Acai bowls (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) have been all the rage recently, and rightly so — they’re delicious, healthy and beautiful. They’re essentially thick smoothies topped with granola and fruit, with one key ingredient: acai berries. These berries, dubbed a superfood and grown in South America, have made their way into health food stores around the world. Equally delicious as they are Instagram-worthy, acai bowls have become a fast hit in the Palo Alto area with the recent additions of several locations that serve them. Verde sampled the acai bowl offerings at a few local eateries and developed a recipe for an affordable, do-it-yourself version of these colorful bowls of sunshine.
As downtown Palo Alto’s first and only eatery specializing in acai bowls and blends, Bare Bowls offers a diverse selection of bowls. Bare sports the motto “Live generously, go Bare,” and this mission of honesty and transparency is apparent from the open kitchen filled with hundreds of fresh bananas to the handcrafted poster labeling the local sources of nearly all their ingredients.
Their bowls are hard to beat, though their prices are steep at $8 for a small and $12 for a large. The granola provides the perfect complementary crunch to the satisfyingly thick smoothie base, and Bare’s method of including granola at both the top and the bottom of each bowl ensures you never run out of this tasty mix. Other toppings include coconut, goji berries, sliced banana, sliced strawberries, blueberries, hemp seeds and roasted almonds. Though selecting a bowl from their nine options can be a daunting task, it’s hard to go wrong with Bare Bowls.
Not one block from Bare Bowls in downtown Palo Alto is Fraiche Yogurt. Fraiche is renowned for its delicious frozen yogurt, but in 2012, the popular business tacked an acai bowl onto its menu. However, there is currently only one option, and unfortunately, we were disappointed.
Acai bowls are clearly not Fraiche’s forté. The acai bowl was disconcertingly liquid-y — hovering somewhere between juice and a smoothie in consistency. It almost felt wrong to be eating it with a spoon rather than drinking it. Though still tasty and the least expensive of the three places we reviewed, the lower price did not make up for the discrepancy in quality.
With that said, Fraiche definitely dominates Palo Alto’s frozen yogurt scene, and we wholeheartedly recommend it for its yogurt.
Located in a shopping plaza on San Antonio Road, Nekter is a little more out-of-the-way than Fraiche or Bare for most Palo Alto residents. This juice bar chain definitely has a more business-like atmosphere to it. The walls are lined with baskets of fruits and vegetables, reassuring you of their products’ quality and freshness … although we were surprised to find upon closer inspection that the produce on display were actually made of plastic.
The menu largely focuses on juices and smoothies, but when it comes to acai bowls, there are a few different options. Nekter’s bowls are on the larger side, so $6.95 begins to seem cheap when compared with Bare’s prices.
The smoothie base was delectable, and the granola was good but nothing special. There was a thick layer of granola at the top of the bowl, making it difficult to get through to the acai in the first few bites. Despite these complaints, the acai bowls were both delicious and filling.
Our acai adventures sold us on the idea of acai bowls, but not the price tag. So, seeking some solace for our wallets, we decided to try creating a homemade version.
Below is the recipe we came up with: First, blend the “base” ingredients in a blender, then top with whatever toppings inspire you. We suggest including granola both in the bottom of the bowl and at the top. Another advantage to making your acai bowls at home? You can add more toppings as you eat to guarantee you always have the perfect base-to-topping ratio.
1 pack Sambazon Acai Superfruit Packs
½ – 1 banana
½ cup frozen mixed berries
¼ cup almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
1-3 dates (optional, for sweetness)
1-2 tablespoons peanut or almond butter (optional)