CULTURE
Tasting Freedom: Dispatches From Lowell Café, LA's First Cannabis Restaurant
The City of Angels is on the brink of a major cultural shift, and Lowell Café, the new onsite consumption restaurant in West Hollywood, is at the epicenter.
Published on November 4, 2019

It’s fantastic that there are tons of places to buy legal weed in LA. But it’s lame-as-hell that there have been no true establishments to legally smoke delicious bud — until now. Last month saw the grand opening of Lowell Café, Los Angeles’ first legal onsite consumption restaurant. And it’s everything the city’s been missing. It’s a refuge from wasted nightlife, where flower service replaces bottle service and ceramic bongs are delivered to your table on a platter. We’re officially on the brink of a mainstream social culture that doesn’t revolve around alcohol. 

According to the World Cities Culture Forum, there are 1,644 bars in LA. Aside from Lowell Café, there are no places (outside of your home) to legally consume cannabis in the county — and even most neighboring counties! Imagine living in a massive city — with a population bigger than some entire states and countries — where there were hundreds of liquor stores, but no place to drink your booze. And if you’re caught sipping that beverage outside of your house, you’d get harassed, fined, slammed on the concrete, or arrested and thrown in jail — or, in worst cases, all of the above. You’d probably think the world is a scam. (And, it is — but that’s a story for a different day.)

Related: America's First Cannabis Cafe: Lowell Farms

That’s basically how it’s felt in California for a long time, technically since the dispensary explosion initiated by Prop. 215. But since Jan. 1, 2018, the day cannabis became legal in the Golden State, the dearth of places to enjoy our “freedom” to smoke weed has become so obvious it’s made legalization feel like a sick joke. Thankfully, Lowell Café fills that void — and it does so with an industrial bohemian elegance that ironically leaves patrons feeling like they’re at home. Not “home” in the physical sense — it's more of an instinctual “home," like an intuitive understanding that you’re among kindred spirits.

That’s saying something for a restaurant in West Hollywood that doesn’t serve alcohol, LA’s favorite vice. Given the difficulty of securing a reservation for parties of three or more, it’s evident that the people of LA are thirsty for a new adult culture — one that doesn’t revolve around getting blackout drunk and forgetting what the fuck happened last night. Lowell Café, then, is the start of a new normal built on the foundation of celebrating freedom. Here are our takeaways from a night at LA’s new history-making joint.

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Lowell Café

The Weed Menu Is 14 Pages

When the menus are delivered to the table, you get one for food and another solely for cannabis. The food menu is one piece of double-sided construction paper. The weed menu, which looks like it could be a wine list, is 14 pages. They have a page dedicated to joints: You can buy a single preroll, or you can buy packs of three, six, 10, or 14 — all of which are labled with short descriptors, like “happy” or “calm mind and body” or “mentally stimulating.” 

There’s a section dedicated to edibles, which is divvied up between infused-drinks, such as Two Roots “beer,” and candies, such as WYLD gummies and Defonce Chocolate. I know from experience that the latter is outrageously potent — albeit unbelievably delicious — because one time I gave my friend a bar of Defonce Chocolate as a gift, and she put it in her freezer (next to other artisan chocolates) to save for later. The next day, her husband came home after work and went into the freezer and blindly grabbed some chocolate. He obviousy grabbed the Defonce bar not knowing that it was infused and ate half of it — which truly says something about the quality of this edible because it does not taste like weed. 

After going to sleep, he woke up at 2AM stoned as fuck and clueless as to why he felt so strange. He started panicking and inevitably thought he was dying. After an hour of questioning what he’d done earlier in the night (which he could barely remember), he said he ate chocolate that was in the freezer. My friend told her husband that the chocolate he ate was, in fact, amazing weed chocolate. But he wasn't having it. He was convinced that I laced the chocolate with LSD (which I obviously didn’t because I probably wouldn’t have shared, if we’re being honest) because he was that high. So, there’s your warning about eating more than half of a Defonce bar if edibles aren't your super power. Thankfully, what you don’t finish at Lowell, you can take home with you!

The menu also has sections for flower, concentrates, legal vapes, and smoking accessories. Each different type of cannabis product is labled with the onset time, as well as if a product is fit for beginners or expert tokers. You can also order ceramic or high-tech gravity bongs to be delivered to your table on a tray. Bong service is way better than bottle service. 

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Photo via Lowell Café

There’s Flower Service and Food Service

There’s a set of servers at Lowell Café who deliver your food, and then there are servers who are in charge of flower service. Our flower girl for the evening was Chantelle, who told us she worked in a medical marijuana dispensary in Denver for years called MJ Organics. Prior, she worked in a bar. Chantelle said that working at Lowell was significantly less crazy because she doesn't have to babysit people the way she did while bartending. She said everyone stays mellow and is significantly nicer and respects her boundaries — meaning, men don’t incessantly hit on her.

That’s a pretty solid endorsement for weed over alcohol.

All of the servers at Lowell were extremely kind and accommodating. Our food waitress recited the menu to us as if it were Shakespearian poetry. When we ordered the Avocado and English Pea toast, she was quick to recommend a tea and salad that would mesh well with the avo-smeared bread. We went with her suggestions and got the kale salad — its best feature was the goat cheese and hemp oil because it cut the stringentness of the greens and walnuts — and jade tea with almond milk. 

All of which paired seamlessly with our Jack Herer joint that we smoked until we thought it was logical to repeatedly say: “Would you like a smoke and a pancake? A pipe and a crepe? A bong and a blintz?” while choke-laughing for 20 minutes. 

But in that moment of hysteria, the greatness of Lowell hit me: Few things in life taste as sweet as freedom. So, an institution built around celebrating the freedom to take sun-grown flower bong rips with your meal, legally pass joints in the open, and blow smoke clouds in the air is the 2019 American Dream. (That said, this new American Dream only works if we stop putting non-violent pot offenders in jail, and cops stop targetting minorities and marginalized folks for literally everything, particularly weed.)

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Mary Carreon
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Mary Carreon is an award-winning journalist from Southern California and the Associate Editor at MERRY JANE. She’s drawn to stories about cannabis and the environment, social equity, veterans, the history of weed in California, and the rise of psychedelics and plant medicine in the 21st century. You can find her bylines in Forbes, Kitchen Toke Magazine, OC Weekly, (the OG) LA Weekly, High Times Magazine, Sensi Magazine, and more. Mary loves green juice, coffee, and red wine equally — but not at the same time. When she’s not working, you can find her doing yoga to Ravi Shankar, or migrating towards the nearest venue playing the best music. Follow Mary on social media @maryyystardust or visit her at marycarreon.com
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