Trillium Café and Inn

Sandra McElroy started her food service career as a cappuccino maker at the Moose Cafe in high school – and has never looked back. Now the owner of Trillium Café and Inn, McElroy is the first to bring light California farm-to-table fare to the Mendocino Coast. Featuring produce from farms like Nye Ranch, Covelo beef, Rosie’s organic chicken, and fish from Noyo Fish Company, the menu focuses on lots of fresh local vegetables and stays away from heavy cream-sauced dishes.

McElroy is a veteran of some of the finest establishments on the coast including the Albion River Inn where she did everything from data entry for their new reservation system to serving and managing, Little River Inn where she bussed tables, and Café Beaujolais where she was a server.

Completing her general studies at College of the Redwoods, she went on to graduate with a degree in Business and Accounting from Sonoma State. When she returned to the coast it was at Café Beaujolais where the seeds of entrepreneurship started. “I had been in food service for quite a while by then, and I could see how Café Beaujolais managed everything from the number of servers on the floor to food costs in the kitchen to create a profitable business,” she says. Looking at things from a high level, instead of as a server, put her business degree to work. She started to envision owning a restaurant herself, and when Café Beaujolais went on the market, the owner approached her. Knowing it was out of price range, she didn’t let her dream die and instead kept her ears open for another opportunity. 

In 2013, her old haunt, the Moose Café was up for sale. After negotiating with the owners, McElroy decided instead to buy the entire building. When the Moose’s lease was up they sold and she quickly spent three months refurbishing the space. “We made a ton of improvements to the kitchen – adding a walk-in freezer, moved a wall, and added a landscaped outdoor patio.” McElroy knew she had no problem with food ordering, costs, and even recipes – as well as all the daily and weekly accounting and projections. She renamed the restaurant Trillium and since then has employed numerous local people at this very popular spot, as well as expanding her catering services.

In 2020, McElroy encountered an unusual situation with an employee and their paycheck. She promptly picked up the phone and was connected with West’s human resources advisor. “There were so many human resources things I never even knew we were required to have. Unless you go looking for it there’s no way to be completely up on the latest and that is why West is so great.” Now McElroy is working on her very first employee handbook, has established HR procedures, and is working on her first sexual harassment training for employees.

McElroy notes, “It is really exciting how much West has changed, there’s such a positive, warm feeling there – everyone is so knowledgeable. There are also so many different departments and someone different to help you with what you need from social media to HR and more!”

Visit Trillium Café and Inn at 10390 Kasten Street in Mendocino, or