When it comes to restaurants that tout vegan-friendly options, vegetarian specialties and fresh-squeezed carrot and green juices, my daughter Ella and I are decisively divided. To me, has been a fantastic addition to the Encinitas restaurant landscape and a natural place to bring the kids. To Ella…well, I’ll let her tell you –
My first thought was yuck, probably. But then I thought about it and thought “well, it might not be that bad.”
So the whole family agreed to join me at Lotus Café, to see what all the fuss was about. I had visited Lotus time and time again for lunch with friends, business meetings or for a quick smoothie after yoga (along with half the class), but did I dare to take two young kids and a studley meat-eating husband?
Their first reaction was pleasant surprise at the crowd. The place was bright and bustling, and there was not a pair of Birkenstocks to be seen, or an “Om” to be heard.
Pretty with nice music. Water with lemon that you can fill up yourself. It’s lively and crowded but not too loud.
During lunches, I had tried many of the wonderful salads, veggie entrees and even the carrot juice, but for this outing, I had one goal: get the kids to eat vegetables without really knowing it. With the varied menu—soups, sandwiches, pasta, Mexican entrees, all-day breakfast, and even kids’ selections—we didn’t even have to look twice at the salads.
I thought that the menu was very full. I had a lot of choices. Most restaurants just have like quesadilla, chicken nuggets, corn dog or bean and cheese burrito. They had yogurt bowls and most people wouldn’t have a yogurt bowl. And instead of just plain old quesadillas they had chicken quesadillas. I noticed that they had a kids’ menu, and that’s usually a good sign.
The daily specials made it easy to get our veggie fix—red pepper cilantro hummus and tomato artichoke soup were our first choices. The Swami’s Lasagna and Carlsbad Quesadilla were my selfish picks and I wondered if the husband and kids would love these two sublime dishes as much as I did. My man declared the veggie lasagna one of the best he’d had, and that includes lasagna with sausage, ground beef and any other kind of protein you could think of. As for the quesadilla, it contains chicken with Lotus’ insanely good ranchero sauce, which I dream about day and night. In our town with an embarrassment of Mexican food riches, this little spot is turning out some of the tastiest we have had. That’s saying a lot. How did Ella fare with my picks?
The hummus was good but then it turns a little bit of spicy in your mouth. I was really surprised when mom told me it had vegetables because it didn’t taste like it at all.
The soup I’m not sure about. I liked it but it didn’t taste like tomato soup. It’s mushroomish soupish or something.
With the chicken quesadilla, I can’t say I liked it, I can’t say I didn’t like it. It needed a little more cheese and there was some sauce on it, but I just had to get used to it.
Now it was kids’ choice. They picked the acai bowl after seeing the photo on the website and were not disappointed.
I like blueberry yogurt but it has coconuts and that’s kind of weird. Coconut and yogurt is kind of weird, but it tasted good.
We threw in a smoothie for good measure, but they stepped outside the box a bit with a Peacha-Colada, not your standard fare in the smoothie world.
The smoothie was very interesting. I’ve never tasted a smoothie like that, in a good way. It just tasted neat, kind of. It tasted like somebody was taking one of each fruit and two pineapples and squeezing them all in there.
Our nod to blandness was the turkey sandwich, but even that one my approval with the fresh whole grain bread, sprouts and dijonaise sauce that wasn’t too overpowering for the kids. Plus I like that the sandwiches come with blue corn chips and salsa. Much lighter and nicer than fries!
The turkey sandwich has lettuce and tomatoes but I took them out. The bread was sour bread and I liked the taste with the turkey.
We were much too stuffed to try the vegan baked goods, but I was forced to pinkie promise that we would eat dessert first next time.
They had some really interesting cupcakes and spiced apricot or something cupcake. I want to try that one next time.
What’s the verdict?
My favorite thing about the Lotus Café was the workers. They were all very nice.
Would I return? Yes! Definitely! They had different food. I like how they use the veggies to make it something else, like the artichoke tomato soup. I would never have guessed there was artichokes in that. Ever. It’s a good place for kids to eat veggies and not even know it.
Lotus Café is the type of place you can leave as a parent feeling good about what you fed the kiddos. It’s not all “healthy” stuff, but the selections allow you to eat right and even splurge a little, no matter what you’re in the mood for.