In search of a refreshing start to the day, college students began to take notice of one of the latest health trends — acai bowls. With an exotic tang, fresh fruit and a perfect Instagram aesthetic, acai bowls manage to satisfy a sweet tooth while simultaneously providing an array of health benefits, or so we’ve heard.
To get a taste of this growing trend, we sampled acai bowls at Jugos, Cocobeet, The Juicery and Squeeze Juice Company, all highly rated health spots in Boston. This is FreeP versus Food: Acai Bowl Crawl.
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The Juicery is a small juice bar located at the edge of the North End by Haymarket Station. One of the first things we noticed about the restaurant that offers vegan wraps, salads, wheatgrass shots and whole food supplements for every meal was the strange atmospheric country music, which created a rodeo-meets-juice-cleanse vibe. Although the music was off-putting, a nice thing about the juice bar is that in addition to using all-natural ingredients, it also is eco-friendly, using compostable to-go ware.
The Juicery’s distinguishing characteristic was the all-natural peanut butter, which was a crowd-pleaser. The peanut butter might have been the best part of the bowl, though. The different flavors, such as cocoa chips and coconut, created a unique acai experience even though the cocoa chips didn’t have a flavor besides burnt. The various parts couldn’t disguise the fact that the acai blend itself was basically flavorless, not to mention very thick and icy. We would not recommend getting acai from The Juicery. Even though the bowls are huge, maybe just buy its delicious peanut butter by itself instead.
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Cocobeet’s philosophy is “pure foods for active people.” Located right across from Government Center Station, the small shop offers a menu of various foods and juices, all entirely vegan and most gluten-free. Started by a couple who desired to eat healthier after an experience with illness, the mission is to allow people to develop a healthier lifestyle through period juice cleanses and knowledge about the benefits of organic foods. All of the juices and foods are made in house with organic or locally sourced ingredients. The store also offered catering and cleanse deals.
The bowl we ordered was on the pricey side (as was the entire shop) at $10.65. But you get what you pay for. The bowl contained blended strawberry, banana, seed butter, chunky vanilla maple granola and coconut flakes. The combination of so many flavors was a little overwhelming, causing some discomfort and flat-out dislike. But most of us thoroughly enjoyed the flavor explosion and devoured the bowl, and we would really like to buy some of the granola because it was fantastic.
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Jugos’ charm comes from its hole-in-the-wall nature — a cozy spot tucked next to Back Bay Station at 145 Dartmouth St. Though known for its all-natural juices and smoothies, Jugos also serves coffee, fresh fruits and vegetables, salads, milkshakes and sandwiches (on multigrain toast, of course). For vegans, vegetarians and gluten-free customers, Jugos offers a variety of locally sourced, natural snacks as part of its mission to include the entire community. After experiencing daily morning juice throughout his travels, owner Ron Marcos was eager to bring the culture to Boston. Though easy to miss, Jugos has thrived as a healthier alternative to morning doughnuts and pastries.
We ordered the classic Kai bowl, a smooth combination of acai mix, granola, sliced banana and berries. At a price of $9.95, we were pleasantly pleased by the bowl’s sweet and tangy taste, a flavor that reflected the tropical vibes of the quaint smoothie bar. Although we couldn’t jam to the energizing Spanish music being played while eating our bowls — Jugos is too small to stop and snack — we thoroughly enjoyed eating the fresh fruit atop the bowl (no more frozen dining hall blueberries, bless). While a few of us think the acai was nothing special and too liquidy, we all agree that the healthy portion size was refreshing and worth the wait.
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Squeeze Juice Company, “located where you live, work and play,” was naturally positioned inside Equinox, an upscale Boston-based fitness club. While we visited the Copley Square juice bar at 131 Dartmouth St., Squeeze is also found in Chestnut Hill and opening soon in South Station. With a healthy lifestyle mission in mind, the entirety of Squeeze’s menu is made with healthy and organic products, making for a perfect post-workout snack. Although the menu is somewhat limited, Squeeze does offer an array of refreshing snacks, from juices to smoothies to acai bowls.
We ordered the traditional Rio bowl at a price of $8.95, making Squeeze the cheapest acai bowl of the crawl. The lower cost, however, came with lower quantity as well as a subpar purchase. In addition to the small size, the bowl itself lacked any real fruit. It was simply made up of acai blend, granola and banana. Tasting a little plain and very basic, the bowl really had no lasting impact on us. The thin texture of the acai blend resembled a soupy mix, an unpleasant combination with the abundant, crunchy granola. The only thing that saved the bowl was the refreshing berry flavor of the acai. Leaving us unimpressed and only partially satisfied, this acai bowl was average, at best. If you’re in a rush after working out at Equinox and want a basic acai bowl, this place will do. If that very specific description doesn’t apply to you, there are better overpriced acai bowls out there.
Conclusion: Four acai bowls later, we had satisfied our fresh fruit craving and ended with aesthetically pleasing Instagram posts. In all honesty, the acai part of any bowl doesn’t necessarily make it stand out (minus the Juicery’s flavorless acai). Rather, the toppings truly make a bowl special.
So if you’re craving coconut, seedy granola and hip vibes, try a bowl from Cocobeet. If you want a quick bowl to-go, stop by Jugos. And if you like a smaller-sized portion with more granola than fruit, head on over to Squeeze for a satisfying post-workout snack.