Cafe Lotus and Juice Bar: Vegan Friendly

ENCINITAS.  At the Lotus Café and Juice Bar, my only problem is narrowing down the options and making a decision.  The menu offers a variety of vegan dishes and classifies each dish as (1) vegan “as is;” (2) easily modified to vegan (i.e., replacing dairy cheese with vegan cheese), or (3) vegan but for the honey.

What’s the deal with honey, you ask?  Honey is a hot topic in the vegan world.  Some feel strongly that true vegans do not consume honey, whereas others invite honey into the vegan tent because honey is not meat, fish, dairy, or eggs.   For each side of the great honey debate:

Honey is vegan:

Honey is NOT vegan:

On my most recent trip to Lotus Café, I tried the Indian Curry Bowl.  I enjoyed fresh steamed vegetables mixed in a curry sauce, served over organic brown rice with organic, whole wheat chapati—Indian unleavened flatbread—on the side.  The vegetables tasted fresh, and the dressing is well seasoned but not too spicy.  I also loved scooping the vegetables and rice onto the warm chapati!

Next up was the Nirvana Burrito.  (I had a wing man, or so I tell people.)  A generous portion of sautéed vegetables, pinto beans, and organic rice are wrapped in chapati, then covered with ranchero sauce, vegan cheese, and guacamole.  This hefty burrito holds its own against even the “California” burritos littered about San Diego.  But at the same time, it does not hit your stomach like a brick.  Plus, you get a side salad of crisp green lettuce and sprouts, with fun vegan dressings like tofu dill or tahini.

As the name Lotus Café and Juice Bar suggests, this establishment boasts an array of juices, smoothies, and shakes.

With such creative options, it’s easy to order something special!  First, I sampled the Priya Pitaya Smoothie, which blends organic pitaya, pineapple, banana, and papaya juice.

Pitaya?  Exactly, I had no idea.  But after some research, I learned pitaya is a pink skinned fruit that comes from a cactus plant and has a mild flavor like a melon or kiwi.  The global marketing machine touts this fruit as the next “superfood,” due to its high levels of Vitamin C and phytoalbumin, an antioxidant believed to prevent the formation of free radicals.  Based on the meteoric rise of acai, I predict a pitaya invasion.

The smoothie was tropical, mild, and delicious.  I would definitely recommend trying this smoothie!  And if you love things that are bright pink, then this drink is probably mandatory.

Me, I love anything with coconut.  The Coc-Aloha is a smoothie with pineapple, banana, and pineapple-coconut juice.  The mixing of the coconut and pineapple flavors conjures the presence of a pina colada.  It’s creamy and fruity without being overly sweet.

Lotus also offers an ever changing, delicious selection of baked goods.  Vegan desserts are clearly marked.  I tried a vegan and gluten free cupcake featuring the irresistible combination of dense, moist chocolate cake with thick peanut butter icing.  Again, I swear I had a wing man.

The pictures on this post are from the Hillcrest location.  The earth tones of the walls, the wooden booths, the artwork, and the music all help create a relaxing atmosphere.  There is also an outdoor covered patio that allows diners to enjoy their food outside.

UPDATE: As of August 6, 2013, the Cafe Lotus and Juice Bar’s Hillcrest location has CLOSED.

765 S Coast Highway 101

Encinitas, CA 92024