- Lemonade is a California-based fast-casual chain.
- It’s part of the “fast slow food” movement, which aims to serve up healthy fare quickly and relatively cheaply.
- During a recent trip to Los Angeles, I decided to try out Lemonade for myself.
Lemonade is trying to sweeten California’s fast-casual dining scene.
The menu? “Seasonal Southern California comfort food.” What that seems to mean is a lot of lean proteins, leafy salads, and entreés like poke made from seasonal produce. Oh, and fresh-pressed lemonade, of course.
The first store opened in 2008, and it has expanded slowly across Southern California and into Northern California as well. The expansion has been fueled by investments like a $22 million infusion from Butterfly in 2016 and an undisclosed amount from KKR in 2014. It now has 28 locations up and down the state.
Lemonade’s food is served cafeteria-style, à la carte and complete with trays. Only some of the cooking is done on-site. Some items are finished in-store after being supplied by a central kitchen.
It’s been a hit with Californians, so on a recent trip to Los Angeles, I decided I needed to try it myself. Here’s what it was like:
I visited one of Lemonade’s newest stores, located on Abbot-Kinney in the heart of Venice. It’s one of Lemonade’s “next-generation” stores, and it opened in 2017.
As I first step foot in the store, I am immediately overwhelmed. It’s lunchtime on a Saturday, and the restaurant is filled with hungry Angelenos. The decor feels very California chic.
A quick look at the menu makes me no less anxious. I have no idea what to order, and there isn’t anyone I can ask before i get up to the counter.
A group of people is extremely confused ahead of me in line, and I can’t blame them.
I decide on a “chef’s seasonal plate,” which involves picking two “marketplace salads” and a protein for my meal. For my main, I choose a poached salmon filet.
Looks super healthy! But the portion is ever so slightly meager.
I’m finally at the cash register after a few flubs. I have to order a lemonade — after all, it is the name of the game. The colorful options line the back of the wall behind the register. I get watermelon rosemary.
I find my place to sit down and dig in. At $18.62, all of this feels quite pricey. The lemonade, at least, is perfect. It’s not too sweet, and the hint of rosemary completes it.
The salmon portion definitely isn’t huge. The mustard seeds from the dressing are clearly visible, and you can tell this is a real piece of fish.
It’s well-cooked and nicely flaky. Tastes pretty good, but it doesn’t blow me away.
I also got a kale and arugula salad, which tastes very fresh. It didn’t taste like one of those pre-made salads from a food bar, which is good, because these are definitely not food-bar prices.
The tomato and avocado salad is … weird. It’s a really interesting mix of flavors and textures, and it is tasty, but I couldn’t even finish the entire portion. Something about it repelled me.
Overall, Lemonade is a great place to quickly stop in for something healthy that won’t kill your wallet too much. A meal with a piece of salmon for under $15 is a great deal, but that’s only if you skip the drink, which, in my opinion, was the best part.