Off the El Eats

Off The El Eats: Hi-Vibe

Let me start off by saying that I am not someone who uses the word “juice” as a verb or views it as a lifestyle — or even a meal replacement for that matter.     

However, I pass Hi-Vibe Superfood Juicery (160 W. Kinzie St.) on the way to my internship, since it’s right next to the Merchandise Mart Brown Line stop, and frequently wondered what all the buzz was about. I also felt like I needed to switch things up with the restaurants I review, so I decided to stop in for breakfast one morning.

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 6.39.06 PMHi-Vibe is a hole-in-the-wall establishment with room enough for an order counter, shelves of chilled juice and a small open kitchen.

Perhaps it was my skeptical look at the shelves of brightly colored bottles or my slightly overwhelmed gaze at the menu, but the cashier seemed to know it was my first time and asked if I had any questions.

Now, I knew juicing could be an expensive habit, but I thought, “How expensive could one smoothie be?”

Hi-Vibe definitely gave me a price shock with the answer to that question. Cold-pressed juices are $11 (16 oz.) and made-to-order smoothies are $12 (16 oz.). This was not including any of the numerous “upgrades” such as green coffee extract, spirulina or bee pollen.

There were also some things listed as upgrades I hadn’t considered ingesting before, such as collagen protein (isn’t that something middle-aged women inject into their faces?) and chlorella, a type of green algae (isn’t this plant food?) and  grass-fed whey protein (I was unaware whey protein needed to be fed in the first place).

Had I checked the menu prices before, I probably would have skipped this spot. But seeing as I was already in the store and had made eye contact with the cashier, it was too late to back out.

I noticed a section on the menu with acai or pitaya (dragonfruit) bowls ($13.50). For some reason, I could fathom paying more than $12 for an on-the-go breakfast if it resembled solid food, and having enjoyed acai bowls in the past, this seemed like a good option.

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 6.37.23 PMI ordered a bowl with half acai and pitaya, which came blended with honey, banana and fresh-pressed apple. It was also topped with granola, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, bee pollen, shredded coconut, nut butter and fresh strawberries. The amount of toppings helped me feel better that I just more than $13 on a smoothie in a bowl.          

Each topping had a distinct flavor and texture. The blend itself wasn’t too sweet and had a mild berry/banana flavor. The shredded coconut and fresh strawberries added a nice sweetness, and the granola and sunflower seeds rounded it out with a lot of crunch. It made for a refreshing but filling breakfast.

While I waited for my bowl, the knowledgeable and friendly cashier asked if I wanted to try any samples. She proceeded to pour me shots of several types of juices (which was good because had I wanted to buy all of them, I would have dropped $30).

I tried the Club Beets, Golden Mylk, Kill Shot and Bulletproof Coffee. I don’t even like beets, but the juice was refreshing with added ginger and lemon. The Golden Mylk was one of the bottled shakes ($11.50) and tasted like a creamy, spicy chai lattè. The Kill Shot ($6 for 4 oz.) is advertised as a flu shot in a bottle, and after one sip I can see why. It certainly beats any packet of Emergen-C. It was tart and citrusy, and it could easily clear your sinuses. Lastly, I tried the Bulletproof Coffee ($8 for 16 oz.), made from “toxin-free” beans and blended with grass-fed butter and Brain Octane MCT oil. It was rich and strong, but it tastes different enough from the coffee I normally drink to justify ordering it at that price.

After I tried the shots, the cashier told me about the history of Hi-Vibe as she greeted regulars (which were plenty) and newcomers alike. She walked me through my first ordering experience and made sure to give me a sense of all of the different options available without being pushy.

Have I been recruited to the juicing cult? No. While the freshness of the ingredients and the overall healthy options are appealing, the price isn’t reasonable for the product. It’s something worth trying or splurging on once in awhile, but I will not become a regular.

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