Confession: When the popularity of acai bowls rose in the U.S., I spent hours on Instagram looking at aesthetically pleasing images of the now infamous dish. Although I pronounced it “ah-kai” for two whole months, the alluring purple smoothie base and beautifully arranged fruit called out to me.
Acai bowls are at the top of the list for health food trends. They are traditionally comprised of a thick, blended smoothie of acai berries and topped with bananas and granola. The acai berry, originally from Brazil, is a superfood loaded with antioxidants. It can also improve cholesterol levels and brain function.
Claremont has several places that serve acai bowls, including Pepo Melo, Podge’s Claremont Juice Co., The Spot Cafe and an on-campus option — Scripps College. I decided to review all of them to see which one was the tastiest.
This hot new spot is well-loved by many students at the 5Cs — for good reason. Pepo bowls come in different bases, including charcoal, matcha and acai. There are a variety of toppings to choose from, many of them superfoods. Pepo Melo also offers uncommon toppings; for example, I got kiwi berries on my acai bowl. They are basically mini kiwis but taste sweeter. The acai base was refreshing and had the distinct sweetness of acai berries.
Although traditional acai bowls only include bananas and granola, I liked the option of having other fresh fruit and toppings to choose from. The freshness of Pepo Melo’s smoothie bases also added to the quality of their bowls.
At around $10, Pepo bowls might be viewed as expensive by some. But I consider them to be worth it, simply because each bowl is so filling. Plus, you can get unlimited toppings that are both fresh and high-quality.
Podge’s Claremont Juice Co.
Located on Yale Avenue, Podge’s Claremont Juice Co. serves a more traditional acai bowl. They make your acai bowl right in front of you by blending acai puree into a thick purple smoothie. It is then topped with sliced banana, crunchy granola and honey.
The acai puree was a little tart, but the honey balanced it out with a perfect amount of sweetness. The granola had notes of pineapple in it, which mingled well with the acai berry. The portion size was large, a whopping 16 ounces — it was certainly very filling.
Because of the limited number of toppings and the sheer size, however, I must admit that I grew a little tired of eating it. The bowl was also $10, but this struck me as on the pricey end because of the lack of toppings.
The Spot Cafe
This cafe is next to Trader Joe’s on Foothill Boulevard, just a short walk from campus. The Spot Cafe has the most diverse range of acai bowls. They serve the traditional acai bowl, which is just acai puree topped with fruit and granola. There are also flavored options like the “Amazing Green Kale” and “Espresso Yourself” bowls. These bowls still contain acai, but other ingredients such as kale, alternative kinds of milk, berries and espresso beans are added.
Pricewise, The Spot’s acai bowls range from $7 to $8. I tried the “Soy What Strawberry” bowl, which contained acai, banana, strawberries and soy milk. The soy milk added creaminess to the acai blend, but as a result of the milk, the base was less refreshing than the other acai bowls I tried. As a lover of strawberries, I definitely appreciated the addition of the fruit. For those who don’t like the taste of acai, The Spot Cafe also makes the same bowls with pitaya (dragon fruit).
Malott Dining Hall
On most weekends, Scripps’ dining hall serves acai bowls. Students can pick up a bowl or take-away cup of acai puree and top it with a selection of frozen fruits, nuts, goji berries, coconut, chocolate chips, granola and more. I personally like adding in a spoon of nutella for some extra richness.
Malott’s acai bowls are flavorful, especially with the toppings. However, the acai puree is slightly watery and little flavor comes from the frozen fruits. Even so, it is free for those on the dining hall meal plan, and I always get it when it’s available.
The acai bases at all four places all tasted similar, although The Spot Cafe’s was the creamiest and Malott’s was a little too watery. In the end, it came down to the toppings. Due to their unlimited fresh offerings, Pepo Melo is my choice as the winner of the Super Bowl.
Stephanie Du SC ’21 is TSL’s food columnist. She is a biology major whose hobbies include cooking, baking, traveling and eating all kinds of foods.