Açaí bowls are having a moment right now. Much like their savory sister the poke bowl, they appear to be the breakout trendy food dish of 2018. Bowl food in general has been having a good year. Healthy eating with “clean” ingredients or superfoods has been trending for a while reflecting changing attitudes towards health, lifestyles, and sustainability.
Açaí bowls, in particular, have elevated a normally boring antioxidant into something exotic and tantalizing. While nutrient-dense açaí berries and açaí flavored products have been on the market for quite some time, this new spin on marketing them seems to have captivated diners. And not just for breakfast! The explosion of stand alone açaí bowl shops in Philadelphia and South Jersey clearly proves just how popular this dish has become to eat any time of the day.
What exactly IS an Açaí bowl?
An açaí bowl is a thick-blended smoothie of frozen acai berries that is poured into a bowl and topped with all sorts of fresh fruit, crunchy granola, nuts, seeds, and drizzles then eaten with a spoon.
The beauty of the açaí bowl is that while they are often packed with fresh and healthful ingredients, their presentation is often quite beautiful, colorful, and varied. There are possibly hundreds of ways to build an açaí bowl depending on the combination of ingredients. Açaí puree isn’t the only base being offered at açaí bowls shops either – pitaya (dragonfruit), coconut, kale, oatmeal, banana, and chia pudding are also popular ingredients used as a base in this healthy breakfast bowl. Lots of shops will let you customize your own or add ingredients – just be aware you may have sticker shock at the cash register. It’s not cheap, but the bowls are absolutely delicious.
Playa Bowls is the newest place to get your açaí bowl fix. Originally from the Jersey Shore, this açaí shop now has over 50 locations nationwide. It is the first Playa Bowls in this area of South Jersey. I recently visited the day after they opened and found the menu to be large and more diverse than other shops in the area. They offer a variety of bases and fresh ingredients. They will also be offering poke bowls, unlike their competitors. Like most other shops, they also offer smoothies and fresh juices on the menu as well as other healthy snacks. They have the coolest beach-loving artwork and decor, too.
Playa Bowls is located near the Wegmans Shopping Center, next to Panera Bread.
Frutta Bowls – Cinnaminson and Marlton
Frutta Bowls was one of the first, if not the first, to bring açaí bowls to South Jersey. They were the first I had tried in the region and was my formal introduction to the phenomenon. Yeah, I was a bit slow on this food trend. This NJ-based chain now boasts over 50 locations on the East Coast and Midwest. In addition the popular breakfast bowls, they also offer an assortment of toasts, like savory avocado & egg toast and toasts with sweet toppings such as banana, strawberries, and even brie cheese & fig spread.
The Cinnaminson store is located on Route 130 South (in the ShopRite Shopping Center) and the Marlton store is located on Route 73 South (which I haven’t been to yet). Frutta Bowls now has a location in Center City Philadelphia, FYI.
Animo Juice & Burrito Bowls – Haddonfield
Animo Juice & Burrito Bar offers blended açaí bowls in addition to their burritos, burrito bowls, salads, juices, and smoothies. They are located in the heart of Haddonfield at 210 Kings Highway East.
Red Mango – Cherry Hill Mall
Red Mango is a nationwide chain of frozen yogurt shops, but they also offer açaí bowls, along with smoothies, juices, and parfaits.
Acai Cafe – Westmont
Acai Cafe is located at 148 Haddon Avenue in Westmont (Haddon Township). This independently owned shop offers oatmeal bowls, dragon fruit bowls, smoothies, juices, and you can get your açaí bowl served in half of a fresh pineapple! How fun is that?