The Blue Bowl at Blueberry Juicebar Cafe & Vegan Grille. Photo by Laureen Delance
Come with me to Newark’s Fairmount Heights neighborhood, located on the western end of the city. One of its main commercial corridor is Central Avenue, and that is where I’ve chosen to have my latest food adventure. I’m an omnivore who loves meat, cheeses and yogurt, but I decided to experience a completely vegan meal at Blueberry Café Juicebar & Vegan Grille.
Walking in, it was amazing to see the transition between the concrete grit of Central Avenue and the earthy space of the small vegan restaurant. Though small, the restaurant clearly has a large clientele, as the space was full of people eating in and others taking out. I was initially bummed out that I wouldn’t find a space to sit, but as I continued scoping out the location, I discovered their counter space. It was evident that someone just completed their meal at the counter, but within minutes the associate came out, cleared the table and provided me a fresh set of utensils and a bamboo-style table mat.
I proceeded to view the menu, but also kept in mind the sidewalk menu that had listed the special of the day. It had rice, and I wasn’t in the mood for this staple (I know–the Haitian community is probably getting ready to revoke my card now). I noticed that several dishes were highlighted to reflect Dr. Sebi’s style of vegan eating. The late Dr. Sebi was a Honduran-born herbalist who often advocated a diet comprised solely of alkaline based foods like vegetables, soybeans and tofu. He held a controversial stance that these foods could cure debilitating ailments. Leaving the claims of curing aside, there is ample evidence that supports that whole foods in general are much more beneficial for the human body than processed fare, and so I knew that whatever I selected at the café would be a healthier choice.
I finally decided on the Blue Bowl, which consisted of blue corn tortilla chips topped with tomatoes, avocado, onions, coconut cheese (yes, cheese–made from coconuts!) and chickpea sauce. While I waited for my meal at the counter, I was served a cup of water, and while I sipped and observed it became clear to me that this was a community-centered restaurant. Besides the numerous flyers from organizations around the city, the cafe recently held a back-to-school drive in partnership with other local businesses.
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After about 15 minutes, my food arrived. My, how beautiful the presentation! My Blue Bowl entrée was presented to me in a stunning wooden bowl. Along the perimeter of the bowl were the blue corn tortilla chips. And in the middle was a lovely vegetable medley mixed with the base of coconut cheese and chickpea sauce. How did it taste? I was floored after my first measly bite. I could barely believe this flavorful medley was purely vegetable based. The black beans provided enough fiber and substance that I could have probably taken it easy on the tortilla chips, but the foodie in me wanted to experience it all.
Counter service. Photo by Laureen Delance
The coconut cheese didn’t really like coconuts and, dare I say, it didn’t really stand out in the dish. The chickpea sauce was very well seasoned and worked nicely with the freshly diced red onions, tomatoes and avocado. All in all, I was pleasantly shocked at how filling this completely vegetable-based meal was. I would say this was also a decently priced meal at $10.
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Would I come back to Blueberry Café and Juice Bar? You bet you bottom dollar, I will! A word of advice: keep in mind that space is tight, so if you’re coming in for lunch, you may find yourself taking out instead. I imagine that a few chairs can be placed outside during the summer—otherwise, be prepared. Overall, from the service, to the décor, to the food, I look forward to experiencing another flavorful meal.
So am I a vegan now? Au contraire! I, Laureen Delance, shall remain an omnivore—at least for now.
As for the team at Blueberry Café and Juice Bar: their hospitality gets my applause. I hope their success motivates other businesses to find their way to Blueberry’s stretch of Central Avenue and add to the economic vibrancy of the city.
Blueberry Café Juicebar and Vegan Grille is located at 547 Central Avenue in Newark. The café is open seven days per week: Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.