With summer just around the corner, one naturally wants to eat healthier, fresher things.
The new café Pura Vida, which opened several weeks ago in Jersey City, offers delicious, light fare that has plenty of taste; yet is good for you too!
Open seven days a week, the eatery serves breakfast items, sandwiches, salads, and smoothies.
Living the pure life
When partners and best friends Helen O’Brien-Parker and Kristin Reisinger discussed opening a new place, they wanted to bring their love of the islands to locals.
In keeping with that theme, they named menu items after some of the places they visited, like their Aloha wrap, Berry Belize smoothie, and Tahitian Tart tea and fruit blend.
Yet that is only part of the charm of the place, which is kept immaculately clean.
Large plants, beach signs, and reggae music make one feel as though they’ve stumbled on an island hideaway.
Both women bring their own area of expertise to the place. O’Brien-Parker has over 10 years experience in the restaurant business and still works one night a week at the popular Madison Bar & Grill in Hoboken. Reisinger is a registered dietician and personal trainer who aims to create healthy, balanced meals.
According to the ladies, they wanted to bring a little aloha to Jersey City.
“We’re here to make people happy,” said O’Brien-Parker.
With six different specialty salads to choose from, there is something for everyone. On a recent visit to the café, I started with the Nica Nicoise salad, an interesting blend of mixed greens, hard-boiled egg, solid chunk tuna, red potatoes, green beans, and tomatoes.
The salad was lightly coated with balsamic Dijon vinaigrette, which gave it a nice flavor without overwhelming the vegetables.
Fresh doesn’t get any better than this. The mixed greens and ripe tomatoes tasted like they had been picked that day.
And if vinaigrette dressing isn’t your thing, there are four other homemade varieties to choose from, like the citrus basil, honey mustard, bleu cheese, or lemon vinaigrette.
Other salads include: Costa Rican (spinach, hearts of palm, sliced oranges and almonds); Mandarin (spinach, grilled chicken, basil, oranges, sweet potato, and sliced oranges); and Vermont tuna (greens, tuna, green apple, celery, and cheddar cheese).
The salads are a bargain – only $5.50 each.
Customers can also create their own mix.
Wraps, sandwiches, sides
There are seven different varieties of sandwiches to choose from.
I tried the Playa Jaco wrap, which is a no-mayo tuna salad, with greens, tomato, black olives, and red onion that is dressed with balsamic vinaigrette. This wrap is addictive! The neatly wrapped sandwich packs a whole lot of flavor.
Also good was the Halandri wrap, which is Greek inspired, with grilled chicken, lettuce, tomato, black olives, feta cheese, and hummus.
The Ricon wrap blends chicken, raisins, celery, lettuce, tomato, and a curry low-fat mayonnaise. Packed with flavor and texture, this is sure to satisfy even picky eaters.
Other varieties include: Aloha wrap (grilled chicken, pineapple, greens, tomato, and onions); Garden of Eden wrap (shredded carrots, sprouts, avocado, greens, tomato, and onion); and the Bali wrap (turkey, bacon, avocado, and tomato).
Any item, which is priced from $4.50 to $5.50, is available on a wrap, bagel, roll or whole wheat bread.
There are three homemade sides to choose from including: Jesse’s potato salad, three-bean salad, or chickpeas for $2 each.
Don’t miss out on the fabulous potato salad, which is a tasty blend of potatoes mixed with egg.
Pura Vida offers power smoothies (protein-based mixes), fruit blends, or just about any combination you can think of. According to the ladies, the pipeline peanut smoothie is the most popular protein shake. One taste and you’ll see why!
This creamy vanilla infused shake is a rich blend of banana, milk, and peanut butter, yet without the grit that often accompanies protein shakes. It is simply delicious!
Or, for a refreshing pick-me-up, the berry Belize is a blend of apple juice, strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries. This fruit shake is thirst-quenching.
Other varieties of protein shakes include: the Ariana coolatta (iced coffee, milk, cocoa, and chocolate protein powder; green monster (soy milk, greens, blueberry, and flax oil); and an aloha shake (pineapple juice, mango, vanilla, and coconut juice).
Other fruit blends include: point break (milk, strawberries, blueberries, banana, honey); and Puerto Rico peach (apple and pineapple juice, peaches, banana).
Guest can also create their own shakes or add mix-ins like flax oil, super greens, fiber, and multi-vitamins.
In addition to the lunch items, there are several breakfast burritos, sandwiches, fruit parfaits, and a selection of bagels.
Also, they serve regular coffee, espresso, cappuccino, specialty coffees, iced tea, and lemonade all day. For dessert, there is a selection of homemade muffins and cookies, which are baked fresh daily.
Inside, there is service at the counter only or customers can sit at a table in the outdoor café. All items are available for pick-up.
The café is open Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Pura Vida is located at 673 Bergen Ave. in Jersey City. For more information, call (201) 324-1002 or visit: www.puravidajc.com.