301 Arizona Avenue | Santa Monica, CA 90401 | 310-409-2435 | lemonadela.com | Prices: $
By MICHAEL AUSHENKER | Contributing Writer
The word “lemonade” has many associations. The refreshing beverage is as American as apple pie and is the foundation of every kid’s first front-yard business. Is there a more universal start-up as a childhood entrepreneur than running a lemonade stand?
In Los Angeles though, “Lemonade” has taken on a new connotation—the name of a popular chain of high-end, cafeteria-style restaurants serving healthful, prepared foods with fresh ingredients.
Last month, the rapidly expanding Lemonade, a group of restaurants owned by Alan and Heidi Jackson, arrived mere footsteps from Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade along the Farmer’s Market route.
Its convenient Santa Monica address is just the beginning of the many charms of this particular branch, where General Manager Anthony Martinez and his friendly staff are eager to make every person’s visit memorable.
My particular experience began with a host of tastings from the “Marketplace” portions ($2.75 per portion). I selected Tandoori Spiced Carrots with orange lentil, chia seed and almonds; Watermelon Radish with Ahi tuna, snap peas and sesame; Butternut Squash with Brussels sprouts, grapes and almonds; and Spaghetti Squash with radicchio and pomegranate cranberry.
As far as cold salads go, these were satisfying, alive with fresh vegetables and fruit.
“Hot Market Veggies” ($3.50 each) is where things really get interesting. They offer Creamy Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Miso Glazed Baby Turnips and Carrots. The phenomenal Butternut Squash Mashed Potatoes were not your garden-variety style of creamy mashed potatoes.
The “Land + Sea” ($5.50-$6.50) and “Braises” ($7) categories are where your entrée comes in. Citrus Poached Salmon Fillet is served cold, generous and flavorful. For a more Asian touch, Seared Ahi Tuna with crushed orange-ginger ponzu is flavorful and well-portioned.
An Avocado Salmon Louie is just that: a piece of fish filling out the hollow of half of an avocado.
I opted for the seasonal offerings (offered through December): Turkey from the “Braises” was decent, but I really enjoyed Red Miso Beef Short Rib, delicious as it pulled apart in stringy fashion.
Other Braises include Jerk Chicken, Lemongrass Chicken and Pulled Pork with Georgia peach BBQ sauce.
I also ordered two varieties of Mac ’N’ Cheese ($3.75 each) from their Hot Portions section. While the regular Mac ’N’ Cheese delivers a good version of the popular comfort food, the highlight of my meal was the outstanding White Truffle Mac ’N’ Cheese, smothered in white cheese with a terrific after-taste.
Lemonade also offers “Market Tossed Salads” ($7) and a host of “Right Sized Sandwiches” ($6.50).
“Dessert” is an area where Lemonade excels. Some choices—Chocolate Brownie ($5) and a large, gluten-free Peanut Butter Cookie ($2.50)—are serviceable.
Where Lemonade really kills it is with the Strawberry Lemonade ($5)—an exquisite, fruit-glazed, airy slice of cheesecake—and the Peanut Chocolate Cupcake ($1.25) with its sublimely tasty icing. Also not to be missed: the enigmatic Caramel Macaroon ($4).
Of course, what would a trip to Lemonade be without a cup of their signature Lemonade ($3)? They offer several varieties—Old Fashioned, Blueberry Mint and Blood-Orange, to name a few.
I tried the winning Coconut Apple—sweet and flavorful, the coconut accent not overwhelming.
My only hard criticism of Lemonade Santa Monica is the surprising absence of coffee options, especially when they’ve really perfected dessert here. I was jonesing to pair my macaroon with some hot java. Luckily, both cookie and coffee are portable, so either take your macaroon to go or arrive with coffee in hand if you really want the complete dessert euphoria.
Unlike on Abbot Kinney, Santa Monica’s Lemonade has less dinner ambiance. It’s more of a lunch spot, as bright as its eye-catching yellow awning and logo design. While there is individual and patio seating, in the center are communal tables where people sit elbow-to-elbow with neighboring customers.
While this normally wouldn’t be my preferred lunching experience, on my particular visit, this became a good thing. I got to hang with Garrett, a skateboard-riding local Martinez knows by name, as well as a couple of Lemonade servers on break. Before you know it, here was our small group of different backgrounds, engaged in a lively discussion of ’90s grunge bands over dessert.
Very Lemonade and very American.
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