Lemonade, which opened a third location today on Abbot Kinney in Venice, is not a place for the indecisive. Walking into the airy, two-room restaurant is like walking into a farmers market talent show. Roasted Brussels sprouts tossed with Parmesan, cauliflower roasted with saffron and sprinkled with almonds and golden raisins, baked beets with pickled onions, beluga lentils with eggplant, spaghetti squash, avocados and nectarines--all in various salad incarnations--gleam colorfully from behind a glass barrier, and behind that, a fleet of employees in crisp whites.
In a portion system popularized by Panda Express, customers have a choice of one, two, or three salad items. If you're into variety, you can split an item into two, since a serving at Lemonade is equivalent to two scoops. There are also about a dozen crock pots simmering with various stews if you fancy a hot sandwich or pot roast with orzo. The portions are generous, but there are plenty of ways to get a sugar fix if you haven't filled up on salad. Like the candy-studded registers at supermarkets, a glass pastry case filled with pretty miniature cupcakes (pumpkin, red velvet, carrot, chocolate); cookies the size of Frisbees; and various cakes and puddings, is strategically situated directly in front of your face while you wait in line to pay, so it's likely that you will end up adding a cup of chocolate pudding topped with marshmallow creme to your tray.
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At the opening today, tan women in spandex-intensive outfits, post-pilates, pointed to pickled carrots and quinoa, while sunburned boys stacked their surfboards outside and sat down to scarf barbecued brisket on sourdough rolls, against a backdrop of a wall-sized vinyl decal depicting a magnified image of grass, which made lunch feel a little like a scene from "Honey I Shrunk the Kids."
At the counter, employees handed out samples of lemonade: old fashioned, ginger peach, watermelon rosemary, blueberry mint, cucumber, and sugar free, all naturally-flavored with fresh fruits and herbs. "This was such a good idea," a teenage girl confessed to her friend as they dug into their carefully curated plates of salad. "I just wish I could say it was our own."
Lemonade: 1661 Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Venice, (310) 452-6200; 515 South Flower Street, Los Angeles, (213) 488-0299; 9001 Beverly Boulevard, West Hollywood, (310) 247-2500.