Drink The Blue Monkey

Local smoothie maker Fresco eyes the big leagues

Fresco Juice Company
Uptown
1426 W. Lake St., Minneapolis
612.825.6556
Lyn-Lake
611 W. Lake St., Minneapolis
612.822.7200

Fashion is fickle, sure. One day it's gold mesh halters, the next it's pea-green latex bodysuits, fine. But I truly cannot condemn fully enough the current fashion for putting a pillow over your head while dressing in featherbeds and accessorizing with Kleenex. Why is everybody, every single body in town doing this lately? Why? I ask you, why? Yes, well, the social aspect. Yet, if all our friends jumped off the High Bridge, would we go too?

I asked this of the pillow resting on my head the other day and got nothing but the silence and evasions I've come to expect of those in superior positions.

Roughage in a bottle: Fresco Juice Company
David Fick
Roughage in a bottle: Fresco Juice Company

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Fresco Juice Company

1428 W. Lake St.
Minneapolis, MN 55408

Category: Restaurant > Fast Food

Region: Uptown/ Eat Street

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Yes, this all is leading nowhere but the dullest possible place: Let me tell you about my colds and flus. Settle on in! Light a pipe! It's fascinating stuff. As far as I can tell, I have now been sick since that time I got those laces through those cards in nursery school, and look, Mom! It's a doggie!

Or, I don't know. Maybe not that long. It's hard to think. It's harder still to stand. And this whole television thing? Forget it. Push the little button, and there's Animal Planet, and where do they get the energy? I wouldn't be so all fired up if I were just scampering around eating nothing but eucalyptus and bamboo and grass and...

Wait a minute!

Let us run into the newly renovated Fresco Juice bar in Uptown for some wheatgrass juice ($1.59 for an ounce; $2.59 for two) dumped into a different fresh juice. It's a miracle! Suddenly I can make some, albeit limited, amount of sense. Just like the animals. (A fresh juice at Fresco, in one of the house recipes or your choice of any three from this list--carrots, parsley, beets, apples, cucumbers, ginger, spinach, or celery--costs $2.79 for 14 ounces, and up to $7.99 for a half-gallon. A half-gallon! A prize to the first reader who has a really good idea with what to do with a half-gallon of celery juice.

Celery and wheatgrass juice notwithstanding, Fresco actually does most of its business in smoothies--blended shakes made with some combination of fruit and other stuff, such as juice, sherbet, or nonfat yogurt. "Smoothies are like milkshakes but with juice," says Terry Xanthos, who owns the small chain with his parents, Gloria and Tony Xanthos. "People like them because they're sweet, like a dessert, and they know the worst thing in there is nonfat frozen yogurt or sherbet--and if you can get all your fruits and nutrients in a dessert, it's a win-win." Each smoothie (most cost less than $4) comes with your choice of two boosters, such as guarana, spirulina, bee pollen, calcium, chromium, creatine, soy protein, and the like--and Xanthos says that in the past few weeks, requests for cold-busters like echinacea and vitamin C have quadrupled. Orders for juice, as opposed to smoothies, have also rocketed: "People are drinking more fresh juice in the winter. I think they're trying to increase their vitamins to avoid being sick," says Xanthos. And is Xanthos sick right now? "No." Aha! "I drink a lot of fresh-squeezed orange juice," he explains. "And a lot of strawberries and mangoes."

You can, too: Fresco is expanding as quickly as a mom-and-pop shop can. The family opened the first spot in Uptown in 1998, opened a second location in Lyn-Lake last year, is in half a dozen Northwest Athletic Clubs (including St. Louis Park, Eden Prairie, Fridley, Moore Lake, and Maple Grove), and is scheduled to open a full stand-alone shop inside the Woodbury Kowalski's this winter. You know the Woodbury Radio Drive Kowalski's, right? The one with the passing resemblance to the Taj Mahal? Anyhoo, in addition to the juice bar in the store, Fresco is about to start supplying all the Kowalski's with fresh-squeezed orange juice, à la Lunds. Speaking of which, did you know that Lund Food Holdings, which is the parent company of Lunds and Byerly's, owns Sola Squeeze, the juice bar, which is in several Lunds and Byerly's. Believe you me, this whole Kowalski's-Lunds war is heating up! Exciting times.

If you're surprised to hear of local juice alliances, you'll be appalled to know that "super-premium juice" is one of the fastest-growing beverage categories these days. Those cute little homespun-looking bottles of juice that proliferate in their own coolers--like chicks in incubators!--are sometimes owned by Coca-Cola. At least, Odwalla and Samantha are, through Minute Maid. And Fantasia and Naked are owned, with many other juice companies, by the Ultimate Juice Company--which at least some beverage trade magazines expect will be bought by Pepsi, which already owns Tropicana.

And into these frightening mega-million-dollar waters steps little old Uptown-born Fresco--selling a brand-new line of refrigerated, bottled smoothies that are made for them in Hopkins, by the same company that bottles Pepin Heights cider.

I tried some of these new Fresco bottled smoothies, which are available at the Fresco shops, Kowalski's supermarkets, some Minnesota and Iowa Hy-Vee supermarkets, and a few other coffee shops and markets. Right now there are five flavors; in January the company plans to debut another handful. The current selection has names like Blue Monkey (banana purée, orange juice, blueberry purée, and apple juice); Raspberry Rhapsody (raspberry purée, orange juice, banana purée, and apple juice); and Strawberry Satisfaction (strawberry purée, orange juice, banana purée, and apple juice). How are they? To my taste, they're a little sweet.

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