It’s the kind of place you could, and probably have, walked by several times without noticing. Nestled in the shopping complex in Lakeport with the Grocery Outlet and Dollar Tree, The Wholly Bowl hides behind Shoreline Coffee Shop. It’s reminiscent of the kind of place you’d find in the city, halfway down an alley. Only a small prop-up sign sits on the sidewalk facing the parking lot, directing customers back down a long, dimly lit hallway to the entrance.
The front wall of The Wholly Bowl is glass, highlighting the brightly lit open kitchen inside. Outside, in the long hallway, two other stainless steel tables sit with sriracha and soy sauce sitting in a tray. During the lunch hour, it’s easy to see owner Jenn Allen-Malinowski behind the counter, assembling a wrap or pouring creamy sriracha sauce on a Momma bowl with a smile on her face. Open the door and walk the one or two steps to the register. The entire restaurant is only 300 square feet, so there’s no extra floor space. There’s a table for two inside, but that’s all the room there is, other than for a small cooler. Above, you’ll see the menu board with specials like Korean street tacos, sesame noodle bowls, and Thai peanut wraps.
Music’s usually playing in the background, and the energy of the place is good, filled with bright vibes and happiness. Once you place an order, you’ll have a few minutes to enjoy the atmosphere, listen to some tunes, and watch your meal be made in front of you.
It doesn’t matter what you order at Wholly Bowl; you’ll get quality food made with fresh ingredients. Jenn doesn’t over-spice or over-sweeten her food. It’s meant to be balanced. “’Wholly’ means all-inclusive,” Jenn says, excitement in her eyes. “It’s all in one bowl.” She ticks off ingredients on her fingers: “The crisp of the veggies with the fat of the avocado, the hot rice, and the crunch of the cabbage and kale. The protein, the starch, the veggies and the sauce. It’s the layered ingredients with the multiple sauces; the synergy of them all combined creates something wholly new.”
If you haven’t been there before, the Wholly Momma bowl is a great place to start. A cornucopia of warm, bright flavors, it’s bright and appealing. The pulled pork is tender and juicy, and the crunch of the slaw and tangy notes of cilantro balance with the rice and quinoa. Topped with fresh avocado, creamy sriracha sauce, sweet peppers, and a slice of lime, it’s both rich and light, filling and satisfying.
The sesame noodle bowl is just as good of a choice. Filled with gluten-free noodles, notes of lime, and hints of chives, it’s lighter than the Wholly Mama bowl, but just as filling. The sesame flavors balance with the peanuts and the bright notes of cilantro to create a noodly, enjoyable meal.
However, any option you choose, you’ll be pleased. That’s the key to Wholly Bowl. One delightful part of eating here is that every dish is completely adaptable. Don’t like cilantro? Have it removed. Want a vegan option? Skip the meat and add quinoa. Want something different? Just ask Jenn and she’ll do what she can to make it unique. Call it fusion cuisine; it’s a bit of Latin, a bit of Asian, and a lot of quality. With Wholly Bowl, you’ll get fresh, fresh, and more fresh food. That’s the key to its uniqueness. Think bright, happy, light, and free from regret. You’ll never have a lunch that leaves you sluggish and wishing you hadn’t eaten there.
“Let naysayers say what they will about Lake County.” Jenn gestures broadly with both arms, speaking with her body as much as her words. “I believe in the magic of Lake County; it’s a place where someone like me can start a business and be successful.” She smiles. “It’s a dream come true. We’ve been here six years, and I still love my job.”
1247 S. Main St.
Lakeport, CA 95461
Hours: 11-3 Monday through Friday, 12-3 Saturday. Closed Sunday.
This article First Appeared in The Bloom in January 2020.