2963 Beech Street, South Park
As quickly as the past several years of gentrification took over South Park, one problem lingered: access to organic produce. Crack parks became dog parks, empty buildings became restaurants and restaurants became fusion restaurants, and still its craftsman home loving residents had to drive into Hillcrest for organic kale, heirloom tomatoes and fresh berries.
No longer. Stehly Farms Market opened a branch on Beech Street, somewhere between Grant's Market and the Ginseng yoga studio. The North County farm opened its first storefront last year in Linda Vista to rave reviews. It provides citrus and avocados, sourcing a host of other produce from neighboring farms around the county. You might think of it as a permanent farmer's market featuring the best local agriculture has to offer. And its prices reflect that.
But I'm not here to review produce selection or judge a pricing scheme that would make Whole Foods blush. I checked out the shop to sample the service half of its operation: its juice bar.
After all, with so much fresh fruits and greens, it only makes sense they would sock it all together for some refreshingly nutritious smoothies. I mean, the only added investment is a blender and a brightly colored menu to hang from the wall.
The kid manning the counter must have thought I was high for how long it took me to read that menu. First, it's broken down into beet juices, carrot juices, green juices, fruit juices, fruit smoothies and superfood smoothies. Juices run three or four bucks at the small end, with some of the larger, more nutrient-rich beverages hitting the ten-dollar mark.
This was a hot day, so I wanted something refreshing and cool. When I spotted a blueberry-and-pomegranate-juice smoothie I instantly ordered it and paid. Then, before the cashier could even so much as give me change I switched to one with pineapple, banana, yogurt and coconut water. I probably would have changed my mind again if he hadn't made my drink immediately.
It's tough to see so many different drinks with strawberry, papaya, mango and pear and settle on just one. Then you get the greens and superfoods going, and suddenly almond milk, bee pollen, and spirulina sound vital to your daily health. Apparently, you can add on or assemble your own drink based on choices available, though I hesitate to see the Frankenstein of a smoothie I'd come up with if left to my own devices.
Ultimately, it's the health consciousness that will help this pricey market succeed. This is a neighborhood of people with disposable incomes trying to do right by their bodies; people who'll probably stop by in the morning for a ten-buck açai bowl. If produce this good were more prevalent, and cheaper, you gotta believe the health care debate would be moot. Till then, my $5 smoothie was outstanding, and because they provided it in a recyclable, compostable cup, I'll allow myself to feel pretty good about drinking it.