Whether you’re seeking savory ingredients or sweet, Laguna eateries offer plenty of dishes that can be enjoyed at home or on the go.
By Sharael Kolberg
When looking for a quick, healthy meal in Laguna Beach, bowls are a must-try. Many eateries in town reach for savory ingredients like beans, rice and veggies while still others fill theirs with sweet treats such as acai topped with nuts and coconut. And easy to eat on the go, they’re the perfect option to grab on the way to the beach, to watch the sunset or simply to head home for the night.
Whether you opt for sweet or savory, the trend seems to be here to stay. Read on to learn about a few of the establishments in town that are serving up locals’ favorite bowls.
At Poke Tiki in the HIP District, customers build their own Hawaiian poke bowls starting with the base—white rice, brown rice, urban salad or chips. Next, select one of 10 raw or cooked protein options, such as raw salmon, spicy tuna, scallops or tofu. Then come the toppings: There are plenty of options to choose from, including avocado, edamame, ginger or mango, as well as dry seasonings like crunchy onion and dry seaweed. Lastly, the sauce ties it all together, with dressings ranging from mild to spicy with poke sauce, wasabi cilantro, Volcano and beyond. A traditional poke bowl—popularized in Hawaii, thanks to the fresh seafood found around the islands—is made with raw fish over white rice, topped with soy sauce, green onions and other savory ingredients. It has been heavily embraced by surfers, both across the Pacific and here in Southern California. (949-303-3417; poketiki.com)
One of the most popular items on the menu at family-owned Active Culture is the Wholesome Bowl. The gluten-free blend is made with organic brown rice, both black and red beans and cheddar cheese plus salsa, avocado, green cabbage, cilantro, seasoning and the secret OG (Organic Goodness) sauce, which is made from scratch daily. Obsessed with this sauce, many locals have tried to re-create it at home, but the recipe remains a secret—however, customers can buy the sauce separately to add to their homemade bowls. On the sweeter side, Active Culture also makes acai bowls, such as the Protein Bowl, with an acai and peanut butter base topped with banana, granola, almonds, cashews, cocoa nibs, coconut and honey. The eatery’s mission is to provide the community with fresh ingredients crafted into “great tasting dishes that nourish your body.” (949-715-5188; activeculturecafe.com)
Jan’s Health Bar
At Jan’s Health Bar in north Laguna, you’ll find a variety of fresh bowls in addition to sandwiches, salads, wraps, smoothies and fresh juices. “Food is powerful,” says owner Poppy Holguin. “It brings us together, shapes our memories and empowers our communities.” A local favorite, the Protein Bowl, offers a choice of nitrate-free turkey, tuna salad, chicken salad, roasted chicken breast, vegetarian turkey or avocado. The bowl is then topped with cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots and Spike seasoning blend. Aside from the Protein Bowl, diners can choose from the Cali Chop Bowl, which features an avocado-cilantro dressing; the Mexican-inspired Fiesta Bowl and the Tsunami Bowl, stuffed with rice noodles, peanuts, edamame and more. Wash your bowl down with a made-to-order Go Green juice with kale, spinach, parsley, celery, cucumber, ginger, apple and lemon. (949-371-0023; janshealthbar.com)
Wahoo’s Fish Taco
From Mexico and Greece to China and Brazil, the menu at Wahoo’s Fish Taco is representative of surf/skate cultures around the world. The popular taco chain—started by brothers Eduardo “Ed” Lee, Wing Lam and Renato “Mingo” Lee—encourages diners to “ride those waves, care for your community, love what you eat every day and be authentically you.” One of the most requested items on the menu is the Kalua Pig Bowl, made with slow-cooked carnitas sauteed in teriyaki sauce. The mixture is placed atop a bed of steamed rice (white or brown) and beans (black or spicy Cajun), then finished with a layer of salsa. Other bowls on the menu include the salmon, shrimp and Maui steak varieties, but the eatery has options that vegetarians will love as well, with tofu and Banzai Veggies offered as protein substitutes. (949-497-0033; wahoos.com)
Named after the Banzai Pipeline surf spot on Oahu’s North Shore, near where one of the owners grew up, there’s no doubt that this eatery borrows from the laid-back surf culture. Menu items are made to order, using mostly organic, non-GMO and locally sourced ingredients. “We came up with [the tagline] ‘Live life in the bowl,’ since the bowls are the perfect thing to eat before you surf or skate,” says Joe Bard, co-owner of Banzai Bowls. The shop serves both bowls and smoothies with your choice of a base: pitaya (dragon fruit) or acai, the latter of which Bard says he has enjoyed since 1997. “Not only is it full of antioxidants, it’s light and gives you tons of energy, so it … [is] the perfect thing to eat before and after surfing—which was basically my life,” he adds. The signature Banzai Bowl blends apple juice or hemp milk with acai, strawberries, bananas and papaya, which is then poured into a bowl (or a large plastic cup for to-go orders) before being topped with more bananas and strawberries as well as granola, blueberries, kiwi, coconut, bee pollen and honey. Although there are many other options to choose from, orders can also be customized to ensure you get everything you desire in this tasty treat. (949-715-8989; banzaibowls.com)