By Cheryl Mandell
It’s summertime, and the eatin’s easy! It seems there is a new quick-and-healthy eatery or juicery on every corner of Estero.
Bahia Bowls, run by Florida Gulf Coast University alumnus Ben Casey, was arguably the trendsetter for acai bowls, launching back in 2017 in Grand Oaks Shoppes. Since then, Estero has become home to several bowl shops and juiceries, each offering their own refreshing twists on the trend.
The Bowl, Clean Juice, JoJo’s Bowls, Juice Society and Playa Bowls are five new establishments that have opened their doors locally within the past year or so, all offering organic menu items. The star of most bowls, acai (pronounced ah-sah-EE), is a bright purple South American fruit high in antioxidants that is purported to have outstanding health benefits. Juices combine the nutrient power of both fruits and vegetables.
While Casey may have started the trend in Estero, another FGCU alum beat him to Southwest Florida. After moving back to Naples from Southern California, Kylee Brinkman began crafting organic acai bowls in her home kitchen, then selling her delicious goods at local farmers markets back in 2014. She opened her first brick–and–mortar location on Pine Ridge Road in late 2015. The astounding growth led to a second location in downtown Naples and, more recentlyin 2021, Brinkman opened her third location in Estero’s University Village.
Since the very beginning, the family-owned stores have been 100 percent compostable, including all bowls, cups, spoons, straws and lids.
Brinkman, who was named tothe Gulfshore Business“40 Under 40” in 2019, gives back to the community by hosting quarterly Bowls for Benefits events, where 100 percent of proceeds are donated to a local nonprofit. Brinkman’s mission is to serve healthy, organic, dairy-free acai bowls and smoothies to Southwest Florida. She says, “Our motto is something the staff lives by and promotes every day: Good vibes only!”
Barefoot Bodie Bowl: A delicious blend of acai, strawberries, blueberries, banana, peanut butter and hemp milk named after Brinkman’s son, Boden. Toppings include granola, strawberries, banana, coconut shreds and honey.
Islamorada Bowl: Named after Brinkman’s daughter, Isla, this refreshing bowl is a mix of pitaya (dragon fruit), strawberries, banana, pineapple juice and coconut milk with granola, pineapple, strawberries, coconut shreds and honey on top.
Iced Matcha Latte: The Bowl serves refreshing, rejuvenating lattes on tap, made with organic ceremonial grade matcha (a finely ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea leaves) and oat milk.
HOURS & INFO
Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily
University Village Shops – 19810 Village Center Drive, Suite 130
Clean Juice is the newest addition to the Estero landscape, celebrating its grand opening on June 4, 2022. Witnessing the tremendous population growth in the greater Estero area, owner Mark Heinold saw an opportunity to bring organic, fast, casual and healthy food options to the community with Clean Juice.
Regional Manager Heather Cargini explains, “We searched numerous locations in Estero, Bonita Springs and Fort Myers. The location we chose (near Miromar Outlets) was the most attractive given the proximity to Hertz arena, FGCU and all of the additional residential neighborhoods being built off of Corkscrew Road. Additionally, there were very few options in the area for certified organic, healthy food options.”
With the mantra “The Cup is Always Up,” the folks at Clean Juice strive to give each guest individualized attention and to serve quality products while maintaining organic standards.
Red Cold Press Juice: This great pre– or post–workout juice acts as a vasodilator (increases blood flow) because of the nitric oxide in beets. Featuring all organic beets, apples, carrots and lemon, this drink is perfect in the afternoon or early evening to avoid a late-day crash.
The Immunity One: Enjoy this fresh juice packed with organic carrots, oranges, lemon, pineapple and turmeric for when you are feeling a bit run down and your immune system needs a lift.
The TeBowl: You can’t go wrong with a protein bowl that Tim Tebow calls his favorite! The TeBowl is a hearty mix of all–organic ingredients including mixed greens, diced chicken, hard-boiled eggs, avocado, hemp seeds, feta and walnut.
Three years ago, Joe and Mary Cramer helped their friends open an acai bowl store in Libertyville, Ill. Based on that store’s success, the Cramers decided to launch their very own store of a similar style in the Brooks Town Center in Estero, opening Nov. 11, 2021.
It’s Joe Cramer’s notion that in his store, you come for the bowls, but stay for the friendly company. “As a small business, we enjoy all of our interactions with our customers and will always work to give the best acai and experience. Our ingredients are always fresh, and our soft-serve acai is never iced down. Our acai bowls are made to order, and we have a large array of healthy toppings to choose from. We have something for everyone!”
A family-owned business, JoJo’s Bowls currently has the only license in the state of Florida to serve Berry Divine soft-serve acai, providing consistent flavor and texture every time. Additionally, their smoothies do not use ice, so the fruit flavors are enhanced.
The Cramers find their location, nestled between Estero and Bonita Springs high schools, to be perfect, and they have enjoyed creating a community with locals and neighboring stores in the Brooks Town Center.
SoFlo Acai Bowl: An excellent combination of soft-serve acai, fresh fruits and granola, topped with a drizzle of honey. A great option for someone new to acai bowls.
Berry Bowl: A delicious combination of three fresh fruits, soft-serve acai, accented with chocolate drizzle and honey. A favorite choice among students and chocolate lovers.
Eagles Delight Smoothie: This smoothie combines acai, bananas, strawberries and blueberries with organic apple juice, accented with a drizzle of honey.
JUICE SOCIETY JUICERY
Owner Kallie Isadore’s inspiration for bringing Juice Society to life was being able to offer the community convenient access to delicious and nourishing superfoods and beverages to energize the body. Officially opened for business on Jan. 15, 2022, Juice Society was formed as a health hub for the community to learn more about juicing and clean eating for people of any age and lifestyle.
Menu items are 99-percent vegan, organic, locally sourced when in season, and use all–natural, functional foods and superfoods. Offerings include delicious smoothies, bowls, and juices,without any added sugars.
“I wanted to inspire and help people live a healthier lifestyle by fueling their bodies with all–natural ingredients and fruits and vegetables while being able to support our local farmers,” says Isadore.
Coconut Point was Isadore’s top choice, as it’s right in the heart of Estero and Southwest Florida, giving Juice Society the opportunity to expand its reach.
“Our mindfully curated menu offers fresh ingredients, organic produce sourced from high-quality local suppliers whenever possible, and also features recipes chosen specifically for their health benefits,” Isadore proudly states.
Under The Sea Juice: This beautiful turquoise-colored juice contains Fuji apple, green apple, cucumber, lemon, ginger, blue spirulina and togarashi. It’s loaded with nutrients to make you feel good from the inside out.
Coconut Point Cruncher Bowl: This acai bowl is loaded with delicious and fresh produce, topped with strawberries, bananasand coconut meat, drizzled with peanut butter and honey.Delicious and refreshing!
Johnny Cashew Brew: The ingredients in the JCB smoothie are good for breakfast, a midday pick–me–up, or an afternoon treat. Many Juice Society customers are hooked on this smoothie. The standout ingredient is the medium–roast Peruvian coffee—ground and roasted by Bonita Springs coffee roaster Grumpy Goat—along with coconut milk, coconut meat, raw cashews, banana, dates and plant–based vanilla protein.
Playa Bowls owners Mike and Bronwyn Bergen fell in love with the Estero area its people. They, too, saw the business potential.
“The untapped market and booming growth in the area, along with being close to the university and sense of community, were all factors in opening the flagship store in Estero,” says store Manager Lisa Crosby.
Since opening Sept. 3, 2021, Playa Bowls has been a welcoming place for locals and vacationers alike. The energetic music and atmosphere give customers a break from everyday life. Playa artist Ramona hand-painted everything in the store — the walls and menu boards, all the way down to the bathroom floors — to bring the vibes of the beach to the store. Reclaimed wood and recycled materials from old buildings minimize the store’s environmental footprint and support its mission to lead communities in healthy, sustainable living.
Their motto invites, “Playa Bowls is your slice of summer, anytime.” Menu items include acai, pitaya and coconut bowls and smoothies, and are available to order online, through the Playa Bowls app or through DoorDash and Uber Eats.
Nutella Bowl: Their best seller — who wouldn’t love pure acai topped with granola, banana, strawberry, coconut flakes and Nutella drizzle?
Beach Break: One of the most popular fresh juices on the menu, the Beach Break is an extremely refreshing blend of carrot, ginger, pineapple and lemon.
Nica Bowl: A Playa original for someone who wants a blend other than acai, this bowl has a creamy banana base with none of the guilt! A delicious blend of strawberries, bananas, walnuts and cacao nibs featuring Playa’s signature peanut butter.
HOURS & INFO
Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m
Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Gulf Coast Town Center – 10041 University Dr., Suite 160