Playing it cool: Environmentally hip Lofo serves up handmade smoothies, diverse menu

You know it’s a hipster restaurant when:

1. There’s more than five items on the menu featuring kale.
2. Fresh-pressed juices are available.
3. There’s tofu.
4. It’s across the street from an Urban Outfitters.

Lofo is the epitome of cool. It’s clean, silver and polished. There’s lots of artsy photographs on the wall. The cashier wears a bomber hat indoors.

Located at 214 Walton St. in Armory Square, Lofo was initially going to be a collaborative restaurant with Om Boys Smoothie and Juice Bar. But, as the waitress, cashier, all-around handy person explained to us, Om Boys ended up going under and Lofo opened up. Lofo kept Om Boys’ most popular menu items, so returning customers can keep coming back for their favorite grain bowls and smoothies.

One thing that struck me about Lofo was its efficiency, both environmentally and otherwise. After ordering at the register, you have the option of either getting your receipt emailed or texted to you. Less paper, less waste — I respect that. Bonus cool points were given for the cash register being an iPad.

Lofo is, in ways, a self-service restaurant, giving off more of a café vibe than a restaurant one. Diners pour their own water, filling up empty glasses that sit next to a water cooler-like contraption on the counter. A bucket is on the ground beneath the spout to catch any water runoff.

The eatery serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Its menu boasts that Lofo caters to “a diverse food community offering an array of dishes for numerous dietary preferences,” and it lives up to this promise. There are vegan, gluten-free, paleo-free and lacto-free options. But meat-eaters fear not, bacon is also available.

The breakfast menu has everything from homemade granola to tofu scrambles to fried eggs with toast. When we ate at Lofo at about 11 a.m., they were still serving breakfast. While I opted for a more savory option, my friend tried the French toast for $5.50. The golden brown French toast looked beautiful with a fine dusting of powered sugar on top. When I asked how it tasted, my friend said, after finishing the entire plate, “It was exquisite – reminded me of my grandma’s.”

For my entrée, I had the Kale Miso salad (gluten-free/vegan) for $9. I’ll preface by saying I like my salads huge — big enough to be a filling meal. For the price, this was my hope for the one I ordered at Lofo, but the portion size was much too dainty.

I appreciated that the salad was made with two types of kale: curly and lacinato, which looks purple. The menu advertised the dish as a “massaged kale” salad. Massaging kale softens the leaves, making it more pleasant to chew, but I couldn’t detect any pre-massaging done to this kale. The salad also featured carrots, cucumbers and tough, almost-burnt shitake mushrooms.

But the salad’s biggest disappointment was the popped amaranth topping. Amaranth is a gluten-free grain that, when toasted over high heat, pops into tiny, wonderfully crunchy white balls. However, the amaranth on top of this salad was dark brown. This happens when you try to pop amaranth in a not-hot-enough pot. The amaranth was overly toasted, tough and only some were truly popped correctly. The best part of the salad was the cucumber miso dressing, which was both salty and sweet from the miso.

Lofo also offers smoothies and juices made fresh to order. I had the Pineapple, Greens and Ginger Juice for $6.50. The juice was, unlike the salad, wonderful. I tasted the sweetness of the pineapple, the slight bitterness of the greens and the spice of the ginger — prevalent, but not overpowering. The drink had the clean, crisp and light flavors I hope for in a juice.

I’ll visit Lofo again to try another one of their smoothies, soups or maybe even a sandwich. But given my appetite for monstrous-sized salads, I think I’ll avoid that menu option and opt for a juice instead, which alone is worth coming back for.


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