The simple signage (below) out front of the Santa Monica Boulevard storefront says it all. Food Lab brands their store with the international symbols for 'Heart', 'Food' and 'Happy'. Does the heart stand for love or heart-healthy? A strong case could be made either way. If it's not the collection of quality ingredients served inside that keeps me coming back, it's the superior service and branded smiles on the baristas and servers who man the register and deliver your lunch.
Breakfast, sandwiches and salads can be spruced up with a supplemental selection from a case full of fresh sides (below, left). Those browsing the case will also discover an assortment of winning takeaways, like housemade speck, Boccalone salami and Dean & Deluca sauces.
Diners sip on coffee or house-made juices while eating pastries out front or in the larger seating area out back (below, right), where the only thing that disrupts the tranquil afternoon is the occasional rumbling engine from the Thunder Road Motorcycle Shop next door.
Coffee drinks come in big ol' bowls (below). The portion is appreciated, though a handle would be a nice gesture to keep me from slurping and dribbling my latte down my chin. In spite of how much may or may not make it into my mouth, it's some of the better coffee in town.
The organic European-style yogurt with berries (below, right) is one of the lighter options on the breakfast menu. During the weekends, you can also fill up on organic egg dishes like the smoked salmon and creme fraiche omelette.
The breakfast menu also hosts a collection of sandwiches. The hard-boiled egg sandwich (below) is served on wheat bread and loaded with juicy ingredients like farm raised bacon, watercress & aioli. Sandwiches are served a la carte and range from $7-$12. The price is usually justified by the quality of ingredients, as you'll find stuff like fresh figs or lingonberry chutney on your sandwich.
Salads are no different, ranging from $9.50-13. Food + Lab's plates of greens are loaded with impressive toppings. The crispy prosciutto & fig salad is served with halloumi, candied pecans, balsamic and apricot over a bed of arugula.
For lunch, you'll find an entirely new assortment of sandwiches. I enjoyed the chicken salad and Cuban-tyle sandwiches, respectively. The delicious organic turkey breast (below) is served on wheat with brie, pear, honey and fig compote. Balancing out the perk of the extensive menu is that Food + Lab tends to run out of some of those quality ingredients with regularity.
Having already catered and cooked for celebs like Gwen Stefani and David Beckham, the mother and son team of Esther and Nino Linsmayer has turned their catering business into a collection of storefront Food + Lab markets around town. Come for lunch or just for coffee, Food + Lab is a great place to meet friends, get some work done or just waste a couple hours on a warm spring afternoon. For those wanting to finish their meal with dessert, the Lab also carries ice cream sandwiches from @Coolhaus and delicious cookies from @DeLuscious to sate your sweet tooth.