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First Look: Little Lion Café

Sunset Cliffs eatery caters to a health-conscious clientele

Plenty of healthy stuff in here to feel good about. Superfood Bowl. Little Lion Café.
  • Plenty of healthy stuff in here to feel good about. Superfood Bowl. Little Lion Café.

Little Lion Café

1424 Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, Ocean Beach

The wave mural remains, though the restaurant here has changed for the better.

The wave mural remains, though the restaurant here has changed for the better.

The Point Loma Beach Café closed a few months back after many years serving smoothies and sandwiches to the beachy denizens of south Ocean Beach. I stopped in once or twice a while back, usually as a meeting place to grab something quick before walking or surfing nearby Sunset Cliffs. It never really impressed me much — just a small, minimalist shop with a decent location and a little sidewalk seating.

When Little Lion Café opened in its place this week, I didn't imagine it would be much different. However, the French bistro décor and healthy menu officially won me over within minutes of arriving.

Breakfast and lunch selections include en vogue health food staples along the lines of chia seed pudding, organic kale salad and something called a green goddess veggie sandwich. Meat-eaters needn't be turned off, though; there are options including house-smoked salmon, roast beef and curried chicken salad.

I was feeling veggie during my midday visit. I sat on the sidewalk with my dog, Loki, and while she slurped at a water dish my friendly server immediately provided, I grabbed an iced Americano made from Café Moto beans and opted for my waitress's favorite, the ultra-nutritious-sounding superfood bowl.

There's actually a superfood bowl on both the breakfast and lunch menus, and near as I can tell they only differ by the choice of dressing: herb lemon vinaigrette for breakfast, and cilantro dressing for lunch. I got the cilantro option for $10.

The base ingredients are quinoa, avocado, and black beans, with seasonal vegetables added for flavor and color. Today these were green beans, roasted carrots and butternut squash. The carrot and green beans still had a little tooth to them, while the squash was soft and savory, lending a little meaty sensation to the vegan dish.

I'm usually at odds with eating this way. Intellectually, I love to do so. It makes me feel healthy and wise, and certainly treats my digestive tract well, adding a little extra bounce to my day. However, it's not typically a meal I relish — it's more like dutiful eating, diet eating. Not the foodie passion I experience with, say, a nice paté or lamb stew.

I'll hand it to the ladies of Little Lion though, this superfood bowl tasted great. The avocado was rich and buttery, the quinoa well cooked and the beans… well they did whatever it is black beans always do. The dressing was light, adding flavor on the whole without weighing down the veggies.

The Coulon sisters — the trio of blondes who own the place — hail from a family of restaurateurs, and seem to have carried over the lessons of a successful business model here. While the location's still small, and the sidewalk still a little cramped, the interior feels much more like a welcoming place to eat than the Beach Café ever did, meaning it could very well become a healthy breakfast and lunch destination rather than just a convenient place to juice up on the way to checking out a solid NW swell.

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