Uplifters Kitchen, a vegetarian eatery in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Santa Monica, will reopen on September 3 under new ownership. Acquiring the business after its closure in May 2020, culinary up-and-comer Salima Saunders will relaunch the daytime dining concept with refreshed branding, an interior makeover, and a menu of wholesome yet decadent breakfast, lunch, and pastry offerings, integrating an eclectic mix of Indian and Mediterranean flavors too.
Saunders set her sights on restaurant ownership after honing her skills in culinary and operational roles at restaurants like Amara Kitchen in Highland Park and Bar Nine in Culver City. She also ran her own LA-based vegetarian catering company, developing a passion for nourishing fuel-food that relies on seasonal and locally sourced ingredients. When she found the opportunity to carry on the Uplifters Kitchen legacy, she decided to take the leap. “The former owner and regulars at Uplifters share a lot of my same values, not only in terms of health and wellness, but in supporting local farmers and purveyors,” says Saunders.
The revamped menu includes Indian and Mediterranean-inspired dishes designed to showcase SoCal’s bounty of seasonal fruits and veggies. The menu’s soulful highlights include Mama’s Hearty Daal with coconut rice and pickled carrots, classic veggie samosas and a Breakfast Mezze with zaatar hummus and Fattoush salad. Fans of the previous Uplifters menu can look forward to adapted menu classics like the Uplifters Biscuit Sandwich, Austin Style Breakfast Tacos, and Coconutty Granola.
In addition to the all-day breakfast offerings, lunch menu highlights include the Burrata Kale Salad with butternut squash, apple, roasted pecans, and shallot vinaigrette, the Fancy Grilled Cheese with roasted tomato and parmesan cheese butter, and the Portobello Mushroom Sandwich with chimichurri and house made focaccia. The pastry program features a mix of traditional, gluten free, and vegan goodies, including Seasonal Fruit Scones, Gluten-Free Almond Carrot Ginger Cake, Turmeric Power Balls, and a Vegan Donut with cashew cream.
The beverage program highlights Indian-inspired specialty drinks like Masala Chai and the Turmeric Caco Calming Latte, in addition to coffeehouse staples with beans from Shreebs Coffee, an Echo Park roaster founded by Casey Goch. The collaboration is one of many partnerships with local business owners. Says Saunders, “one of my biggest goals for Uplifters is to create a platform and touchpoint for female-owned businesses, from the coffee we brew to the ingredients we cook with.” Saunders has also tapped Roxana Jullapat, Owner/Baker of Friends & Family, for her crowd-favorite sourdough breads.
As an additional platform for local makers and creators, Uplifters Kitchen will feature a small section of retail goods, with packaged granolas, farmers market jams, previously loved cookbooks, and Hedley & Bennet face masks with Uplifters Kitchen branding. The retail arm will also debut with a pop-up from Monday Bouquets, a farmers market flower company from LA food writer Karen Palmer. Houseplants from plantsXplants will also be for sale. On the charitable front, Uplifters will kick off their launch by donating a portion of cookie sales to FEAST, a local nonprofit organization that provides struggling families with nutrition education and access to healthy foods.
The design of the space was overhauled with an emphasis on natural elements, incorporating wood, bamboo, and foliage throughout the interior. Saunders intended to enhance the natural brightness and lightness of the space while achieving a cozy look and feel, all centered around the goal of uplifting spirits. The exterior front seating area features four large picnic-style tables, bistro tables with umbrellas, and a newly added floral trellis.
While Uplifters Kitchen will offer plenty of distanced patio seating, the new menu was also carefully developed with takeout in mind, given the prevalence and importance of takeout options amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Guests can order via phone for pickup, with delivery app availability coming soon. As another way to enjoy an al fresco meal, Uplifters Kitchen is conveniently located adjacent to Clover Park, an expansive outdoor space and popular picnicking destination for locals and visitors alike. Guests can soon look forward to bespoke picnic baskets as a takeout upgrade. With health and safety as the number one priority, all staff have been thoroughly and rigorously trained to adhere to the highest safety and sanitation standards
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