As seen in YES! Weekly Aug. 10, 2016 with a bit more chatter and photos here!
Goodness and healthy eating await in Winston-Salem….
… it’s quite the departure from what we’re used to. Where you once would just grab and go, now you can order and sit. Village Juice Company has gone from a juice truck to a tiny storefront, to a full-fledged counter service restaurant now at 205 South Stratford Road in the Towers Shopping Center. The shop literally all happened hiding in plain sight.
Village Juice Co. was founded by Lonnie Atkinson. She started selling her juice out of the food truck while using Beta Verde’s commercial kitchen. “My passion was always health and wellness…and was always to have something bigger than just the truck. I have worked in larger cities, where something like this is readily available. I knew there was a need for it here, so I decided to build the brand, with the juice first.”
About a year ago, business partner, Elizabeth Lucas-Averett joined the mix, “We are both super passionate about the concept, but we both have different skill sets. Lonnie is the one with the food background who can come up with the creations and make them amazing. I come from a business background. I wanted to do this concept before I met Lonnie, but the timing wasn’t right, so I just waited for the universe to connect me with an expert at all things that I am not.”
Then came the tiny little juice shop with just juices in a refrigerator, but magic was happening behind the temporary wall they set up. Atkinson says, “We were building our kitchen and upfitting the entire space while continuing to produce elsewhere. Then, we moved into our kitchen, the wall came down and people were amazed to see what we were up to.”
What you’ll find…just about your heart’s desire in a bright, chic modern setting where everything is made from scratch. There’s a large selection of the original cold-pressed juices filled with healthy fruits and vegetables. Nut milks infused with all kinds of ingredients like cocoa, coffee or matcha, sweetened only with dates. There’s even a Charcoal Lemonade made with activated charcoal called Black Magic; the activated charcoal reportedly removes toxins from the body. It looks interesting – it’s black! – and I did see a gentleman enjoying it. That’s on the “to try” list for me. You can get locally made Caldero bone broth from the case, too.
For a quick meal to go, there’s a menu of filling whole foods-based smoothies, toasts and salads. My favorite are the smoothie bowls…which range from $9-12. I especially loved the Dragonfruit Bowl, which is made from organic pitaya, fruit, house made almond milk and topped with organic seasonal fruits, shredded coconut and bananas. I added some collagen for extra protein. “The smoothie bowls are 22 ounces of fruit with nut butters and toppings, made with 100% raw, house made coconut milk or almond milk. There’s lots of fiber and our portions are larger than most, so your body gets that full feeling,” Atkinson said. And there are plenty of add-ons like the collagen and protein powders plus superfoods you’ll likely not find anywhere else. It is indeed filling, with incredible color. It feels downright indulgent.
They also have a selection of made-to-order creative salads that you can select or “build your own.” I had the herb and pumpkin seed salad with organic arugula, organic kale, organic parsley, cilantro, mint & basil blend, organic cucumber, organic tomato, avocado, pumpkin seed, local Gnomestead Hollow curtido,Fair Share Farms micro greens. They recommend the citrus vinaigrette as a dressing. I’d have to agree…the kale likes a zippy, tangy dressing. Just in the past couple of weeks, new grain bowls have been added with hearty quinoa, etc.
And then there are the toasts Avocado toasts, BLT with Avocado, Pear and Goat Cheese, Nut Butter and Banana – all great for someone who wants something with some chew, but not a salad. The toasts are also made to order, and even the dressings and spreads are house made. From the folks I’ve talked to the Avocado Goddess dressing is a popular one.
The company also strives to find the cleanest ingredients possible, right down to the oil for their dressings, such as coconut oil and pumpkinseed oil, something quite hard to find in your typical restaurant. Lucas-Averett adds, “Our greens are organic always. Everything that is listed on the menu as organic is always organic. Clean, sustainably produced whole foods are very important to us. We have high personal standards for this that inspired us to start this business in the first place.”
The team says that people are driving from all over the Triad to get a taste of their healthy “treats and eats.” When I was there, there was a constant stream of customers. Some a bit curious, grabbed a juice from the case, or tried a free sample and went on their way. But many more placed their order and waited for their colorful smoothie, salad or toast to arrive. Some of the smoothie bowls and salads are large enough to share. Atkinson says reception has been terrific. “The thing we’ve seen about our customers is they love coming in trying something they’ve never tried before.”
Though the VJC team is at the helm of a very healthy ship that is very “raw” and vegan-friendly, they’re not about the labels. “We’ve tried every label on personally and we’ve thrown them all out. We’re really just whole foodies,” Lucas-Averett told me. “I’m a mostly-vegetarian who dabbles in bacon and bone broth…there’s not a label for that. We wanted to create a space where anybody could find something they could eat.” Atkinson added, “I did the raw and the vegan lifestyles, and they were great, but I feel the most balanced just eating real food. However, I think I had to go to that extreme to understand the benefits, as well as to relate to what people might go through who are eliminating specific foods from their diet.”
Atkinson says they’re interested in changing the way people view healthy food. “A lot of what’s known as health food is dry or flavorless and tastes like cardboard. We want to shift that so people know you can get something that’s very filling and tastes amazing and is really good for you. We want our customer to leave here and feel good about themselves. There’s that mental thing, and then the actual physical reaction from eating something healthy.” Lucas-Averett adds, “We’re both interested in bringing wellness to as many people as possible and showing that good healthy food isn’t for that “other” person, whomever they may be but that it’s accessible to everyone and that it tastes really, freaking good! You don’t have to count calories. Count nutrients. It’s a huge leap of faith for us, but we really believe that people want and need this.”
I can tell you that once you go, you’ll probably find yourself craving a smoothie bowl or a toast. I can’t wait to go back. I think you’ll really enjoy it. #triadfoodiesapproved!
Oh and the truck is still available for festivals and such.
Village Juice Co. Shop: 205 S. Stratford Rd, WS
Village Juice Truck: 1208 Reynolda Road, (Krankies Coffee Park)
Village Juice Box: 525@Vine Atrium, Wake Forest Innovation Quarter villagejuicecompany.com