Is there a more perfect lunch than a selection of veggie-full, flavor-packed salads accompanied by a tall, cold glass of lemonade infused with flavors like cucumber-mint, blood orange or coconut-apple? For parents who want an easy and inexpensive meal that won’t weigh them down, and kids who love to eat the rainbow, it’s Lemonade to the rescue. This fast-casual spot has been a favorite in Los Angeles since 2008, and now NorCal is getting some Lemonade love—the first of six planned Bay Area locations opened May 5 in downtown SF.
An LA Icon Comes North
Chef Alan Jackson opened Lemonade in 2008 in West Hollywood. His goal was to provide healthy, flavorful options in a modern, no-fuss setting. Diners walked the modernized cafeteria line set with seemingly endless options, from rosted cauliflower with golden raisins, almonds and curry vinaigrette to lima beans with strawberries, smoked gouda, and red wine oregano vinaigrette. Friendly workers donning chef coats scooped out hearty servings and encouraged customers to try as many as they liked before deciding (today the trays read “don’t be bashful, ask for a sample.”). The spot became an instant hit with families, nearby workers and celebs and Jackson began adding more locations—today there are 20 throughout Southern California.
Photo: Hardy Wilson
Healthy Eats in All Sizes
The secret is in the scoop. With more than 18 marketplace salad choices on any given day, no one can choose just one. But at $2.95 a serving (which is 2 heaping scoops) it’s easy and economical to make a filling lunch out of a combination of 3 or 4 options. As if there wasn’t enough to choose from, there are also stations dedicated to leafy green salads, sandwiches and hearty hot dishes such as pot roast, mac n’cheese, chili, soups and more. Every member of the family can find something they love, and everyone’s plates are sure to be packed with plenty of vegetables.
Sweets to Keep You Coming Back
Need help convincing them to eat all their quinoa-and-apple salad? A gooey neon macaroon the size of their head might help. The dessert case is dreamy, and features cupcakes, cookies and their famous coconut cream cake. We found setting the dessert on the table just out of reach ensured that our littles cleaned their salad plates in record time. But Lemonade’s most popular sweet treat is, you guessed it, lemonade. There is typically at least six flavors on tap, from guava, cucumber-mint to classic. There is currently only one size on offer, which can only be classified as HUGE, so we recommend asking for a few of their 8 oz. cups and splitting one with the fam.
Photo: Hardy Wilson
In the Center of It All
The very first Bay Area location of Lemonade is located at the Metreon, and can almost make us forget about the sad departure of the location’s previous tenant, La Boulange. The covered, heated patio got a perky makeover with upholstered bright yellow booths and the interiors are equally as comfortable for a leisurely lunch. Options for family fun in and around the eatery are endless, as the patio virtually opens onto the rolling lawn of Yerba Buena Park. The waterfall is within view, there’s a multiplex showing the latest flicks right upstairs, and just a short stroll through the park takes you to the Creativity Museum, the classic carousel, the ice rink and bowling alley. Not to mention the Jewish Museum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the just reopened SFMOMA are less than a block in each direction. Fuel up. You’re gonna need it!
781 Mission St. (4th and Mission Sts.)
Hours: 10 a.m.–9:05 p.m.
Have you been to Lemonade? Tell us your favorite dishes in the comments below!
All images courtesy of the author unless otherwise noted.