Please check your preconceived notions at the curb. It may look like a diner, with only outdoor seating and window-ordering and burgers and shakes on the menu. But through the windows at Lake Park Diner, you see a floor-to-ceiling chicken rotisserie inching upward and around. The outdoor seating has a garden feel. You can order craft cocktails such as tequila with strawberry and lime or a clever shake such as the cake batter flavor. And those burgers? Ground from grass-fed beef.
This is the “Diner with a Conscience” known that opened earlier in October, long-awaited by fans who immediately stormed it and were still filling the patio when I lunched there a couple of weeks ago.
The menu urges you to “Get Healthy,” then describes French toast biscuit with lemon curd and wild blueberry compote (on the breakfast menu to debut this month), and dessert shakes topped with donuts or hefty wedges of cake.
As an evolution of the popular Smith Organic food truck once stationed at Celebration Park, Lake Park Diner, despite the indulgences, has healthy in its genes. The rotisserie chicken is organic. And its salads and bowls brim with goodness.
I tried the Brussel pomegranate salad, fortified with chopped kale, chia seeds and apple, then dressed with the most delicate lemon vinaigrette. Pretty proud, considering I wanted the chicken wings with rosemary parmesan sauce. Proud, virtuous and energized! I washed it down with a glass of passionfruit lemonade, but more about juices and such later.
The menu has something for vegan, gluten-free, plant-based and dairy-free diets. And “classics” for non-restrictive regimens: steak & frites, a buttermilk-fried chicken pimento sandwich, Korean beef tacos and miso wild salmon. If you dine on the patio, your meal comes on real (nice!) tableware. To-go orders are equipped with earth-friendly disposables.
The raw lemonade bar throws out a choice of 13 flavor infusions from black cherry to thyme. Hemp and hibiscus tea, fresh fruit and veggie juices and shots of wheatgrass juice; or ginger ale, root beer and latte: Sip as healthy or self-indulgent as you wish. Lake Park Diner, like the love child of a hippy chick and John Belushi, may have a conscience, but it’s not judgey.