Lemonade: Not Your Granny’s Cafeteria

Nov 29, 2011

Lemonade is the hipster Clifton’s—a spiffy, cheery cafeteria that presents healthy salads, comfort food and sinful desserts in a long, sinuous lineup. Fusion cuisine, world cuisine, and seasonal cuisine inform a rotating list of salads, sandwiches, soups and hot dishes, and share the bill with mac and cheese and red velvet cake. Lemonade doesn’t pander to the chicken fingers and mashed potato crowd—the mac and cheese is beige rather than traffic-stopping orange, and there’s no jello in sight.

If you like picking up lunch or dinner at Whole Foods and are encouraged, rather than daunted, by a long line of salads with multiple ingredients (my 15-year-old went straight to the steam table), Lemonade will tempt you with its shiny display of green/good things nestled in white crockery—things like orchiette/tomato/mozzarella salad; figs, arugula and blue cheese in balsamic vinegar, lentils, salmon sausage and lemon. There are are huge and complicated sandwiches, braises like brisket, the very good chicken Basque, and the mysteriously Persian-tasting red miso beef short ribs; soups; pot roast; the titular lemonade in multiple, seasonal varieties from blueberry mint to blood orange; and a bakery case with massive tiny cupcakes (twice the size of any teeny cupcake you see around town), pies, macaroons the size of hockey pucks, and Jones coffee (yay!).

Everything I tried was sweet—even the kale salad—which makes me think that if Lemonade had been around when my kids were little they just might like salads now.

But I found the sweetness too pervasive: spaghetti squash salad, the arugula salad, the turkey sandwich, the soup, the lemonade, and macaroons. However, the staff is generous with samples, so you can adjust your expectations accordingly. Just don’t bring a pre-diabetic friend.

The other great thing about Lemonade is the ability to split portions; almost everything is available in half or small portions. Things do add up, however (ingredients are good quality, portions are generous, and the line is long), so be prepared to spend $15 and a bit of time waiting for something prepared as opposed to right off the line.  A rakish, gender-free, pork-pie hat is entirely optional.

Lemonade, 146 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena, 626.304.7700, L & D daily until 9:05 (!) p.m. Modern American. No booze. AE, MC, V. $$



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