Algae up 

Juice bars the new toast of the healthy drinking set.

click to enlarge SHE CAN KELP YOU: Allie Lindley, at I Love Juice Bar, pours out a smoothie.
  • SHE CAN KELP YOU: Allie Lindley, at I Love Juice Bar, pours out a smoothie.

One of the classic scenes in the movie "The Thin Man" is when Nora Charles instructs the bartender to line up five martinis in a row so she can catch up, gin-wise, with her husband, Nick.

At Roots Juices last week, a regular did much the same: She lined up the four shots that come in the Power Boost ($5) — dandelion, lemon, ginger and watermelon — and said she drinks them one after the other. The only difference between the Roots Juices regular and Nora was fermentation and the inevitable next day's headache.

Roots Juices would have had something for Nora, too: the Hangover Recovery Kit, made of "detox water" and fruit/vegetable drinks called Wakeup, Aloe Vera H20, Liver Cleanse, Chlorophyll H20 and Skin Glow, all cold-pressed and bottled at the Heights juice bar.

At I Love Juice Bar (the "I Love" signified by a heart for the dot in the i) in the Midtowne Shopping Center, a customer asked for the ever-popular Green Smoothie, made of spinach, kale, pineapple, banana, lemon, organic coconut milk and organic apple juice. (The apple juice adds the sweetness; juice bars use fruit, not sugar, to sweeten.) The customer said he'd lost 37 pounds since November by substituting the Juice Bar drinks for other foods he was eating.

A third juice bar, Juice Leaf, is expected to open in a couple of weeks downtown. The juice bar trend has a past — there was a juice bar downtown in the 1960s where my aunt got fresh carrot juice — and Whole Foods Market has been blending up greens and fruits for many years. Home juicing itself is not novel.

But the 21st century juice bar, which has finally found its way to Little Rock, serves up drinks that outdo the grass clippings of yore, adding such mysterious "superfoods" such as blue green algae (Aphanizomemon flos aquae) from Klamath Lake in Oregon; spirulina, another blue-green alga; maca root from the Andes (Lepidium meyenii); pink salt from the Himalayas. And spices like turmeric and cayenne, seeds and nuts and cacao nibs and goji berries. There's no rosemary or pansies, Ophelia's treatments, but she might have said here's bee pollen, that's for energy; ginger for nausea; jalapeno for headache; matcha green tea to burn fat. They're mixed with a veritable cornucopia of greens — celery, kale, spinach, cucumber, parsley, wheat grass, mint, carrot, avocado, beets — made more palatable by lemon, apple, blueberries, bananas, strawberries, mango, pineapple, even peanut butter.

Some of the drinks still resemble pond scum, but I can attest that the Green Smoothie at Juice Bar was delicious, and filling as well, if somewhat dear at $7.50. Expect to pay special prices at juice bars. That makes sense, because the drinks at both Juice Bar and Roots Juices contain 2 to 3 pounds of fruit and vegetable matter. The juice bars go through thousands of pounds of fruit weekly; I Love Juice Bar donates about 3,000 pounds of pulp every month to local gardens.

Though it doesn't sound particularly healthy, there's a coffee smoothie at Roots Juices, made with coffee syrup, almond milk, almond butter, cinnamon, cocoa and pineapple, a wonderfully bitter and rich concoction (and unlike the juices, packing a punch of 300 calories).

Cleanses are all the rage for those whose body is a temple, and I Love Juice Bar and Roots Juices offer a variety of cleanse packages. At Juice Bar, the essential cleanse (for beginners) is six juices that you drink over the course of a day. Juice Bar will sell by the day for $45 a day (includes six Mason jars) or $39 a day (you bring in your own Mason jars). Most cleanse aficianados go for multiday cleanses, and come in daily with their jars to be filled up. The Roots Juice cleanse is a three-day program ($50 a day) in which six juices (bottled and labeled at the store) are drunk one every two hours in a particular order, and like Juice Bar there are three levels of cleanse, for beginners, one for experienced juicers and one that is mostly vegetable-based and low in fruit sugar.

Both juice bars also serve the aforementioned shots, ($2.50-$3 for a single at Juice Bar, $3 for a single at Roots Juices).

The bars were founded by men who say they gained mental and physical benefits from juicing: Roots Juices founder Brent Rodgers gave up a career in a Fortune 500 company to bring the gospel of goji berries to people; Juice Bar founder John Hunt began juicing to shed pounds.

There are differences to both franchises: I Love Juice Bar serves fresh foods like sandwiches, wraps, quinoa salads, whole coconuts and pineapples. Roots Juices serves all kinds of vegan and gluten-free prepared foods, from popcorn to coco-roon cookies, oatmeal bites, Kize and other brand energy bars and other vegan snacks. Roots Juices, where customers tend to hang out at a long bar, recognizes that some of its customers are flexible in their definition of juice and sells a cocktail party mixer kit (Lean & Fit grapefruit mint, 2 bottles of Watermelon Cooler, 2 bottles of Pear Passion and 2 bottles of Melon Mania for $60.) I Love Juice bar also sells its cold-pressed juices straight for 42 cents an ounce; co-owner Barkley Boyd said one customer came in with an empty liter soda bottle for a fill-up.

I Love Juice Bar
Midtowne Shopping Center
201 N. University Ave.

Roots Juices
5501 Kavanaugh Blvd.

Juice Leaf
402 Louisiana St.
(Expected to open by the end of March)


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