Sundried Tomato’s namesake is derived from a beloved soup created over 27 years ago by owner and founder, Rob Quest. Quest, who grew up in Minneapolis, started working in restaurants at just 15 years old. He originally went Pepperdine to study English literature, but ended up earning a business degree, instead.
Eventually, his original business expanded far beyond the soup and sauce that made his restaurant popular – and Quest has since opened several nearby sister eateries, including the Bueno Bueno Mexican Kitchen — which is also a SoCal Explorer partner. His business caters events across Southern California – but the San Juan Capistrano location of Sundried Tomato which first opened in 2003 has stood the test of time for over 17 years as a beloved local favorite.
This restaurant offers an upscale-casual type dining setting with a full bar, an elegant outdoor patio area and a main dining room all housed within in an old adobe building. There’s a plaque on the outside of the building denoting the location’s historical significance.
Metrolink connected with Quest for his insight into the origins of his business and how the community has offered their support this past year.
It All Started with a Signature Soup
“I didn’t necessarily think I was going to stay in the restaurant business, but I did everything when I was younger from washing dishes, to working as a bus boy, a waiter, a cook, and eventually opened up my own business and I’ve had it for almost 30 years now,” he said.
He describes the menu as “new American cuisine” and all of the recipes are created in his own kitchen fresh, from scratch. Quest details the flavors of some of their most popular items.
“We’re known for our salad and our bowls – they’re very fresh, and have a lot of different ingredients in them,” he said. “We also have unique sandwiches – our honey cilantro chicken pesto sandwich, with brie on a baguette is a hit…The vegetarian lasagna is also very popular – and we offer gluten free penne pasta.”
The restaurant team changes the menu seasonally twice a year so that people who have been coming to the restaurant for 28 years always have something new to try, but Quest makes sure to keep the classics on hand. “There are certain items that have been on the menu since I opened my first restaurant,” he shared.
Sundried Tomato serves an “all day menu” with this concept deriving from the style offered in European bistros. This means that diners can enjoy anything they want all day — because there’s no separate lunch and dinner menu – just varying portion sizes.
“We have entrees, larger plates that are offered throughout the day, and some different portion sizes that are more ideal throughout different times of the day,” said Quest. “People really enjoy this concept. They can enjoy the same dish day and night.”
And of course, there are the soups.
“I have to recommend visitors try our creamy sundried tomato soup. It’s one that people really enjoy – and it’s our namesake.” beamed Quest.
Take the Train
Sundried Tomato is just half a block from the train station, and in the heart of downtown San Juan, near the mission – which is another SoCal Explorer partner.
“The community has been fantastic to us over the past 17 years…Our community is the reason why we’ve been here as long as we have,” said Quest. “We’re embraced by the community, and from the very beginning any kind of tourist area you need to know the locals who can support you and sustain you as a viable business, year-round.”
It’s the kind of place where visitors can meet new people and make a new friend.
“Through the years I’ve developed so many wonderful relationships with people who work in this area from the mission or the other businesses – as well as the community at large,” said Quest. “I’ve developed a lot of relationships with customers who have been coming to my restaurants for the last 28 years.”
Quest himself is a fan of the train, too using it to get all across Southern California.
“I think it’s a fantastic way to get around… and we need to continue to grow our ridership of public transportation in Southern California to make it easier and more accessible for people to get around our beautiful county and state.”
When SoCal Explorers take the train to the Sundried Tomato – American Bistro & Catering and show their loyalty card or same day Metrolink ticket, they’ll get a complimentary dessert.
31781 Camino Capistrano San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675