Chicago foodies are going healthy at gourmet juice bars all over the city.
LYFE Kitchen’s Ginger Mint Chia.
For fans of fresh juice, long gone are the days of trekking through patchouli-scented health food shops in search of a liquid fix. Boutique stores peddling drinkable produce are becoming as ubiquitous in Chicago as Bikram yoga studios, and top local culinary talents are applying their touch to the trend.
Case in point: Chef Jared Van Camp of Nellcôte, Leghorn Chicken, and Old Town Social has partnered with Chicago native and publishing veteran Anne Owen on the Logan Square spot Owen + Alchemy (2355 N. Milwaukee Ave.), set to open in late spring. Conceived as a modern apothecary, O+A aims to fill the space between “crunchy” and commercial, providing artisanal juices and customized services—think an on-site Chinese herbalist and nutrition consultations—in a chic setting that Owen describes as “edgy meets old-world.”
A Type 1 diabetic, the chef can’t drink fruit-based juices, so he takes a savory approach instead, focusing on nut milks and veggie-heavy drinks. “You get the jolt of vitamins and nutrients without all the sugar you would get from straight orange juice,” he says. The nut milks on tap will range from a staple almond variety to flavor-forward options like exotic pistachio and local honey scented with kaffir lime leaves. The cold-pressed juice selection will include sweet potato and ginger as well as a fresh V8-style drink full of heirloom tomatoes, carrots, celery, and cilantro, with twists like watermelon, lime, or sun-dried tomato to “bulk up the savory notes.”
Juicing has come a long way. “It’s more than a trend; it’s a full category on its own,” asserts Gail Taggart, president/partner at L3 Hospitality Group, the Chicago-area franchisee of the healthy fast-casual concept LYFE Kitchen (413 N. Clark St., 312-836-5933), where a variety of fresh juice offerings complement the health-conscious menu designed by star chefs Art Smith and Tal Ronnen. “Chefs are driving the flavor profiles,” Taggart adds, calling out the dairy-free kale-ginger-banana smoothie as a best seller. Hot-handed restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff (Au Cheval, Gilt Bar, Dillman’s) has taken notice as well: His West Loop joint, Jack & Juice, opens this year.
Ultimately, the story is that juicing is no longer about deprivation. Among these new juice purveyors, the mind-set is that juice should be a supplement to your diet, not a replacement for it. Whitney Fitzgerald, owner of True Juice in Winnetka (542 Chestnut St., 847-784-8796), views juicing as “medicine for the body” rather than a quick-fix weight-loss method. Owen explains that while Owen + Alchemy will offer juice cleanses, the goal is much more about sharing the benefits of juicing for the long term: “We want to create something that will work into your life on a daily basis.”