lotus cafe and juice bar / hillcrest – san diego, ca

Lotus Cafe and Juice Bar is a local restaurant with two locations in Hillcrest and Encinitas. They serve fresh, healthy, natural food and have a lot of dietary options for people who have gluten restrictions, are vegetarian or vegan. Many items can be made vegan and there are a few meaty dishes for those who prefer a bit more protein with their meal.

[Lotus Cafe and Juice Bar Menu]

[Menu Key – The menu is marked with various symbols indicating what the different options are. ]

When I found out I was being invited here and looked at the menu, I decided that I would bring Stacey along with me on this outing as she’s the closest to a vegetarian friend that I have, without actually being vegetarian. What can I say? The girl really likes her salads but can’t bear to give up bacon (bacon smells really good, you must admit).

[Hummus & Pita Bread – spread made of ground garbanzo, sesame seeds, olive oil, lemon & garlic, served with wedges of whole wheat pita bread]

We started off with an appetizer of hummus after we spent an obscenely long amount of time trying to figure out exactly what we wanted. The hummus comes in a big scoop. It’s very solid so not as creamy as other hummus that I’ve had, but the flavor of garlic and lemon shines through and gives this a nice texture and flavor. It comes with a mess of carrots and sprouts along with whole wheat pita bread for spreading and eating.

[Lotus Caesar Salad – Mixed organic greens with tomato, avocado, croutons, Parmesan cheese and vegetarian Caesar dressing]

We also shared this very large Lotus Caesar Salad between the two of us (half salad is also available). This comes with a vegetarian Caesar dressing on the side. The Caesar still has all of the flavor and kick of a regular Caesar so you’re not missing out when you get this. The tomatoes were so fresh and bright and the Parmesan shavings added a nice salty flavor to the salad. Half of a perfectly ripe avocado is placed on top for you to devour (which we did). So refreshing and crisp – the addition of the avocado here really made this shine for me.

[Stuffed Veggie Quesadilla – Whole wheat chapati stuffed with sauteed veggies and cheese, topped with guacamole, salsa and sour cream]

Stacey was between two items for quite some time but finally decided on this Stuffed Veggie Quesadilla. This one can be made vegan, if you so desire. It’s stuffed with with sauteed veggies – including big chunks of broccoli (something we both found really weird at first but it tasted so good that we decided it was a brilliant idea). The veggies are still a bit crisp with a little bite for extra texture. Covered in delicious cheese and topped with a spot of guacamole and sour cream, this is a very delicious and healthy version of a quesadilla.

[Avocado Heaven – Avocado with lettuce, sprouts, tomato, & red onion on 8-grain bread with garlic mayo]

I was in an avocado mood that day and decided I’d get the Avocado Heaven sandwich, which can be made Honey Vegan if you omit the garlic mayo. I forgot to ask for no sprouts on my sandwich so I quickly discarded of those before biting into my sandwich. This was when I realized that I could eat just avocado sandwiches and be a perfectly happy girl. The avocado was so creamy and there was such a good amount on it that I didn’t miss the meat. The tomatoes were fresh and crisp and the garlic mayo just gave the sandwich an additional layer of flavor. If you love avocado as much as I do, you certainly won’t miss the meat either with this sandwich. It also comes with some blue tortilla chips and a side of salsa.

[Peanut Butter Shake]

We had desserts and shakes last. There should be no surprises that I ordered desserts with peanut butter in them. It is my weakness after all.

The shakes can be made with soy milk, if so desired, an additional dollar. The shakes are nice and creamy and topped with whipped cream and a pretty ring of chocolate disks all around the rim. The shake was thick, but not so thick that it was too hard to suck it up through the straw. The peanut butter flavor was nice and balanced but not too thick, either. All around very solid.

[Coc-Aloha – Pineapple, Banana, Pineapple-Coconut juice]

Stacey opted for a smoothie – which are frozen blended drinks with only fruit juice and no other additives. It was very thick and sweet and knowing it was all natural just made it even better. Someone behind us in line heard and saw Stacey’s smoothie and was inspired to get one themselves and then the gentleman actually came by to tell us that he ordered one just because he heard Stacey’s order! The man also came by again later with his 93 year old dad who quipped and asked if we were his dates for that night. We were terribly amused.

[Vegan cupcakes]

In addition to our shakes and smoothies, we also got two cupcakes. These are vegan cupcakes, made in house at the restaurant. There were also cake slices available made off-site in a Leucadian bakery (non-vegan), but Stacey and I decided to try these out.

The one in the forefront is a chocolate vegan cupcakes with peanut butter frosting. In the back is a chocolate vegan cupcake with cream cheese frosting.

[Inside the vegan cupcake]

The cupcakes were much more moist and chocolatey then we thought they would be. They were also quite dense and rich, but overall had a nice sweetness and flavor. I could probably tell there was something different about this cupcake without even knowing it was vegan, but the taste is still pleasant enough that I enjoyed it and was surprised at how tasty it was. Vegan cupcakes have kind of scared me a little bit and it’s nice to know a good option is out there.

The peanut butter frosting is much more successful than the cream cheese in our opinion. The peanut butter still has a true peanut flavor and had a nice creaminess to it. The cream cheese on the other hand was made with soy cream cheese and was much too sour and tart for our liking. It didn’t didn’t taste much like typical cream cheese frosting to us so as non-vegans we would avoid it in the future and stick to another flavor.

All in all Stacey and I both really enjoyed the food and the atmosphere at Lotus Cafe. There are so many options catering to different dietary needs and wants here that it’s refreshing to see a business who’s willing to and caters to all of those different needs.

Disclaimer: I was invited to dine at the restaurant by BAM Communications and our meal was complimentary. I was not paid for this review and all opinions are my own.

Lotus Cafe and Juice Bar
3955 5th Ave.
San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 795-2446

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Author: Mary

Mary is a San Diego native and has been a food blogger for 11+ years. She is an avid reader, a lover of puppies, and loves trying new food. Foods she loves: sweets, peanut butter, pasta, Triscuit crackers with cream cheese, and extra nuts on top of her sundaes. Food she dislikes: pickles, really spicy food, runny eggs, olives, and too much arugula.

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