Monday, August 8, 2011

Vex in the City: Part 10 Uptown Juice Bar in Harlem

(Written in Jamaican English with approximate Standard English translation)

>< >< >< >< >< a dis' ya' top of de' line someting(Outstanding)

>< >< >< >< everyting irie(Good and very good)

>< >< >< alright still(Just okay)

>< >< C'mon man! Unu c'yan do better 'den 'dat(Needs improvement)

>< a what de ras'?(Deplorable)

Taste of the food
>< >< >< >< >< Amazing, tasty, authentic. Great.
Look of the food
>< >< >< >< Since I had buffet food the presentation on my plate was generally up to me. I think I did pretty well. As for the food set-up at the buffet, I thought it all looked very appetizing.
>< I didn't really see other evidence of environmental-responsibility. I ate in the restaurant from a plastic plate with a plastic fork. The plastic cup was not reuseable. The refrigerator was one of those "open refrigerators". Doesn't that burn more energy? Or at least, release the refrigeration? During my trip, I did notice that Toronto is ahead when it comes to environmental responsibility than New York City. For example, in Toronto, the trash bins on the street have sections for recycling, plastic bags must be purchased, and compost collection is each week. These types of things do not exist in New York City.
Health Savvy
>< >< >< >< >< The food that was on display was very healthy foods minus the junk. The refrigerator contained healthy products as well as raw foods. There was no soda pop or sugary drinks but instead such items as coconut water and juices. Also, I noticed that in the juicer/smoothie section of the restaurant, there were posters on the wall describing
>< >< >< >< The staff were friendly enough. The staff member snapped a photo of my fiancé in front of the Bob Marley painting, no problem. Although, the kitchen staff were watching me photograph with a little suspicion, when I explained what I was doing, they were totally cool. Also, the woman at the cash, welcomed me photographing her blue butterfly necklace.
>< >< >< I think there was music but I didn't hear it too much. I loved it coming into the restaurant which was very warm with its brown brick walls, natural lighting, and beautiful paintings. The metallic chairs at the tables were a modern classy touch. As I approached the back toward the buffet, I felt that this ambience was lost a bit with the fluorescent lighting, stark white floor, and metallic-ness.
Added Perks
>< >< I did not receive any freebies for reviewing this restaurant. However, I think the fact that they serve such a wide variety of diverse foods (raw, vegan, juice, smoothie) and have revolving specials are major bonuses.
Ethical and Community-Minded
>< >< >< Uptown Juice Bar did seem to have Harlem in mind by offering affordable and tasty dishes that reflect the palates of the community. By providing Caribbean-themed foods with African-American soulfood options as well, they cater to the local tastes. I did not get to speak with the owners so I do not know what else is done to support community initiatives.

$ $ Very reasonable. For that heavy plate of food, I paid about $ 10. In my plate, I had one curried drumstick, teriyaki soy stir fry, chow mein, curried chick peas, rice and peas, sweet potatoes, collard greens, and plantains. Definitely a filling and satisfying meal. Although my fiancé had spent just less than $ 5 on his meal, he felt it was filling with rice and peas, curried chick peas, sweet potatoes, and plantain, he felt it was filling. He also got a juice which also meant everything for him totalled less than $ 10.

"I can't believe it's not chicken!" might be a caption for the curry drumsticks at Uptown Juice Bar as it was for my experience with the soy nuggets at Peacefood Café. What is it about New Yorkers and their "unchicken"? It tastes so good and scores very high points with me. So flavourful, textured, and moist, it really fools the palate and reminds the "newly-turned vegan, chicken lovers of yesteryear" of that taste. (I'm a confessed recovered chick-a-holic.) New York City is well-known great vegan fare (check out SuperVegan for a guide of NYC's vegan restaurants) , yet in other ways, it ranks so low for vegan options at fastfood and street meat. I was shocked with what I discovered! When I asked multiple street vendors for veggie hotdogs or veggie burgers, they gave me strange looks and said 'no'. They all advertised falafels but when I asked, they were completely out of them. (Clearly, the veggie options are in demand!) When I walked into a healthy sandwich and wraps place, I asked if they had hummus. The attendant did not know what that was. (Really? Really!) So, I relied on bean burritos, which could easily be adapted to vegan, to get me through a few meals (hold the sour cream and cheese). Imagine my excitement when I came upon the Uptown Juice Bar located in Harlem.

Years ago, I visited Uptown Juice Bar for a juice but now, in a new location, my fiancé and I were refreshed to find this concept-- affordable and fast vegan food! Vegan restaurants are generally pricier than average restaurants, especially since most fast food places do not cater to a vegan customer-base. Uptown Juice Bar is a pleasant combination of affordability and plant-based goodness. Besides being what it is known for, a righteous juice and smoothie bar, it is also has a vegan bakery and boasts a hot Caribbean food buffet. That's right, folks! Hot Caribbean vegan buffet!!!! Music to my ears. When I get to buffets, like this one, I usually get excited. I pile up my plate with modest servings of EVERYTHING. Given the variety and selection of meals, my plate was quite weighed down. Yet I got an amazingly filling meal for $ 10. My fiancé, who is a lot more selective, managed to get a more modest-sized meal for under $ 5. (Uptown Juice Bar prices its meals by weight. I swear it was because I had the soy drumstick.) Yum! The clientele at Uptown Juice Bar is reflective of the many peoples who reside in Harlem-- African-American, Caribbean, a spiritual Black woman wearing eclectic garb, a Jamaican Rastaman, natural-haired sisters (including myself), and the occasional white guy (my fiancé). Uptown Juice Bar is part restaurant juice bar when you enter, then when you approach the buffet you kind of feeling its a cafeteria/industrial kitchen with refrigerated goods. Uptown Juice Bar is an excellent stop along the way through Harlem. Next time, I visit I need to hit up this tasty and convenient location.

Going through my photos I realize that I was a little skimpy on the photos this time. (So unusual for me.) But I hope to convey how great the meals are at Uptown Juice Bar.

Uptown Juice Bar in Harlem. Celebrating its Grand Opening after its move further west on 125th.

Juices and smoothies to go.

Loads of baked goods.

Hot food buffet.

Good food. The middle one on the right is soy fish. A lesson in the past has told me to stay clear of the soy fish. (I'm allergic to real fish and my body seems to not be able to tell the difference between the real and the fake stuff. Hmmm....)

Refrigerated items are available.

My plate is F-U-L-L! I have teriyaki soy, chow mein, curried drumstick, curried chana, collard greens, sweet potatoes... oh yes. There is a bit of soulfood at this restaurant too.

The really amazing curried soy chicken drumstick. A-m-a-z-i-n-g!

Uptown Juice Bar had a few beautiful paintings on its brick wall. We loved the Bob Marley painting. My belly is so full. (Pat! Pat!) A bit of a mugshot for my fiancé.

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