By Madina Toure
The recently opened Raw Juice Café is making a name for itself in Glendale as one of the few options for healthy, natural food in the neighborhood.
Located at 64-17 Central Ave., Raw Juice Café — which attracted 500 people to its grand opening three weeks ago — offers customers wraps, bagels, sandwiches, gourmet coffee roasted at D’amico Foods in South Brooklyn, natural juices and natural smoothies. The café also has free Wi-Fi, attracting many students. Roughly 20 to 20 people come to the café on a daily basis, said co-owner Chris Torres.
“Everybody’s trying to be healthier, trying to stay away from fast food,” Torres, 31, said. “And this neighborhood, unfortunately, it’s a lot of fast food. So what’s make us different is you can come here, you can get a natural juice or a healthy sandwich or a salad and feel better about what you just ate.”
Torres and co-owner Kevin Vasquez, 25, first met while playing soccer. They discussed soccer and healthy eating regularly and considered starting their own soccer store on the Lower East Side. But when Vasquez’s father and brother bought Central Car Wash next door, they told them about the space and realized the café would be a better option.
“We realized that there was really no healthy option in the neighborhood so instead of opening up the soccer store, we figured, why not just piggyback off of this business and open up a juice café?” Torres said.
The café uses natural ingredients, avoiding sugar in the smoothies and juices, and skips adding dressing to salads unless the customer wants it. They also offer wheat grass shots.
The Ginger Snap, which consists of carrot, beets, apple, pear, lemon and ginger, is the most popular item in the café. The Flash, which consists of yogurt, banana, strawberries and orange juice, and the Pure Green Fuel, which consists of pineapples, avocado, spinach, soy milk, flax seeds and bananas, are the most popular smoothies. The drip coffee, the breakfast sandwich and wrap and the blackened chicken sandwich are also popular among customers.
A 16-ounce juice costs $5, compared to $7 for a 20-ounce juice. Food items range from $4 for a fruit parfait up to $7.50 for some lunch options. A 16-ounce smoothie costs $6 while a 20-ounce smoothie costs $7. Customized options are moderately priced, Torres said.
Customers say they appreciate the friendly atmosphere, the music as well as the diverse and healthy options for food and drink.
Glendale resident and NYPD dispatcher Kristina Baez, 26, gets drinks at the café to help her get through her job, which requires her to work at night. Noting the breakfast options and the Clean Getaway juice as some of her favorites, she said the proximity to the car wash is a plus.
“It’s so perfect because when I want to get a car wash, I’ll literally come through the door, I’ll have breakfast here and then I’ll grab my car right outside and go park it,” Baez said.
And the café has attracted people from other neighborhoods, too. Richmond Hill resident Sharon Diaz, 33, who has been to the café three times, said she was struck by the owners’ willingness to cater to customers’ dietary needs, noting an occasion in which Torres made her a vegan wrap and a customized coffee.
“Even though it’s not on the menu, he customized it for me — made it a frappucino to my liking — and I thought that was pretty cool,” Diaz said.
She also appreciated the type of music played at the café, such as American hip-hop group Wu Tang Clan.
“There was music being played that I hadn’t heard in a really long time that I really like,” she added.
By early 2015, the owners plan to expand the menu to include more food, smoothie and juice options. They also plan to open up more locations in Queens.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 260–4566.