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Natural Awakenings San Diego

The Lotus Café and Juice Bar: Offering a Life of Service to the Community

Mar 07, 2011 10:05PM ● By Susan Aimes

In 2007, Carl and Johanna Wright, owners of the Lotus Café & Juice Bar, agreed that they wanted to follow their hearts’ desire: living as simple yogis and deepening their practice of kriya yoga, which follows the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda. The couple relocated from Ashland, Oregon to Encinitas so they could be near the Self-Realization Fellowship, the worldwide nonprofit spiritual organization founded by Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi.

“The Divine obviously had a different plan for us,” say the Wrights, who came to realize that, rather than a life primarily of prayer and meditation, they were needed to serve their new community by opening a natural foods café, which they did in 2009. A history of owning successful natural foods restaurants in Santa Barbara and Ashland (the Natural Cafe), as well as the Ashland Yoga Center, had more than prepared them for the task of building and designing a restaurant where a furniture store once stood, in the heart of Old Downtown Encinitas.

During the renovation of the building, a name for the restaurant initially eluded the couple. Guidance came one morning to Carl after an hour-long meditation in the Self-Realization Fellowship Temple, which is within walking distance of the restaurant. “As we were walking away from the temple, I turned to Johanna and said, ‘I got the name for the café in my meditation,’” he recalls. “It was perfect, because it felt right to both of us.”

The lotus flower, a spiritual symbol for the Wrights, is a metaphor for an individual’s soul and spiritual potential. It inspires and reaffirms the awareness that we are more than our physical bodies, and that we can spiritually transcend this world of illusion. Says Johanna, “Carl and I had the description that I wrote about the lotus printed on the menu: ‘Rooted in the mud, but blossoming above the water, completely uncontaminated by the mud, the lotus represents purity and spiritual perfection, which rises above worldly illusion, an example of glorious existence.’”

Johanna and Carl Wright
Johanna and Carl Wright

The combination of the restaurant’s East Indian temple theme and delicious, reasonably priced, mostly organic food, invites the mind and palate to reflect upon nirvana while dining. “Serving nutritious foods of higher vibrational frequencies can assist in the quest for higher spirituality, which is another way that we feel we are of service to our community,” the Wrights explain.

“Our menu offerings are predominantly vegetarian, with a generous selection of vegan and gluten-free choices; however, we do have some chicken and fish options, and there’s also a turkey burger for our non-vegetarian patrons,” says Johanna, who adds that the menu’s icons denote the vegan, strict vegetarian (no eggs, no dairy) and gluten-free options.

The Wrights see spiritual wellness as an important aspect of good health, well-being and happiness. “Good health is not only about what you eat; it’s also about giving yourself permission to pursue balance in all aspects [of life]—physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. This is the experience we strive for, and one that we try to help our patrons achieve every day,” advises the couple, who openly speak of the joy in knowing they are working in a spirit of service to their community, while acting in alignment with Divine will.

Lotus Café & Juice Bar, 765 S. Coast Hwy. 101, Encinitas 92024 (in the Lumberyard). Call 760-479-1977 or visit