectic food are more than enough to make customers want to come back. Just sitting there, I thought about returning with friends.
Cheap Eats profiles local restaurants, aiming to please our palates and our wallets. Reach Leigh Zaleski at 717-771-2101, email@example.com.
If you go
LOCATION: Juliana's in the Village, 14 N. Main St. in Shrewsbury
CUISINE: Locally raised, all-natural artisan
LEIGH'S PICK: Black bean burger with apple cabbage slaw and iced tea ($11.13)
HOURS: Lunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday; dinner 5 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday; brunch 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday
PRICE RANGE: $2 to $28
ACCEPTS: Cash and credit
KID'S MENU: No, but chef will accommodate
DETAILS: Visit www.julianasinthevillage.com or call 717-759-8701