San Diego family spreads healthy eating mission at Parakeet Café

San Diego-born restaurant company is known for its organic foods and turmeric lattes


Thirteen years ago, Jonathan Goldwasser and Carol Roizen had their lives turned upside down when their second daughter, Michelle, was born with a rare disease that caused tumors to form on her lungs and skull.

At six months, Michelle began undergoing chemotherapy. Roizen began supplementing her infant daughter’s diet with healthier foods such as spinach and beans and was shocked at how quickly Michelle’s blood chemistry improved. That experience, Roizen said, “turned out to be the greatest gift of our life.”

The turmeric latte at Parakeet Cafe is made with turmeric, ginger, vanilla, cardamom, honey and almond milk.
(Pam Kragen/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Roizen stepped away from her law practice in Mexico City and poured all of her energy into studying nutritional health, eventually going to work for the city’s health department. But Mexico City’s pollution and high altitude were hard on Michelle, so seven years ago, Goldwasser sold his optical shop and the couple moved with their daughters to San Diego, where they could have better access to fresh, organic produce and better medical care. Now 13, Michelle has since made a full recovery and has become a talented athlete.

Leaving behind their old careers, the married couple decided to focus their combined energies on starting a new business promoting a healthy diet and lifestyle. They opened four Juice Crafters stores around San Diego County, and then broadened their mission in 2017 with the first of three Parakeet Cafés in La Jolla. The second location opened in December in Little Italy and the third opened in March in the One Paseo mixed-use development in Del Mar.

The cheery, brightly colored cafés serve a chef-driven, seasonal menu of sustainable coffees, teas, elixir health drinks, gluten-free and vegan pastries and entrees with a focus on fresh, organic ingredients with healthful qualities. Some of the cafe’s signature items are the turmeric latte, avocado toast with pickled mustard, serrano peppers, crunchy mung beans and beet spirals; mango chutney toast; the regular and cacao oat flour waffles; grilled vegetable bowl with buckwheat noodles; and organic green scrambled eggs with kale, spinach and green beans and a side of toast with labneh yogurt spread. Food items range from $8 to $15. Drinks from $2.75 to $5.

The parakeet name — devised by business partner Rob Wells of Sixteen Fifty creative agency — was chosen because parakeets are fun, colorful birds that travel around the world, Goldwasser said. That’s just what he and Roizen did in seeking out the products for the Parakeet menu. The matcha is imported from Japan, the chocolate comes from Australia and the coffee beans come from around the globe.

Chilled overnight oats with chia pudding, homemade preserved fruit, flaxseed and nuts, at Parakeet Cafe.
(Pam Kragen/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The menu, which changes every three months, was developed by chef Jeff Armstrong, whose past credits include working for master chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Goldwasser said that while the menu is chock full of vegan, gluten-free, keto and paleo items as well as elixer drinks like the Magic Mushroom Matcha, the food is fun, appetizing and filling.

“People think they won’t like it and get scared with the fancy wording, but it’s more just the kind of food you would cook for yourself at home with ingredients you’d find at the farmers market,” Goldwasser said.

The One Paseo restaurant has the largest seating area of all the Parkeet Cafés, with 30 seats indoors and 80 on the patio. The Little Italy store is larger in square footage because it has an onsite bakery where all of the restaurant’s pastries are made fresh each night and delivered in the morning.

For Goldwasser, who’s an entrepreneur at heart, Parakeet Café has been a win-win for he and his wife. He is able to run a successful business in a niche market and she can share her vision for healthy eating with the community.The couple plans to expand the concept in 2020 to new locations in other cities and one day hope to the take Parakeet Café nationwide.

Organic green scrambled eggs at Parakeet Cafe. The dish includes kale, asparagus, green beans, avocado and salsa verde with a side of toast with labneh spread.
(Pam Kragen/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Roizen said one of the favorite parts of her day is serving customers who say they feel healthier and more energetic after eating at the restaurants.

“This is food that will make you feel good when you eat it. It will nourish you inside and out,” Roizen said.

Parakeet Café

Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily
Where: One Paseo, 3745 Paseo Place, Suite 820, Del Mar
Phone: (858) 345-1688