Drink to Your Health

Juice and smoothie cafes can help you keep those New Year promises.
Rio Acai Bowl with a BKK smoothie (front) and ATX smoothie. Inset: Evan Tepper.

Friends, family and colleagues are making New Year’s resolutions left and right, most involving getting healthy. Before you hop on board and buy kale in bulk at Costco, check out these juice and smoothie joints around town. They can provide healthy (and tasty!) options that keep eating right from getting boring and might even inspire you to go for a jog.

Whole Sum Kitchen Café
Evan Tepper returned to Minneapolis after a globe-trotting adventure to “reverse culture shock,” he says. “As you’re traveling through poor countries there is a lack of distribution,” he explains, meaning very few packaged goods. Everything is local. In the states, “you can buy apples that are packaged—that’s crazy!” he says.

While acclimating to the U.S., Tepper was spending time in coffee shops, working on a business idea when he realized: Coffee shops are great for meeting up or hanging out, “but eventually you run out of reasons to be there. You get hungry or over-caffeinated,” he says. He then saw the juice bars popular out west and thought, “Why can’t we bring these things together?”
“There are a lot of healthy people who want to be eating local but in an approachable environment,” he says. “Those individuals are not exclusively vegan or yogis. And even yogis drink coffee.”

So in 2015 he started the Whole Sum Kitchen food truck and moved to a brick-and-mortar spot in Lynnhurst in late 2016. It’s not exclusively a juice bar or vegan, Tepper says, explaining, “We want to be a fast, healthy option for folks.”

But for those looking to juice: “The philosophical approach I took to our menu was basically plotting our drinks across a spectrum, from green to crowd-pleasing,” he says. The signature juice is the Ko Tao, he says, which is right in the middle of the spectrum. “It has a whole bunch of carrots, orange juice, apple juice and finishes with a little bit of lime and a kick of ginger at the end,” he says. It can be ordered in a bottle, or made-to-order and customized with boosters like chia seeds, spirulina and more.

Tepper says Whole Sum’s juice cleanse, which includes six juices, is a popular choice. “We try to reduce the intimidation factor. … We know it’s not for everybody,” he says, but there’s no one type of person who regularly does the cleanse.

As for why he picked Lynnhurst, Tepper says he was “looking for a community that would embrace this concept:” active, healthy and looking for a place to eat.

If you’re already familiar with the juice scene in the Twin Cities, you’ve likely heard of Truce in Uptown. Breaking ground in 2012, founder and co-owner Allie Pohlad says, “We really set out from the beginning to have as transparent of a product as possible.” Large glass windows into the kitchen take that goal literally—as customers can see their made-to-order drinks come together. While their bottled juices are no longer made onsite, they’re still organic, raw and now are even more local than before. “We’ve been able to work directly with individual farmers and maintain good relationships with other vendors,” Pohlad says.

Coming up with recipes was a trial and error process, but “oftentimes when things taste good together—those classic combinations—it’s because they have complimentary health benefits,” Pohlad says. Like the Glow Greens juice (grapefruit, pear, cucumber, romaine, dandelion greens, burdock, orange, parsley): “All those ingredients have health benefits for your skin,” Pohlad says.

Those health benefits drive the juice cleanses Truce has available. When designing the cleanses, Pohlad says they were trying to come up with the “best set and order of juices that would make you feel really good if you were to just drink only those.” Which led them to even include a salad with one cleanse, for those who don’t feel great on just juice. How long the cleanse lasts is up to you, and even one day is beneficial, Pohlad says. “In my opinion, eating clean is eating clean. And the juice is going to help get you there no matter what combo you choose,” she says.

But if you’re new to Truce (and juice) and unsure of what to order, you’re not alone. Co-owner Katie Pinto says she typically hears new customers ask employees what’s good. “Our staff is really good at making recommendations both for what’s good for [what the customer needs] and their personal taste,” Pinto says.

Which sometimes means no juice at all. Truce offers salads, power bites, coffee (try the cashew milk creamer: “We add maple syrup to ours so there’s a little sweetener in it,” Pinto says) and more.

Tropical Smoothie Café
At Tropical Smoothie Café in St. Louis Park, Daryl James is hoping to be everyone’s go-to healthy food stop—whatever that means to you. “Everyone has a different definition of what’s healthy,” he says. “High protein, high calorie, low carb, low sugar,” the list goes on.

At his Knollwood location, the after-school crowd consistently orders the Kiwi Quencher, but “No. 1 chainwide is the Island Green,” he says. Spinach, kale, pineapple, mango and banana create a bright green treat. For those averse to drinking green juice, the Sunrise Sunset with orange, mango and strawberry is a top seller as well.

“Knollwood has been reinvented [in the past few years],” he says, and St. Louis Park has “lots of young professionals, millennials, young families; kind of our target market.”

Hoang Do opened a Bambu franchise location in Minnesota partly because he didn’t want to have to travel to California, Houston or Vietnam to get his favorite drinks. The Vietnamese-style drinks and desserts at Bambu “taste like home,” he says.

At Bambu they don’t take shortcuts to get that taste—Do buys whole coconuts which they use to make their own coconut milk, and the beans used in the desserts aren’t from a can. While those desserts can be extremely indulgent, they also are made with fresh fruit, often purchased from the market a block down on Eat Street.

The healthier smoothies range from mainstream, like mango, to the obscure. “Have you heard of durian?” he asks. It’s a fruit that’s delicious—if you can get past the smell, which has been compared to old gym socks. At Bambu you can get it in a smoothie. Other popular smoothies (yes, durian is a popular order) include guava, pina colada and strawberry banana.

But for Do, it’s not just about having access to the Bambu favorite dessert (red tapioca, grass jelly, pandan jelly and coconut milk). “I enjoy having it, and providing a place for people to come and relax,” he says.

What's Up with a Juice Cleanse?

A few questions you may have been afraid to ask...

1.What is it? A juice cleanse is a kind of fast. You consume only fruit and vegetable juice for certain period of time. Effects (eatthis.com) may include weight loss, diarrhea and/or benefits of eliminating certain foods from your diet.

2.Who is for it? Urbanremedy.com says juice cleanses work to rid the body of toxins while loading it with nutrients, resetting and healing mind and body.
3.Who is less enthusiastic? Mayoclinic.org says there is no sound scientific evidence extracted juices are any healthier than eating the fruit and vegetables themselves, and blending vs. juicing may preserve useful fiber.