Location: UTC La Jolla
Hours: Monday-Sunday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
There is a new age in SoCal cooking. From Malibu to Hollywood, green juice bars, acai bowl stops and tofu-based goods are around each corner. Where a local diner might have once sold overglazed doughnuts or cheeseburgers dripping in high cholesterol, a new cafe serving matcha soy lattes and buckwheat pastries is now capturing the attention of the millennial lifestyle. No longer is this artisan way of eating restricted to the elite yogi or celebrity pre-Oscar trends. Instead, it’s dominating and fabricating a new way to live and eat.
And Lemonade is a capitalist mastermind doing just that. This upscale cafeteria that once just appealed to the locavore in Santa Monica has now become a chain of hotspots to get your quick fix of all things locally sourced and green. With a new location conveniently situated in UTC, Lemonade has strategically incorporated its health-conscious philosophy into the stomachs, hearts and Instagrams of La Jolla residents and students alike. However, what allows Lemonade to withstand the rising competition among organic eateries is its ability to market a once-exclusive lifestyle and diet as familial and inclusive.
This Ikea-esque style of dining is in no way intimidating — it’s actually inviting. Behind a glass emporium of colorful foods, a crusade of smiling staff cheerfully serves up homemade, healthy meals that satisfy both vegans and carnivores. What first catches your eye is the marketplace of salads and side dishes that complement flavors of the day and change with the seasons. For about $3 a portion, one can taste test everything from couscous mingling with plump raisins to roasted cauliflower and warm curry spices to a bright red beet salad topped with crunchy walnuts and spicy paprika. While the selection is filled with uncommon ingredients and flavors can seem daunting at first, the newfound palette that exists beyond your usual salt and pepper will make you reconsider your ways. If you’re searching for something with a heartier edge, five dollars can get you a succulently poached salmon dressed to the nines in a delicate lemon-based marinade or their famous poke — unlike any tuna salad you’ve ever had and tossed with the flavors of the tropics.
Further down the line is an array of stews with both exotic and familiar combinations of meat and vegetables, like the red miso beef short rib braised in a unique blend of spices — just like your hip grandma used to make. But before you wind up at the cash register, a glorious display of desserts beckons your attention like a siren call. I know what you’re thinking, what in Beyonce’s vegan name, is a cupcake doing in the middle of this healthy haven? But fear not, these cupcakes, pies, macarons and custards, while incredibly decadent, still carry on Lemonade’s mission. Baked with coconut oil and raw sugars, these desserts satisfy in a way no 100-calorie pack can. To complete your order, make sure to snag a glass of this cafe’s namesake. Feeling traditional? Grab a refreshing cup of old-fashioned lemonade or an Arnold Palmer. Feeling feisty? Sip on the guava limeade or watermelon rosemary lemonade.
So for a fraction of the price of boxed coconut water at Whole Foods, you can get the entire experience of localized Southern California cuisine. I’ll admit, I was a bit skeptical trying out a restaurant that wasn’t just selling food but an overly popular lifestyle; it was Lemonade’s ability to balance seasonal, good-for-you food with an atmosphere that mirrors the warm and sunny SoCal vibe that might just make Lemonade an ultimate response to life when it gives you lemons.