Some things are just meant to be. Like when two women meet, one a successful entrepreuner making almost $60 million on an innovative spin on baked pita chips, and the other, a world renowned respected nutritionist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the featured nutritionist in the award winning documentary Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead. It just works out that they're both named Stacy. Stacy Kennedy and Stacy Madison opened Stacy's Juicebar on March 1 this year in Needham, MA, with a concept that has perfect timing. Cleanse diets and "clean" eating are trendy right now, and juicing has become more accessible thanks to NutriBullet and Ninja infomercials, along with a resurgence of the Cadillac of blenders, Blendtec and Vitamix. More Americans are drinking juice but not just freshly squeezed orange juice. We're talking about 5-10 different ingredients that may include whole fruits, vegetables, seeds and herbs pulverized into one 12-16 ounce serving. Nutritionists and health experts preach to people to eat 5-11 servings of fruits and veggies daily, and this is one way to reach that intimidating number.
I worked with Stacy Kennedy when I was at Dana-Farber and have always respected her vast knowledge but that didn't mean I wasn't skeptical of a new eatery offering a healthy menu. I just haven't found a healthful menu that I've been super impressed with. It seems that restaurants want to cater to the demand for something healthier, so they use the right ingredients but don't know how to fuse them into something tasty. Example: Many of the take-out vegan/vegetarian entrees at Whole Foods are bland unless they're loaded with nuts and oils, and a vegetarian restaurant I reviewed last fall left me wanting.
I love Needham though, where many of my favorite small businesses are located, so I asked Stacy K. for an interview. A recent Boston Globe article hinted that the juicebar was Stacy M.'s brainchild with Stacy K. coming aboard later. Stacy K. said that it was more of a simultaneous effort as she and her husband Dr. Russell Kennedy, a wellness psychologist, had already been developing a juicebar concept. Stacy M.'s business savvy and Stacy K.'s nutrition and fitness expertise combined with their intense work ethic birthed a mutually beneficial partnership.
I think I said "wow" at least three times after stepping into Stacy's Juicebar. My first wow was seeing the decor—bright and hip with a lot of energy. The baristas were bustling, serving customers and constantly cleaning and stocking items. There was a take-home case with a variety of quinoa blends, garden salads, wraps, panini, soups and their special raw veggie lasagna. If you can't find your favorite variety in the case, they'll make it fresh on the spot for you.
My second wow was seeing both Stacys present on a weekday morning, bustling just as hard as the others, looking like Energizer Bunnies. They were both extremely hands-on, stocking items and conversing with the baristas, chefs and customers. Stacy K. said that she is at the juicebar for 8 hours 5 days a week, in addition to still working at Dana-Farber once a week. When I asked how she balances work life with her young family, she admitted, "It's definitely a challenge." She shares that her husband is very supportive with the children, who often make appearances at the juicebar (I actually did see the whole family in one corner on a second visit, which I thought was very cool!).
I ordered several items to take home: The Grasshopper Power Smoothie (one of Stacy's favorites; the other being the Sweet Beet Juice), Sweet Lime Quinoa, Roasted Veggie Wrap with Hummus, and the Sweetheart Cookie. I was impressed when Stacy said that all of the recipes were her own. Her younger son has food allergies, which encouraged her to create many of the recipes now on the menu. There are many vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free items but there is also chicken, turkey, salmon, eggs and cheese.
My third wow was after eating these items! I was seriously surprised by the Grasshopper Smoothie. I've had green juices and at best they're tolerable. This was a truly delicious thick and creamy shake (see the ingredients below), tasting really fresh with little chunks of sweet dates that got caught in my straw. I could taste every single ingredient (except maybe the aloe and spirulina because I have no idea how they're supposed to taste). The first bite of Lime Quinoa with veggies and honey avocado dressing was simply yummy. The quinoa was cooked perfectly and the dressing added just the right amount of flavor. I ate the Sweetheart Cookie to refuel after teaching a Zumba class and it was very moist and sweet with a satisfying richness from the nuts. The Roasted Veggie Wrap with Hummus was filled with lightly roasted chunky beets, onions, spinach, broccoli and sweet potatoes that were still crunchy. I noticed how filling all of these items were, probably because of the high fiber content.
The prices were a bit scary with the juices and smoothies ranging from $7.45-9 for a 16-ounce cup but as I said they are high quality and filling, not something you will gulp down quickly. The salads and sandwiches range from $7-10 with the salmon dishes costing $13. I noticed a variety of customers, ranging from young male bodybuilder types to moms with kids to older men and women. Brandon Bass from the Boston Celtics walked in to purchase two P'nut Butter Cup smoothies. He said that he often makes smoothies at home but doesn't like the mess so he's become a regular customer.
For me nutrition is key, and a big reason I'd come here over other health food joints is because Stacy is a top notch dietitian. She's not just using healthful ingredients but considering total nutrition. Complete nutrition info will eventually be available for every menu item, but she emphasized that it's not just calories that are promoted but the entire nutritional value. For example the Sweet Beet juice contains 70% of one's daily iron needs. When I asked Stacy how she felt when dietitians often spout out, "I prefer to eat my fruits than drink them," she replied that both are beneficial; one is not better than the other. "There are different options for increasing fruit and vegetable intake. Juicing concentrates a large volume into a small amount, and removing the insoluble fiber can actually improve digestion and absorption of nutrients in the produce. Both whole foods and juicing have benefits. You don't have to choose one or the other." She says that the pulp removed when juicing is put back into their soups and smoothies so the whole food is used.
Stacy also provides private nutrition counseling and complimentary on-site workshops on juicing, weight loss, superfoods and sports nutrition. This place is a must-see! Visit them at 1257 Highland Avenue, Needham, MA. Open every day except Sundays and holidays. There's a good chance you'll catch me there sipping my Grasshopper Smoothie!