Oct

30

Restaurant Review: Uptown Juice Bar

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In which Bwog freelancer Kate Linthicum discovers soul food that’s actually good for your soul.

uptown juiceI’ve been a vegetarian since I was four, when my family’s mischievous Labrador puppy attacked my pet hen. Her name was Pearl, and she was the softest, sweetest chicken in the whole world. I stopped eating meat the day I discovered her feathers strewn across the flowerbeds. 

Morally, it was the right decision for me. Socially, it kind of sucked. Growing up, I always felt like an outsider at lunchtime, munching quietly on home-packed lunches of carrots and peanut butter sandwiches while the rest of the kids loaded up on chicken nuggets. I pretended to know why people went crazy for Happy Meals, sloppy joes and soul food, but I just couldn’t relate.  

But then I dined at Uptown Juice Bar, a little Harlem gem that specializes in vegetarian Caribbean fare. It’s one of the only restaurants in New York that serves soul food that’s actually good for your soul.  

Since 1995 the Juice Bar has occupied a narrow storefront on 125th street between Lennox and Fifth Avenue. It’s about a half hour walk from Columbia’s campus. The restaurant is nestled next to a store that sells specialty wigs, and outside men with long dreads hawk reggae cds.  

 

guy choosing foodInside it’s bright and warm, thanks to an army of industrial-looking food lamps that keep watch over a buffet of steaming dishes. Patrons line up cafeteria-style to order. The menu is large and the prices are cheap. All of the chicken, fish and turkey dishes are made out of soy protein or tofu, though mainstays like okra, collard greens and mac and cheese seem prepared in the standard way. 

The line at dinnertime is long-ish, but the people in it are chatty. When I asked one man to help me choose what to order, a woman standing next to us piped in. “Honey, you cannot go wrong,” she assured me.  

I paid eight dollars for a plate piled with four selections from the buffet. The cooked pumpkin and cabbage were delicious, and the mock duck was divine. My companion, who knows real meat better than I do, said her huge turkey sandwich was not only tasty, but tasted authentic, too.  

I didn’t try any of the juices for which the restaurant is named, but based on the fresh fruit displayed in the front window, I bet they’re pretty good. The restaurant also offers a wide selection of vegan desserts.  

finished foodThere’s a dining room decorated with pretty art in the back, and it’s a nice sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of 125th. It’s quiet except for the occasional strain of calypso music that sifts in from the kitchen.   

I liked almost everything about the Uptown Juice Bar.  The barbecue soy chunks, however, kind of freaked me out. Crafted after chicken drumsticks, they’re as stringy and succulent as I imagine real chicken is. I tried to eat to them, but each time I bit into to a drumstick, I couldn’t help but think guiltily of poor Pearl. 

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16 Comments

  1. yum  

    such a good place. Hopefully people know about it already and that this is old news.

    • nope  

      Not old news to me, and I've been vegan for 15 years. I feel like a dumbass for not already knowing about this place.

      So thank you, Kate Linthicum. I'll walk up to Uptown Juice Bar, and raise a juice to poor Pearl. When I was young, my feisty pet cat ate the family canary, so I can relate.

  2. agreed  

    Also interesting juice/smoothie names!

  3. ehh  

    Not to be "that guy," but how is meat bad for the soul?

  4. DHI  

    Man, I hope you didn't harbor any ill will toward that Labrador, because those dogs are the greatest.

  5. alexw  

    Iscoe, you fiend. Labradors are foul beasts. Stop polluting the Internet.

    • DHI  

      Man I know you just causing trouble because no human could ever dislike a Labrador. They're friendly and loyal and would never hurt people, but they haven't been mentally or physically enfeebled and they can go out and do things. Plus they're always scheming for food, which means they're really alive. And they got webbed feet! How cool is that? Shut up, it is cool. Bet you wish you had webbed feet, you slow-swimming motherfucker.

  6. labradors  

    are so cute that they could eat a baby and deny the holocaust and I'd still love them

  7. yay  

    i wish i'd known about this sooner.
    can't wait to go!

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