Stefanie Kelly on Uptown Juice Bar – Not for Vegetarians Only

any of my dear friends who have already read my blog (all 3 of them) already know that i am an
avowed.
omnivore.
w/a special dedication to meat eating.  almost nothing is too gory for the teeth:  the rawest/strangest/most odd textures of fish/meat in either sushi or sashimi/kitfo/sweetbreads/squid – any form!!!  can come to mama.  i got you.  get in me belly.  for always & forever.   not one to suffer from whatever plagues that remote, noble  East Indian tribe of ‘airitarians’ who refuse to disturb the life force of – anything – in order to eat.  nope!  not one of those.  as i have explored @ length in my blog (post link)  the circle is painfully poignant:  we eat everyone, those of us @ the top of the food chain.  & in the end, everything eats us.  simple & tear inducingly cyclical.  the way life goes.  as much of a carnivore as i am, i am also a dyed in the wool hedonist.  if it’s good, well then it’s all grits & gravy.  the feeling of a vegan meal in the mouth, all karmically clean is a soul nourishing one, but sorry friends, only if it’s actually a taste bud slayer.  a hedonist cannot fake delight.  which is how i found myself led, all ‘Walking Dead’-like to Uptown Juice Bar, a bastion of Ital Vegan in Harlem.
The loss of Raw Soul near the top of Sugar Hill was a crushing blow to my uptown sistren.  & they came & tragically went while i was patriotically availing myself of all the thiebou djen that Brooklyn Senegalese had to offer.  when i recently relocated uptown, my prayer was that Uptown Juice bar was still in existence.  it was, by the skin of its Harlem Commercial Rent, just a few doors down from the last place it moved.  now btwn Mad & park as opposed to mad & 5th.  a small deterrent to foot traffic, but thankfully, there has been a line there every time i have been back.  this Ital titan, open since 1995,  has possibly inspired (& definitely predated) all of them:  Veggie Castle in Bed Stuy,  the aforementioned Raw Soul & the much newer Seasoned Vegan further south in Harlem.  but that grand influence has not kept itself within the 5 boros.  Uptown Juice bar has captured the hearts & minds of vegan chefs all the way into Nyack, the last time i checked (welp last weekend, if you insist):  Main Essentials in Nyack w/its soffrito flecked vegan ropa viejo & arroz con gandules & fine peanut punch is a Jamaican/Latino influenced  vegan spot whose chef/owner speaks lovingly of Uptown Juice Bar.
& how are they now?  i wondered.  still as fabulous as i remember?
who knew that they could be even better???
ahhh sookie.
the atmosphere is smaller, yet cozier than when they expanded – @ a whole other location – in 2010.  interesting that their cultlike following manages to keep abreast of whatever their location is.  no matter what.  & while the outside sidewalk entrance no longer bears the beloved Ghanaian Adinkra symbolizing the omnipotence of God, the reverence for the art of plant based foods remains alive within.
i made a pure ass of myself on no less than 3 occasions:
the curry potatoes are sublime.  subtle fully flavored well seasoned w/neither too much nor too little cooked curry.
the stewed eggplant:  everything you want it to be…  unctuous, toothsome, w/a rich roasted flavor that beckoned my taste buds on the regular, this one became a staple
the stir fried shrimp’s texture is eerily close to the real crustacean, & it is my humble opinion that these interesting morsels would do better fried.  they would then be indistinguishable from fresh shrimp.
any of the veg of the day are brightly colored & fresh tasting, be they steamed or roast broccoli, carrots, corn on the cob & some sauteed spinach that instigated a single tear of joy.   #sogood!
& the stuff that wakes me up @ night?
the truly bizarrely chicken like mock chicken legs on skewers for chrissakes – SO cute, omg.  the ‘skin’ is tofu skin.  & something about that detail – the desire to come so close to the foods that most vegans (& really non vegans) love, is so sweet that i swear the good intent can be tasted.   & not to let the collective kuumbaya of a well fed stomach confuse matters.  these MFs are skilled.  which brings us to another of EVERYONE’S favorites:   the veggie stir fry…  which makes me wax poetic:  it is everything a vegan stirfry should be – savory/salty w/a hint of sweetness. perfectly stir fried veg, & w/their rice & peas it ain’t nothin nice.
let’s have a baked goods moment.  in the US/Europe, baked goods should be light/airy. in the caribbean, the should be dense/toothsome.  roti should be glutinously buff enough to withstand wrapping/sauces.  cornbread should stick to the ribs as should poolourie (dumpling fritters) & so should banana bread, coconut corn bread or any of their specials.
i would be punishingly remiss not to mention the juice bar itself, w/it’s winning combos (sold a la carte & made while you wait) –  & SUPERLATIVE peanut punch, ginger beer, soursop & sorrel  - all impressively made/packaged on site.
i guess it could be said that i kinda like this place, lol.
stop by, & that sentiment will be a humorous understatement for you as well.
enjoy all the best, in the best of health my friends!
uptown Juice bar
52 East 125th NY NY 10035
open daily 8AM – 10 PM

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