Nirvana Serves Up Compassion

By Daniella Walsh | LB Indy




Lindsay Smith-Rosales could not escape the emotion that overcame her while listening to flood survivors describe harrowing escapes from inundated homes and economic burdens of the aftermath at a meeting with city officials last week.

“I grew up in Laguna Beach; this is still home,” said Smith-Rosales, chief chef and co-owner with her husband Luis Rosales of Nirvana Grille, with restaurants in Mission Viejo and downtown Laguna Beach.


Smith-Rosales grew up in a canyon perch on Castle Rock Drive, and still drives by her childhood home daily en route from her current residence in Laguna Hills.

“When we saw people throwing out their mud-soaked, unsalvageable belongings, we could not help but wonder how they would now get by with nothing. It broke my heart,” she said, expressing particular empathy for parents with young children. “As a mother of a 2-year-old, I kept wondering what I would do in their situation. Having a child really makes you go back into your heart,” she said.

To help the stricken community, the couple has pledged to donate a week’s worth of profits, Jan. 11-16, from Laguna Beach’s Nirvana Grill to the victims of this catastrophe.

She hopes receipts will allow them to donate hundreds of dollars, perhaps even thousands, if they are busy enough, she said. “We don’t have a busy bar but we are hoping to fill the restaurant every day.”

Flood victims can also dine free that week; all that’s required is proof of devastation. Lindsay can be reached at 949-497-0027 and staff has been alerted to make special reservations as well.

“We won’t be able to discount anything, but this is the best way we can contribute to the community. We don’t have the money to give outright,” she said, adding that vendor discounts may allow her to cut costs further.

Serving community needs was part of the restaurant’s culture from its first night in Laguna Beach in March 2008, when proceeds were donated to the town’s Friendship Shelter.

Opening a restaurant was a dream for Lindsay, now 30, and Luis, 42, who met while working together at the Ritz Carlton and married in 2004. They are now parents of Diego, who seems at home in the family business, meeting and greeting customers.

Lindsay grew up in a vegetarian household influenced by her mother, Vicky Stern, an Eastern-influenced healer. Those influences continue to infuse her culinary choices, reflected in the restaurant’s seasonal menus and fresh, organic or sustainable supplies.

Giving back forms the center of the family’s private and business philosophy. “We do a lot throughout year,” said Smith-Rosales, listing recent recipients such as CHoC, the Kidney Foundation, and Share our Strength, dedicated to feeding children.

The Nirvana Grille building, near an overflowing drain outlet that flooded downtown streets, sustained some damage though its interior remained miraculously dry. “We are blessed by being in a business that feeds people and that also allows us to assist our community. Giving back helps it to regenerate. If the community does not work, nothing else can,” she said.


Nirvana Grille, 303 Broadway suite #101, Broadway and Beach Streets. 949-497-0027.  Closed Mondays. www.nirvanagrille.com



The Rosales family, Luis, Lindsay and Diego, will donate profits from Nirvana Grille receipts for the next week to flood victims.


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