We seem to be living in confused and dystopic times, but a recent visit to The Juice Box Cafe in Lakeland left Polk Eats feeling a little hopeful. My parents (who only slightly predate the Baby Boomers), would use words like hippie, peacenik, or flower children to describe the vibe at the Juice Box. For us, those are compliments, so we were right at home.
I came across the Juice Box on Facebook. They’re a bit difficult to spot in a mall on South Florida Avenue (it’s not the restaurant’s fault – I wouldn’t mind the property owner installing more comprehensive signage along South Florida Avenue).
The restaurant space is fairly small but welcoming and comfortable. In addition to the restaurant, there is a small market area that offers bulk spices, honey, local art, and an eclectic assortment of other products. The interior has a lot of wood and earth tones to create an organic feel. I especially liked the “manifestation mirror,” a mirror papered over with the wishes, goals, and achievements of past visitors. Sticky notes and writing materials are on hand to make your own contribution.
Two young women were on staff when we were there. They were both soft-spoken, pleasant, and patient while we, first-time visitors, sorted through the menu. The Juice Box describes itself as a juice bar, but there’s more to it than that. They offer juices and smoothies, wine, and toast/bowls/chickpea salads. The entire menu is vegetarian with some vegan options.
We both ordered smoothies to drink, 16 ounces, though there is an 8 ounce option. According to the menu, smoothies are made with oat milk or cashew milk unless otherwise indicated. The whimsical beverage names are reminiscent of Ben and Jerry’s. My wife had an Almond Brothers – almond butter, dates, hempseed, local honey, vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom, extracts, almond milk. I ordered a Carlos Banana – organic banana, coconut oil, coconut sugar, walnut, vanilla, cinnamon. With all the talk about plastic straws these days, our smoothies came with plant-based straws described as 100% compostable. These were some excellent smoothies. My wife said hers was possibly the best smoothie she has ever had. Very smooth (no pun intended) and not too sweet.
We both ordered toast. My wife went with Taco Toast (beans, chipotle aioli, tomato, avocado, Himalayan sea salt) and Green Day (smashed avocado, alfalfa sprouts, spicy mustard, Himalayan sea salt). She loved both toasts, especially the Taco Toast, where the refried beans combined perfectly with the avocado and salsa that tasted homemade. Everything tasted fresh with substantial, whole grain bread.
I also ordered two toasts: Protein Power (peanut butter, organic banana, local honey drizzle, hempseed) and PB&Bac’N (peanut butter, vegan bac’n bits, maple syrup, chocolate drizzle, apple smoked sea salt). Both were quite delicious. The PB&Bac’N seems more challenging to me, in the sense that it’s a combination of flavors I wasn’t sure would work. It did, though. The maple syrup and chocolate drizzle mixed well together and were balanced by the other flavors so it wasn’t too sweet. Again, all the ingredients tasted fresh. The toast and smoothies ended up providing a filling lunch for both of us.
All that organic goodness isn’t cheap. With tip our total was $35. So for lunch it might be a special occasion kind of place. The price is my only quibble with The Juice Box. I understand organic ingredients can be expensive, but this might limit accessibility for a lot of people. Still, I can see The Juice Box being an anytime kind of place for just a juice or smoothie and relaxing with a book or conversation with a friend. At least while we were there, it felt like a very mellow, inviting place, with seating inside and out. We thoroughly enjoyed our experience and look forward to returning. It’s worth following them on Facebook – they sometimes host drum circles and other events. The Juice Box Cafe is on South Florida Avenue in Lakeland, north of Alamo Drive, in the same shopping center as New Moon Sushi and Big Lots. Enjoy!