I stared down into the contents of the plastic bowl before me, the deep purple radiating beneath the fruit, coconut flecks and toasted almond crumble, unsure of what to expect and anticipating the first bite the way a kid on a diving board anticipates the water on the first day of summer.
What the hell am I about to dive into? I thought.
The Village Juice in Winston-Salem didn’t invent the concept of “smoothie bowls,” but the concept is still pretty foreign to the Triad. Even if you’ve heard of it, or tried one, it’s hard not to think of it as a little ridiculous, and at least a touch pretentious. But let’s explore it anyway.
The smoothies and their bowl variants at Village Juice are nothing like the ones I used to prepare when I worked at local smoothie chain the Juice Shop, or any smoothie you’re used to, for that matter. They’re full of ingredients like spinach, dates, almond or coconut milk and in the case of the bowls, topped with things like organic cacao nib, goji berries or acai. And they’re twice as expensive.
Places like the Village Juice are part of a movement to eat healthy and local; the company lays out details for how to go about a “juice cleanse” on its website, and a board inside the store on Stratford Road lists which farms the restaurant sourced from that week.
Like Organix Juice Bar, also in Winston-Salem, the focus is on the healthy juices, but the choices go deeper here, with a fuller menu at the physical store and a food truck to boot. It’s not strictly vegetarian, with a chicken salad and a “grain bowl” with bacon in it on the menu, but it’s one of the few local spots with a predominantly vegan and vegetarian offering, including a raw vegan dessert.
It’s an Instagram-ready affair, with colorful juices and smoothie bowls or stacked toast, featuring ingredients such as goat cheese, pear, basil honey and micro-greens and two others with avocado — basically an open-faced sandwich for $9. And so after snapping a photo of my dragonfruit bowl that featured house coconut milk, pineapple, mango, banana, date, and lime, I broke the surface of my well-decorated smoothie with a plastic spoon.
I couldn’t believe how good it tasted.
Eating a smoothie bowl at the Village Juice is like eating a really cold bowl of yogurt loaded with toppings. The smoothie portion is thick, with a consistency not far off from a milkshake despite being so light, which is good because it keeps the bowl from being too watery. Like a burrito bowl, consuming a smoothie like this allows for greater control over what’s in each bite, though it’s a little impractical when you reach the end and want to scoop up the last few spoonfuls.
I don’t think I’ve ever eaten something such a bright shade of purple.
It didn’t surprise me that during a recent lunch rush, everyone else who came into the Village Juice was a white woman save for one other white dude — that’s certainly the niche and stereotype of the juice-cleansing, avocado toast-wielding, smoothie bowl-drinking crowd. But given the food’s sourcing, flavor, presumed healthiness and the fact that it’s made to order, it’s well worth the price. Go try one the next time you’re planning to grab lunch out — I won’t believe you if you say you regretted it later.
You don’t have to get the smoothie bowl, though. There are at least five green juices to choose from, and another called Black Magic (Charcoal Lemonade) that’s a $9 black “super detox” drink with filtered water, lemon, organic apple, organic ginger and something called “activated charcoal” that Google tells me can reduce bloating, gas and a number of other positive things. Or try the Brussels & Bacon grain bowl with quinoa or brown rice and spinach, roasted Brussels sprouts, tomato, bacon and parmesan crisp with fig balsamic dressing. There’s even kombucha on tap here, but if all this sounds overwhelming or over the top, opt for the village cobb or the tropical chicken salads instead.
The day I walked in, the Village Juice offered a green curry grain bowl on special, featuring fresh coconut milk, house green curry, eggplant, sweet potato, carrot, zucchini, basil and mushrooms. I didn’t see it advertised on the chalkboard along the back wall until I’d just about finished my first-ever smoothie bowl, and as I read it I immediately wanted to try such a complete-sounding vegetarian entrée. But having consumed most of the bowl’s contents already, with its nutty crumble, fresh fruit and coconut adorning the surface, I didn’t regret my order, even fleetingly.
Visit the Village Juice store at 205 S. Stratford Road (W-S) seven days a week or find the juice truck at 1208 Reynolda Road (W-S) Monday–Saturday. More info at villagejuicecompany.com.