Upon approach, the sweet smell of sativa beckons guests from the parking lot on La Brea Avenue to the cozy confines of the Lowell Café. America’s original cannabis cafe doesn’t just offer an extensive menu of fresh flowers, single and pre-rolled packs, extra potent hash, kief and oil-infused smokes, infused edibles and drinks — here, the food is elevated too.
Upon being seated in the patio that is reminiscent of the Ladies of the Canyon days of L.A., guests are greeted by a flower host to help guide beginners and well-seasoned customers alike through an extensive herbal menu. With the knowledge and skill of a master sommelier, they can suggest the proper food pairings and offer accessories to rent, like bongs in all shapes and sizes, vaporizers , bud vases, pipes and anything you need to roll your own.
And even if you’re not ready to get your toes wet just now, there’s enough smoke wafting through the patio to provide a sneaky contact high that helps whet the appetite for executive chef and partner Andrea Drummer’s delightful seasonal menu that is farm-to-table on every level.
There are snacks to share, like juicy jerk lamb chops with a cooling mango salsa and animal-style corn dogs with a paper-thin batter on top of street corn and applewood-smoked bacon. The lineup of sandwiches includes a mind-blowing banh mi, made with succulent pork belly, sriracha mayo, red onion, pickled red cabbage, daikon and carrots; it’s all served alongside a mountain of fries.
The signature cobb salad is a massive rainbow of grilled chicken, broccoli, garbanzo beans, bacon, teardrop tomatoes on greens with roasted carrot ranch dressing. Pair that with one or two hits of a mild Jack Herer sativa and you can go back to work as if you just had a mimosa.
“The great thing about the cannabis menu is that it’s ever-evolving, like the food menu,” Cordon Bleu graduate Drummer tells L.A. Weekly. “Both are very farm-to-table-forward. We look at seasonality with both our bud and the sourcing we do for our food. We pair on a weekly and sometimes even daily basis. I’m trying new product every day to see what it pairs well with on the menu.
“I’m very cautious and never like being elevated during work. When you work in bars, you don’t drink wine all day either. I can inhale the scent through my nose and get the flavor profile without actually ingesting or smoking. The Super Sour Diesel sativa goes great with the lamb chops, and I like to pair the Banana OG with desserts like our baked Alaska. The sour diesel has citrus notes and there are other flowers that have very pungent notes which would go well with braised greens or kimchee.”
Drummer, who originally worked with cannabis/food pairing pioneer Neal Fraser in the early days before 420, says it’s finding the space where the flower supports the food and understanding the flavor profile of herbs and how they lend themselves to a specific cuisine. Since Fraser originally broke ground on the idea, more L.A. chefs are now allowed to play around with the concept and are getting into a space where they’re comfortable experimenting at cannabis supper clubs around Southern California.
Just like tastes in wine differ from a light pinot grigio to a heavier cabernet sauvignon, a flower host is as crucial to the experience as a good sommelier, there to safely guide guests though the experience and cater to all different personality types to help normalize cannabis consumption.
The cafe doesn’t serve alcohol, which can make for a very reasonable high-class meal. If you add a single doobie that can be shared by two at $29, it comes out to about the same as a couple of West Hollywood margaritas. And fear not, another patio area that will be serving beer and wine (but not a cannabis space) will be opening by the end of the year, with an added brunch so you can still enjoy that mimosa.
“I was actually quite against it myself at one time,” says Drummer, who once just thought weed was weed was weed before the evolution of strain varieties. “To have the complete turnaround and shift that I’ve had, I know it’s feasible for other people who shared the same perception as I did. Coming from the East Coast, when you’re in a state that doesn’t have legalization, the grow process is completely different than what you have here in California and it’s very clandestine. It’s like night and day when you have the freedom to grow properly with the options of organic and outdoor grown and cultivators that are so specific and careful about their product and the variety of strains. It’s the difference between shopping at Whole Foods and the corner liquor store where you have no idea where the produce comes from. It’s liberating that the consumer gets to make that decision for themselves.”
Lowell Café, 1201 N. La Brea Ave., West Hollywood; (323) 975-7676, lowellcafe.com.