Though it's been a fixture on Springfield Avenue for more than a year now, a friend and I finally happened upon the HLS Juice Bar & Grill for coffee the other day when our usual café was closed.
In the past I have driven by this place always assuming it is just a juice bar—but I found out, as I walked in, it's much more than that. The HLS stands for "Health Love Soul," and I found those three ingredients—among others—in abundance.
My friend and I were welcomed in with a whiff of something delicious cooking in the semi-open kitchen. We asked if they had coffee but decided to order the HLS shakes ($4.50-$6.00). My friend ordered the pineapple mango tango and I went for the spicy icy consisting of mango, banana and ginger. Our shakes were delicious, especially mine: It was spicy, as advertised, with lots of ginger—just the way I like it. As we enjoyed our drinks, I decided to come back for a meal—maybe a wrap or two.
As planned, I returned a few days later with another friend for breakfast/brunch around 10:30 a.m. A very friendly gentleman, standing behind the counter, welcomed us. This time I took note of the simple, yet comfortable décor with the colorful chairs- somehow the chairs always make an impression on me.
We looked through the extensive menu, filled with breakfast wraps, platters, waffles, pancakes, oatmeal and shakes and lunch salads, wraps, burgers and sandwiches, and decided to order one breakfast and one lunch wrap. We sat down after ordering our coffee and looked forward to the egg, turkey bacon and spinach wrap ($6.00) as well as the smokin' chipotle salmon wrap ($8.00).
Our coffee came a few minutes later in throwaway cups with a plastic cup filled with milk on top of a small plate. We were a bit disappointed with the disposable cups since we were expecting real (to stay) cups. The establishment seemed so progressive otherwise. I am nitpicking since that was the only thing I had a problem with—well, except the coffee itself.
The food was a completely different story. Two substantial wraps were placed in front of us. The salmon wrap had Cajun grilled salmon with mesculin greens, tomato, sweet onion and chipotle ranch dressing in a tomato basil wrap. It was delicious—the salmon melted in our mouths and the chipotle dressing provided a nice, subtle kick. In addition to the greens in the wrap, the dish included a mini salad with balsamic dressing on the side (in a plastic cup). Everything tasted very fresh.
The breakfast wrap was scrumptious as well. The turkey bacon with the spinach and creamy scrambled eggs was a great combination. All of it was wrapped in a spinach tortilla—it was healthy all around.
We truly enjoyed the meal. My friend also ordered a glass of freshly squeezed carrot juice with a dash of ginger and she found the drink delicious.
With all the unhealthy choices around us, it is so refreshing to see someone open a restaurant with fresh and healthy choices.
I will definitely be going back for many meals and urge you to do the same.
Monica Puri Bangia is a cooking coach who teaches in her Maplewood home and the Maplewood/South Orange Adult School. She writes about food and ingredients including recipes for The Local as well as her own Sharing Plate blog where she posts mostly healthy, quick recipes for weeknight dinners. Puri Bangia also contributes kid friendly and healthy recipes to Kiwi magazine. For Patch, she will be reviewing local eating places and replicating dishes that she enjoys and including recipes that form in her head from time to time that may be relevant to you.