Marmalade is a small Los Angeles area chain serving breakfast, coffee, baked goods, and a multitude of sandwiches and salads. The menu has so many options that it's friendly to both vegetarians and their carnivorous friends. Or vice-versa. It's a very casual place where you place your order at the counter and seat yourself.
My favorite dishes are the beet salad, the albacore salad, and the Athens salad. The two-salad and three-salad plates are good deals and allow you to try multiple dishes. The menu is quite extensive and the food seems to be prepared by humans--veggies are cut imperfectly, for example. All of the salads are prepared in bulk and sit in a display case, but they always taste fresh--I imagine they are prepared each morning. The names of the sandwiches change at each location to reflect the neighborhood-a nice touch that makes this mini-chain feel more personal. The Larkin, pictured above, has bacon, lettuce, tomato, and avocado.
My least favorite dishes are anything purpoting to be Asian. Sigh. The coffee isn't great, either.
The staff is efficient and courteous--usually an indication of good company management and decent pay. Usually, at lunchtime they get swamped with business. It can be difficult to get a table, and you'll have to wait in line a bit for your food. I recommend calling or faxing your order in ahead of time.
Pros: Fantastic cake. Fantastic cookies. Fantastic dessert selection overall. Quality to price ratio is reasonable. Seems to have a loyal base of regulars. Consistent quality in service and food.
Cons: When you eat at the same restaurant too often, you start to notice a common underlying flavor in many of the dishes. This has happened to me with Marmalade, so I have to limit myself to the dishes that don't have this flavor.
710 Montana Ave
Santa Monica, CA 90403
Also located in Malibu, Sherman Oaks, Westlake Village, Calabasas, Rolling Hills Estates, and at the LA Farmer's Market (because where else would people pay almost $20 for a salad and a slice of cake at a seat-yourself cafe?)