Lemonade Demonstrates the Transformative Properties of Stewed Meats
I remember my very first experience with Lemonade… not the drink, obviously, but the popular picnic themed (?) lunch spot with four locations around Los Angeles (Venice, WeHo, & 2 locations Downtown). I was walking on Abbott Kinney with a buddy, who pointed out their Venice location to me and suggested we poke our heads in. At least I thought he was a buddy. What’s with the salads, friend-o? You know I’m not into the whole “I live in L.A. and love to eat quinoa” bullsh- wait a second. What’s that to the left of the salads? Are those dutch ovens? Filled with various meats that have been tendered up slowly so that the fat actually remains in the dish? And not just one, but 6 different stews?! Alright trendy salad and lemonade place. You have got my attention.
I hate salads. Ok, so maybe I don’t *hate* salads. I’m just bored by them… and I’m sorry, no matter what Tender Greens says- a salad is not a meal! It’s an appetizer. A side dish. People don’t really crave salads. Salad is something you want on Monday when you spent the whole weekend stuffing your fat face with food that actually tastes good. And there is nothing I hate more than lunch spots that cater to this crowd. But every so often you’ll get one of these places that pulls a switcheroo. They pretend to be one of those generic salad places, that caters to the typical L.A. Luncher. They lure you in with the fresh ingredients, and the seemingly healthy displays of salady looking things. And then before you know it, you’re eating a deliciously fatty pork belly banh mi. Or a sandwich with short ribs and mac n cheese. Yup. Lemonade makes that… but we’ll come back to that one. The real star of the show is the stews.
On their website Lemonade refers to themselves as part lemonade stand, part grade-school cafeteria… although it’s nothing like any grade school cafeteria I’ve ever been in. (First off, there’s no boxed chocolate milk.) To me Lemonade is more like a one stop shop for a yuppie picnic. The centerpiece of the place is a line up of salads similar to what you find in the prepared foods section of Whole Foods (for $4 to $11 depending on how many you select)- but you can get sandwiches ($9), and “braises” as well (for $9… $10 in Beverly Hills, of course.) And that’s what caught my eye…
Moroccan chicken w/ dates and ginger.
Lamb tagine with figs, apricot, almonds.
Both “braises” that we tried were sweet and savory, tender and delicious. You get your choice of mixed greens with a lemon vinaigrette or basmati rice… but the rice is the clear choice. You can’t sop up delicious juices with a salad! A little tip though… they will give you free samples of any of the stews (or salads for that matter). While some would use this to make a decision, I think of it the opposite way. All of the stews are good. Use your free samples to try one or two of the stews, and then order something different. It’s all about the variety! (My free sample was the red miso beef short rib. Awesome.)
Can’t live without bread? They’ll turn any of the stews into a sandwich, by throwing some of the meat onto a sourdough rustic roll and top it with a few extra ingredients. The lamb stew topped with feta and arugula? Nice. Red miso short ribs topped with mizuna and pickled red onion. How can that be bad? But how could I order anything other than the traditional beef short ribs, topped with mac n cheese.
Any lunch that makes Dr. Atkins turn over in his grave is extra points in my book! Bread + mac and cheese + short ribs? It’s a triple threat, baby. If you’ve tried the short rib mac and cheese from the Grilled Cheese Truck, you might be disappointed by this version. It gets pressed- but not rubbed in better and grilled-so the sandwich ends up a little drier and the two components feel a bit more separated than the version from the Grilled Cheese Truck. It also could have used a bit more meat. That being said, if the idea of a scoop of cheesy macaroni poured over short ribs and sandwiched inside a roll sounds good to you- you will enjoy this sandwich.
If you’re looking for a in depth flavor analysis of the almost 30 different rotating salads offered by Lemonade you’ve come to the wrong place. But I couldn’t help but try some of them… it’s $4 for one portion, $7.50 ($7.75 at Beverly Hills), and $10.50 for 3 portions ($11 at Beverly Hills), but it’s kind of mislead because each “portion” can be broken up between two different salads… so for $11 you can actually try 6 different things.
I hate salad, but I love variety. And even though it’s a tad bit over the $10 price range, getting to choose 6 different things is kind of fun. And, unlike Whole Foods where everything looks kind of awesome but tastes like healthy garbage- everything I tried at Lemonade tasted pretty damn good. (You might say the secret ingredient is olive oil… or mayo… or cheese!)
Can’t bring yourself to eat just salad for lunch? They do have a bunch of proteins which can be added to any salad for $5. So protein plus 1 portion (split between two salads) would be an in the price range $9.
The buttermilk chicken breast was a little dry by the time I got to it (late lunch), but the flavor was good. And the excellent mushroomy israeli cous cous and giant figs mixed with feta and arugula more than made up for it. Next time I’ll get there earlier, or try one of options that might hold up better over time (like the partially seared tuna.)
So there it is. I love Lemonade. And not just for their braised meats, but for their *gasp* salads too. It’s shocking, but true. Variety and quality go a long way (yes, even when it comes to salad.) And Lemonade proves that you can still appeal to the typical L.A. lunch crowd, while not caring about calories. (And clearly they don’t care about calories.) And that’s what Midtown Lunch is all about.
(Oh, forget to mention. The lemonade is awesome as well… as if there was any doubt.)
- Dutch ovens make everything better
- Pot roast with rice is nice… served on a sandwich is even better!
- Their salads are actually really tasty, and put the garbage at Whole Foods to shame. (Clearly they care more about flavor than about calories.)
- I love how they fake people in with the salad-y looking stuff at the front, and hit you with the left (meat) hook at dutch oven filled end of the line. It could have the opposite effect on some fatties. Luckily I didn’t let it deter me.
- It’s a little pricey. $10 for a sandwich, and $11 for salads is too much for me.
- At almost $3 the lemonades are great, but then lunch is $15 for casual take out food
- I don’t like fruit in my braised meats! Too damn sweet…
- The Grilled Cheese Truck’s mac and cheese/short rib sandwich is waaaay better
- Did I mention it’s too expensive? (Especially at the Beverly Hills location!)
Lemonade (Multiple Locations)
- DOWNTOWN: 505 S. Flower Street, basement food court. (Take stairs down at Flower and 5th or Flower and 6th)
- DOWNTOWN: 250 S. Grand (inside MOCA)
- WEST HOLLYWOOD: 9001 Beverly Boulevard
- VENICE 1661 Abbot Kinney (on Venice Blvd.)
Coming soon to USC