Tastings: Restaurant Lemonades

We searched eateries of all kinds for lemonades both traditional and trendy (Hibiscus, anyone?). Which citrusy brews had the most zing?

Fall may be just a few days away, but we’re still in the mood for that quintessential summer thirst-quencher—lemonade. Which restaurants make the best? A panel of Washingtonian interns tasted eight lemonades from small cafes, fancy dining rooms, and a traditional Vietnamese eatery. Here’s the lowdown.

The All-Around Favorite

Lemonade at Breadline
(1751 Pennsylvania Ave., NW). The simple but flavorful combination of fresh lemon juice, water, and sugar at this downtown sandwich shop edged out more upscale competitors. Testers complimented the lemonade’s balance, noting that the drink packed just the right punch of acidity and sweetness. For some, the drink’s pulp content made it all the more natural and appealing. $2.59.

The Old-Fashioneds

Lemonade at Java Green
(1020 19th St., NW). “Weak” and “bland” were some of the words used by testers to describe the lemonade poured at this small vegan cafe. “It’s like water with a squeeze of lemon,” one complained. Still, one person liked the drink’s mellow taste. So if you shy away from biting flavors, this might be a good choice. $2.20.

Lemonade at Brasserie Beck
(1101 K St, NW). The lemonade served at this new Belgian hangout is all tartness and no sweetness. “Pour in a tablespoon of sugar, please,” one tester said. Others agreed that the drink’s overpowering sourness made the drink taste more like lemon concentrate than lemonade. $3.47.

The Creative Twists

Limeade at Oyamel
(401 Seventh St., NW). This Penn Quarter Mexican restaurant’s concoction is packed with lime wedges and just a hint of Sprite. It’s also the pulpiest drink of the bunch. The extra ingredients help account for the drink’s taste, which testers found to be pleasant—“sweet, but with a tart aftertaste,” as one put it. The drink’s strong citrus scent was also a highlight. $3.25.

Ginger limeade at Teaism
(2009 R St. NW). Testers were initially intrigued by the combination of flavors in this Dupont Circle teahouse’s ginger limeade but ultimately thought the lingering ginger smell and aftertaste were too strong. “ I like ginger, but it doesn’t belong in limeade,” said one tester. Another observed that “something more subtle would have complemented the lime better.” $2.

Lowcountry lemonade at Indigo Landing
(1 Marina Dr., Alexandria). Infused with mint and topped with hibiscus, the lemonade at this waterfront spot known for its Lowcountry menu and breathtaking view of the city was a hit with testers when it came to looks. But for some, the flavor veered a little too far from lemons. One tester likened the lemonade to an “herbal remedy” while others thought it was just a tad “too minty.” $5.

Blackberry lemonade at Vidalia
(1990 M St. NW). Served over mint and ice and prepared with rosemary and blackberries, this Southern dining room’s lemonade was among the more unconventional brews. A deep shade of red, it looked more like cranberry juice than lemonade. Still, testers enjoyed the “smooth” texture and “good” flavor, even though it didn’t taste much like anything citrus. And according to one person, “it’s too fruity and heavy for a refreshment.” $3.75.

The Least Favorite

Chanh muoi
(pickled lemonade) at Huong Viet
(6785 Wilson Blvd., Falls Church). With its vinegary, acidic flavor, this Vietnamese restaurant’s pickled lemonade was ranked lowest by the testers. One wondered if the drink contained salt water or something pickled, and indeed, it was flecked with salt-water-preserved lemon rinds. For those who like their lemons fresh, Huong Viet also serves soda lemon, which combines fresh lemon juice with sugar and sparkling water. $3.

Not feeling the citrus burn yet? Click here to find out our critics’ top choices for gourmet-shop and supermarket lemonades.