Warm weather is finally here, and ‘tis the season for frozen treats. While we’re definitely not suggesting giving up ice cream, smoothie bowls make for a refreshing dessert alternative (and work just as well for breakfast or a hearty snack). There are plenty of takes on the colorful, layered smoothie bowl throughout the Garden State, but the typical construction consists of a blend of frozen fruits and vegetables with dairy-free milk, juice or coconut water as a base—acai berry, dragonfruit, kale or spinach, coconut and banana are all popular blends—with more fruit, granola and toppings galore on top. We’ve rounded up the best places to find smoothie bowls sure to satisfy a sweet tooth and keep you cool, plus maybe squeeze in a few servings of fruit in, too.
With dozens of shops each throughout the state, there’s a good chance there’s a Frutta Bowls, Sweetberry Bowls or Playa Bowls near you. At all three, choose from an acai base (an Amazonian berry purported to have high levels of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals), a pitaya base (bright pink, also known as dragonfruit) or a greens base (with kale and either banana or pineapple to sweeten it up); Sweetberry and Playa also offer bases with blended coconut and banana. At each chain shop, choose from a dizzying combination of bases, fruit, granola and topping combinations or build your smoothie bowl to your exact fruit-loving specifications.
A backpacking trip to Hawaii inspired sisters Kiersten and Krista Gormeley to bring back the simple, fresh food they enjoyed on the Big Island. At Shaka, build your own acai or pitaya bowl by choosing a base, fruit and toppings such as coconut, chia seeds, granola, bee pollen and protein powder. For even more bowl-based meals, Shaka lets you build your own oatmeal, yogurt and poke bowls, too.
720 Monroe Street, Suite E103, 201-381-1647; 110 Washington Street, 201-253-0626
The owner of this Princeton juice shop hails from Costa Rica (tico is a nickname for a Costa Rican), and the pura vida vibes show when it comes to bowls. There are the more common acai- and pitaya-based bowls, but some really unique options, such as the Tico Bowl, with organic pineapple, guanoabana (a Caribbean fruit also called graviola) and coconut milk as a base, topped with granola, strawberries, bananas, mango and fresh coconut shavings, or the Sour Kick, with organic passion fruit, mango and apple blended into a bottom layer and granola, strawberries, bananas, kiwi, pomegranate seeds and agave on top. There’s also the Sweet Thing, a guava-based smoothie bowl. If you need savory to pair with your sweet bowl, Tico’s has half a dozen quesadillas on the menu, too.
33 Witherspoon Street, 609-252-0300
There’s plenty to choose from on Zest’s dairy- and gluten-free menu—salads, sandwiches, toasts, smoothies and baked goods—but don’t miss the smoothie bowls. The majority of the blends are made with almond and coconut milk and fruit, and in addition to acai, there are funkier options, such as the blue mermaid bowl (which gets its hue from blue green algae powder) and even a matcha smoothie bowl. Add a layer of chia pudding to any of Zest’s bowls for an antioxidant boost.
418 Fairfield Road, 973-439-9378
Smoothie bowls and burritos might not seem like the most obvious match, but at Ánimo you can get your burrito in a bowl over a bed of rice or greens to match your smoothie bowl vessel. As for the more drinkable bowls, Ánimo’s options are more varied than the standard acai, pitaya and green bases at many other juice shops. The Yogi, for example, is a blend of apple, banana, mango, spinach and avocado topped with gluten-free granola, kiwi, pineapple and hemp seeds, while the Papayay! blends papaya, raspberries and dates; the creation is finished off with granola, coconut, kiwi, pineapple and banana. Looking to keep it simple? They also serve take frozen banana and whip it into a custard-like consistency. Enjoy it plain jane, or with toppings like coconut, tahini, peanut butter or dark chocolate chips.
210 Kings Highway East, 856-427-9070
Can’t make it to Hawaii this summer? Fresh Tiki Bar’s aloha vibes is a tasty consolation. Music buffs will also enjoy the acai or pitaya bowls, with names like Born This Way (with strawberries, mango, banana, kiwi, blueberries and granola), Sweet Caroline (banana, pineapple and granola) and Wild Thing (with strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and granola).
15C Division Street, 908-307-6002
What started out as a food truck doling out smoothie bowls now also has a storefront to dole out its acai, pitaya, coconut and banana-based treats. Soul Bowls’ creations look more like cups, but all the better for smoothie lovers who want to see the many stacked layers of fruit, housemade granola and nut butter as they dig in to one of almost 20 options. Among them, there’s the Elvis, with a whipped banana base and strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and peanut butter on top, and the Almond Joy, sporting a frozen coconut and almond milk base, and strawberries, raspberries, crushed almonds, chocolate sauce, granola and agave to boot. For those who get overwhelmed easily, there’s even a bowl called the Indecisive.
2397 Mountain Avenue, 908-721-7044