The Most Perfect Acai Bowl

About a year ago, I had the pleasure of making my first, real-life friend from LA.

She was completely opposite of all those Orange-County stereotypes that make NYers swear that we’re the better (best) city in the country. 

Despite growing up on opposite coasts, we had a ton in common. 

(Like, we were both total badasses)

One day, Emily was craving something from back home and asked if I knew of a place to find it in NYC.

New York City has everything- I was sure I could find her a place to buy whatever it was she was looking for.

So what was she looking for, you ask?

An acai bowl.

I had never heard of it, and she was shocked. She explained what it was to me, and I was quickly appalled that I’d never had one.

Next step in this acai saga was Googling where the heck I could find one in NYC. This was probably in December of 2013. I was right, of course, and she COULD find one in NYC- but there were shockingly few places serving something called an acai bowl at that time.

Essentially, Juicy Lucy Juice Bar and Juice Generation.

Fast forward to now, and acai bowls or similar “smoothie bowls” are being served in nearly every juice bar and health food chain you can find. Liquiteria, Jamba Juice and Organic Avenue all have their own versions, just to name a few.

Q: So what is an acai bowl?
A: An acai bowl is a healthy, sweet, delicious, amazing, perfect meal or snack or dessert. See how versatile it is? The writers on Huffington Post knew what they were talkin’ about when they described acai bowls as, “the prettiest, most colorful breakfast optionaround. In short, breakfast porn,” “parfaits on tropical, chilled steroids,” and “what breakfast dreams are made of.”

Here’s what it’s made up of:
-An acai puree/smoothie base that can contain different fruits and milks
-Topped with a layer of granola or nuts, or both 
-Topped with fruits for a burst of color, calcium, natural sugar and vitamins
-Drizzled with honey
-Sprinkled with toasted coconut
-Enhanced with a dollop of peanut butter

Q: Why the heck am I just hearing about these now?
A: Acai bowls first gained popularity in Hawaii and, apparently, have been popular on the West Coast for a while now! Thankfully, they’re finally making their way to menus in this fine city!

Q: What is acai anyway? 
A: These berries are being touted as a “superfood” due to their high levels of antioxidants which can help lower cholesterol and do a bunch of other important things like fight out free radicals in your body or something- I really don’t know, and I’m too lazy right now to do the research- but acai berries are apparently good for you and they taste delicious too and that’s not too common so let’s just agree with the scientists on this one, k?
Acai berries may be a good source of antioxidants, fiber and heart-healthy fats.

Q: Ok, I think I’m probably pronouncing it wrong. How the heck do you say acai?
A: Ah-sigh-ee

Now that we got that out of the way, want to hear about the acai bowls I’ve tried? Of course you do.

After that initial Google search for Acai Bowls in NYC- Emily and I kept meaning to get to  Juice Generation to try one and see if it measured up to what she was used to eating in California.

I’m grateful that due to the fact that it was winter and freezing cold, we never ended up getting an acai bowl in the city, and my first experience with one was sharing it with Emily while watching the sunset on Venice Beach during my first ever trip to California. It was everything I had dreamed it would be!!

(Best work trip EVER)

We got it from a little stand along the beach, not because we were hungry, but because, “OMG ACAI BOWLS WHILE THE SUN IS SETTING AT VENICE BEACH!” That is reason enough. Hunger is unnecessary in instances like those.

It was perfect. The smoothie was super thick and delicious and there was peanut butter, granola, bananas and shredded coconut. If I could marry a moment in time, it might be this one:

It was a long time until I was ready to try an acai bowl back here in New York. In fact, I didn’t have another acai bowl for 8 more months!

Then, one night in September, I was looking for some healthy fuel after a long run and went with a friend to Juice Generation, to finally see how their version measured up. Juice Generation has tons of locations throughout NYC and they offer 5 different varieties of acai bowls that range in calories from 390-520.

Of course, the PB Acai bowl packs on the most calories at 520. Rude. All of them sounded so good though and after some back and forth I ordered an Aloha Bowl. The Aloha bowl has acai (obviously), banana, pineapple, bee pollen, almond milk and hemp granola. And I added some almond butter to it, because I’m a suck for nut butter.

(Juice Generation Aloha Acai Bowl + Almond Butter)

While the scenery and company weren’t the same as my first acai bowl, I must say that this was absolutely just as delicious as the one I ate on Venice Beach. The base smoothie was different- at Juice Generation it was more a smoothie and in California it was a lot more solid/frozen. I don’t have a huge preference either way, as long as the flavors are good. And the flavors from my Aloha Acai bowl at Juice Generation were bangin’. Not only did it taste amazing, it was totally filling and satisfying. Two thumbs up!

(I approve!)

The next time I had an acai bowl was from Jamba Juice- they’ve recently added an entire section to their menu called “Energy Bowls.” They’re offering Acai Bowls, Fruit & Yogurt Bowls and Simply Greek Yogurt Bowls.

My friend and I had a coupon for a half priced acai bowl, so we ventured there during our lunch break one day. Jamba Juice offers 3different acai bowls in 3 sizes- 12 oz., 16 oz. and 24 oz. The three options range in calories (for the 16 oz.) from 390-530, almost spot on with Juice Generation.

Our acai bowls came topped with granola, banana and shredded coconut.  They took FOREVER for the worker at Jamba Juice to make. We actually had to laugh it was so ridiculous the amount of time they spent arranging every slice of banana- I guess because we went when they were brand new and the guy had never made one before. They tasted great, although the smoothie was the most liquidy of the 3 I’ve tried, which I didn’t love.

(They put a lot of effort into this 20 minutes worth!)

One thing to note about ordering acai bowls in NYC vs. California- the size/price comparison. The acai bowl we had in California was a freaking bucket and probably only cost us $5. At Jamba Juice, energy bowls cost at least $6, and at Juice Generation a 16 fluid ounce acai bowl is going to cost you around $8-$10 bucks. Rough.

Anyone have suggestions for delicious acai bowls in NYC? You know, now that it’s the perfect season for freezing cold smoothies?