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By Elena Kadvany

Southern California chain snags La Boulange space in Palo Alto

Uploaded: Oct 1, 2015

Lemonade, a fast-casual healthy restaurant chain based in Southern California, announced this week a forthcoming expansion into the Bay Area, including a new location in downtown Palo Alto.

Lemonade will be opening in 2016 what it plans to be its flagship Bay Area location at 151 University Ave., the former home of La Boulange. All 23 La Boulange locations in the Bay Area have closed following Starbuck's decision to shut down the San Francisco-based cafe chain it acquired just three years ago.

Lemonade CEO and co-founder Alan Jackson, reached Thursday morning standing outside the University Avenue space, said his company has been eyeing Palo Alto, and University Avenue in particular, for the past year and a half.

"I think it's the perfect extension," he said. "This is really where we wanted to launch the brand up here."

Lemonade, which first opened in West Hollywood in 2007, describes itself as "a modern marketplace serving a colorful bounty of seasonal California comfort food in a bright cafeteria setting."

Sounds cheesy, but it's actually a pretty apt description. Walk into a Lemonade and you can choose from rows of cafeteria-like containers of 20 fresh, seasonal dishes like cauliflower with golden raisins, almonds and curry; soba noodles with kimchi-marinated vegetables, toasted peanuts and sesame seeds; couscous with mushrooms, parmesan cheese, lemon and truffles; watermelon radish served with seared tuna, snap peas and ginger. There are also hot dishes like mashed potatoes and roasted Brussel sprouts and proteins (buttermilk-baked chicken breast, citrus-poached salmon, pineapple chicken, seared ahi tuna and more for $5.50 to $6.50).

Customers can choose from one to six portions of each dish, from $2.75 for one portion to $12.50 for six. Lemonade encourages customers to mix and match dishes as they please.

Lemonade also serves both typical and unusual sandwiches, including one with masala green apple curry chicken and pickled cucumber. All sandwiches are $6.50, save a $4.50 grilled cheese. There are also "market tossed salads" for $7, sides like mac and cheese and chili, dessert (cupcakes, pies, cookies, macarons) and six rotating flavors of Lemonade, hence the name. (Current Lemonade flavors at Southern California locations include coconut apple, guava limeade, watermelon rosemary, blueberry mint and blood orange.)

The entire menu rotates eight times a year (twice a season).

Lemonade Palo Alto will also serve breakfast. Lemonade President Ian Olsen said they will be developing partnerships with local bakeries and coffee roasters for that, hoping to fill the hole left by La Boulange.

Jackson, who started cooking in Los Angeles at a young age, opened his first restaurants, Jackson's and The Farm in Beverly Hills, in his 20s. He later got into catering, catering everything from weddings to the Golden Globes, he said.

At some point, he realized he was missing somewhere flexible where he could pick up a quick meal, and the concept for Lemonade was born. There are now nearly 20 Lemonade locations throughout Southern California.

Along with Palo Alto, Jackson plans to open two other Lemonades in the Bay Area, also at former La Boulange locations. (One in San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center and the other in Walnut Creek.)

Olsen said they'll be doing some significant remodeling to the 151 University space. They hope to be open sometime in the spring of 2016.