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Vitality Bowls in Mountain View Keeps the Super Food Growing

Vitality Bowls in Mountain View Keeps the Super Food Growing

BY SANJOSE.COM – Though only just popularized as a post-workout snack in the Bay, acai berries have been a staple in much of South America for centuries. The Amazonian superfood—pronounced ah-sai-ee—is known for its deep purplish hue, distinctively rich and complex taste, and laundry list of health benefits.

A favorite of Brazilian surfers and beach bums since the ’80s, acai is now making itself known at Vitality Bowls in downtown Mountain View. This Bay Area-based chain offers a variety of sandwiches, salads and of course, acai fruit in the form of bowls, smoothies and juices.

Mountain View’s location is especially unique in that it was opened in May by 18-year-old Westmont High School graduate Angelo Camacho, who is arguably one of the youngest acai entrepreneurs in the biz. The Mountain View outpost is the 50th location in the ever-expanding chain, which was founded in 2011 by Camacho’s aunt, San Ramon resident Tara Gilad.

On a Sunday morning when I visited, the small cafe and adjacent patio space were packed with Lululemon-clad customers and a few families getting their fill of the antioxidant-packed breakfast food. Although I wouldn’t call myself a health nut, I do frequent the Whole Foods juice bar a few times a week. So I was surprised to learn about a number of “superfruits” Vitality Bowls serves that I had never heard of before, including acerola, graviola, camu camu berries, pitaya and aronia. High in vitamin C, potassium, B-vitamins and antioxidants, these superfruits are combined into a proprietary “VB blend” that acts as a base alongside acai in almost half of Vitality Bowls’ dozen-plus menu items.

I opted to try the tropical bowl ($12.49), one of the most popular menu items, which was composed of acai, coconut milk, apple juice, bananas, mango, flax seed and pineapple as its base and was topped with organic granola, bananas, strawberries, coconut shavings and a drizzling of honey. The bowl came out neatly decorated and stacked high with fruit, making it somewhat difficult to dig my spoon into. But it was worth it once I did: the flavors and textures from the toppings and base paired together perfectly—the ideal combination of sweet, tangy and crunchy. The tropical bowl’s base was fairly sweet, due in part to the added apple juice and honey, and tasted dessert-like without feeling heavy.

I also sampled Vitality’s superfood bowl ($14.49) which included acai and the VB blend of superfruits as well as graviola, acerola, kale, bananas, strawberries and almond milk as its base. It was topped with tangy blueberries, cacao nibs, granola and bananas, and was sprinkled with a generous heap of goji berries, which are known for their high protein and fiber content. The crunchy cacao nibs and granola went together nicely with the chewy goji berries and complimented a base that felt filling and healthy without compromising on taste.

While all of the Vitality’s acai bowls come with a multitude of topping combinations, customers can also customize smoothies, juices, and bowls with extra mix-ins or toppings for only an additional 75 cents. Try adding noni fruit, a tropical fruit native to Polynesia that touts immune-boosting and tumor-fighting properties, or ginkgo leaf powder, which is said to improve brain health.

It should be noted that all of Vitality Bowls’ menu items are made fresh to order, so be prepared to wait a few minutes—especially if there is a queue of online or to-go orders. That being said, the acai bowls at Vitality are worth the wait and then some. Made with organic ingredients, zero ice, added sugars, fillers or dairy products, they’re healthy enough that you won’t feel guilty going back for seconds.

Vitality Bowls
650 Castro St #140, Mountain View



In a sign of the times, what was once the hole-in-the-wall home of Cho’s Mandarin Dim Sum on California Avenue in Palo Alto will as of Thursday be home to an acai-bowl franchise.

Vitality Bowls, which calls itself a “superfood café,” is opening at 209 California Ave. this Thursday, July 16. Vitality Bowls serves made-to-order acai bowls (a thick smoothie-like blend of the superfruittypically topped with granola, fruit and other healthy ingredients) as well as smoothies, fresh juices, soups, salads and paninis. (It probably couldn’t get any further from Cho’s famous potstickers and pork buns, served paper plates at incredibly low prices.)

The classic “Vitality Bowl” has a base of blended acai, strawberries, banana and flax seed, topped with granola, banans, strawberries, goji berries and honey. Other bases include ingredients like mango, pineapple, kale, spinach, coconut milk, guarana ? and even broccoli. You can also create your own bowl or add/substitute ingredients from any pre-set bowl.

There are 10 smoothies with similar ingredients, plus raw juices with fruit and vegetables. Paninis are pretty typical ? turkey or ham with provolone, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, Dijon and pesto; plus a veggie version and “The Olympian” (peanut butter on whole wheat bread with granola, bananas and honey).

Check out the full menu here.

Founder Tara Gilad opened the first Vitality Bowls four years ago in San Ramon after coping with the challenges presented by her young daughter’s severe food allergies.

“She was so limited in what she could eat; I wanted to get her those berries every day,” Gilad said in an interview earlier this year, declaring, “açaí is the healthiest food on this planet.”

All Vitality Bowl outlets have non-cross-contamination kitchens, meaning “people with nut allergies, berry allergies, dairy allergies, on a paleo diet, on a vegan diet, flax allergy ? you name it” can eat there without any concern of getting ill, which happened to Gilad’s daughter frequently when they ate out.

Vitality’s bowls and smoothies have no ice, added sugar, yogurt or artificial preservatives. Most of the ingredients are organic, depending on the season and availability.

Vitality Bowls is now a franchised chain with locations throughout the Bay Area. Three graduates of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, own the new Palo Alto franchise. Another Vitality Bowls also recently opened in downtown Redwood City.

Vitality Bowls Palo Alto will be open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. The shop will open at 9 a.m. for opening day, however.

Grand opening specials running from Thursday, July 16, through Wednesday, July 22, will include: buy one acai bowl, get one 50 percent off; $2 for any bowl $9.99 or more; free toppings/additions for any one bowl; and $3 off your order with a Facebook like.

The new acai-bowl shop is Palo Alto’s second, following Bare Bowls, which opened downtown in November. Bare Bowls also announced on social media this week that they’ll be opening a second location in Burlingame.

Others riding the superfruit wave nearby include also Bowl of Heaven and Nekter Juice Barin Mountain View and even Voyageur du Temps in Los Altos.



Best of the East Bay: Taste

Best chef? Check. New restaurant? Check. Find out what you should eat while reading this issue.


Berry Good

The açai craze just got bigger.

Reader Pick: AÇai Bowl, New Smoothie Place, Vegetarian Destination

The açai trend is sweeping the East Bay in the form of Vitality Bowls. Even those skeptical of fads will be hooked after trying one of these refreshing concoctions. Start with the classic Vitality Bowl, filled with açai blended with soy milk, apple juice, bananas, strawberries, and flax seed, and topped with fruit, granola, and honey. Tip: Place your order online, so you don’t have to wait. 2473 Stoneridge Mall Rd., Pleasanton, (925) 463-2224; 211 Market Pl., San Ramon, (925) 804-6012; 1528 Locust St., Walnut Creek, (925) 464-7607,  

—Caitlin McCulloch