It's hard not to categorize, or compare a place as soon as you walk in. Lately, everything new reminds someone of a place in Brooklyn. Or it looks just like the place down the street, or it's something that everyone is doing. So when I walked into The Springs for the first time, I had many thoughts. It's kind of like a big, open, groovy Starbuck's with people hanging, meeting and working on their computers, but then there's the restaurant, so no, it's got more of an Urth Cafe vibe. Wait, there's a yoga center and spa facility. Uh, actually, I have no comparisons for this.
The Springs LA opened in the Arts District downtown just over 6 months ago. It was, and is, like nothing else. It's a holistic gathering place, if there ever was such a thing. It has many places to just "be." There's large wood tables to hook up to free wifi. Bucket seats and couches are scattered about the big open warehouse room with tons of light streaming in, and a steady breeze flowing through makes you feel like you're outside. A small shop sells the latest sustainable kitchenware and indoor composters.
Continue through the communal space and you'll walk past rotating pop-up art installations, and then you'll find a wellness center with every treatment you could imagine (massage, acupuncture, cranio-sacral) and perhaps some that you couldn't, like gravity colon hydrotherapy.
In the back is a tricked out yoga studio with a graffiti filled wall from floor to ceiling, end to end, with a mural that I can only describe as mesmerizing. The classes range from flow based yoga to hatha, restorative and kundalini, which I tried for the first time and am still processing. The owner and creator of The Springs LA, Jared Stein, said he wanted the space to be open to everyone and for the yoga to be the same way, not favoring any one path or style.
Keeping in theme with the space, The Springs has a vegan restaurant that is 100% organic and also raw, meaning nothing on the menu is cooked over 118 degrees. The theory is that if you keep the food at or under this temperature, the full nutritional content of the food remains intact. After a unique experience exploring meditative breath work in Kundalini yoga, it only seemed natural to follow it up with some healthy, fresh from the ground food and drinks.
While I do still eat some meat, and definitely still cook most of my food, I have been digging deeper into the vegan food space. What I like about it is the use of fresh, natural ingredients. I don't like food pretending to be something else, ie., tofurkey, chick'n and the like. Most of the vegan wanna-be meats and products are highly processed, which really defeats the whole healthy eating purpose for me. The Springs follows the same mantra of serving grown from the ground food over heavily manufactured fare.
Nuts are a pivotal player at The Springs, and used in a lot of sauces and "cheese" such as a cashew old bay spiced filling, stuffed in a delicate wonton made of coconut. The exterior is light, the interior creamy, further enhanced by sweet chili sauce. It's wonderful.
Equally delicious and unique is a curried cauliflower samosa, once again using the coconut wrapper and further enhanced with a tangy mango chutney. There's nothing missing in the flavor department and a stunning plate.
I've never been much of a reuben fan, but the one at the Springs contains marinated mushrooms, thousand island dressing, sauerkraut and pickles. It's turned me into a believer.
Salads are generous in size and flavor like the robust nacho salad and salty seaweed caesar. They're more savory than sweet with strong umami flavors holding down the fort.
Pastas get creative with zucchini noodles in a green curry, spiced with avocado, cilantro and lime, while kelp noodles are spiked with a black pepper cream and a fiery smoked coconut bacon. Both highly enjoyable, but I was a little more partial to the kelp noodles and its spicy sauce.
The unique flavor parade didn't let up at dessert. I've never seen peas in a dessert, but the sweet pea mint pistachio cake was delicious with fresh strawberries and strawberry gelato made with coconut milk and pea tendrils. It was very satisfying.
The chef, Michael Falso, honed his raw kitchen skills at M.A.K.E. kitchen. He uses a myriad of dehydrators for many Springs' menu items, but they've got the space since there's no need for a stove or oven. A dehydrated strawberry shows up in the Strawberry Fields sake cocktail, which is the best use of sake I've seen in a while. It's fully balanced with muddled fresh strawberries, basil, turmeric, ginger and balsamic reduction. You can continue healthy drinking with a riff on the master cleanse balancing drink with The Springs' Master Tini, combining maple, lemon, cayenne and coconut palm sugar. The sake cocktails are some of the best I've tasted in LA, and I know they're definitely some of the best adult beverages healthwise.
The Springs is walking the walk and talking the talk with its plethora of healthy living programs, treatments, classes and cuisine. This healthy halo will no doubt be off putting for some, but judging by the crowd on a random weekday evening, there's plenty who are pleased to find a home that meets their inner and outer needs. Everyone seems happy to share space for work and play with other open like minded people. Namaste to that.
The Springs LA
608 Mateo Street, Los Angeles
*I was a guest of The Springs LA, but all opinions are always my own.
If you're looking for more plant based, vegan fare, try one of these Los Angeles restaurants.