Walter Mencken 11 a.m., Nov. 27
Rum Jungle Cafe
The bright purple and yellow print on the Rum Jungle's sign was enticing, as was the name itself.
It sounds like a legendary Tiki bar, or a secret club hidden in a casino somewhere, but it's merely a juice bar with an alluring sign.
The flashiness continues on the inside, as the Rum Jungle has a legitimately tropical feel that's more than just a thin, decorative veneer. The rainforest theme is carried out to the extent that there's a strange "surf and parrot" shrine on one wall.
The first thing that struck me on entering the Rum Jungle was that it smelled good inside. This is more rare than one might expect. Most places have a neutral smell, and anywhere that has an outright stink is obviously best avoided; but the Rum Jungle had a pleasant, fruity, fresh scent that promised a lot.
The juice selection was pretty narrow, all things considered, with only four real juices on offer. Still, a medium sized green juice ($4.95) delivered a lot of spinach, kale, and wheatgrass, which is very nice when juices can often be only nominally green and in reality just a lot of apple juice with a trickle of veggies thrown in.
The smoothie selections were more plentiful, with some interesting combinations like a Tree Hugger (acai, strawberry, banana, apple juice, spinach, flaxseed, and ginger) for sale alongside more pedestrian, berry-filled options. The 24oz. smoothies were about five or six dollars each, depending on the price.
The cafe has some sandwiches as well, but they looked perfectly ordinary, i.e. the usual chipotle wraps and tuna salads, club sandwiches and hummus pitas.
Probably the Rum Jungle's biggest failing was the lack of adequate coffee. Some drip coffee was in evidence, but any specialty coffee drinks clearly involved the dehydrated, super-sweet coffee powders that lined the back shelves. Still, the emphasis is on juice and smoothies, not getting wired on caffeine.
For that, the sweetly scented, playfully decorated Rum Jungle succeeds.
4150 Mission Boulevard
Open daily 8-7 (closes at 6 on Sundays)