Smooth Operator

In search of the alchemists who transform fruits into liquids

The fruit juices here, though, were my personal favorite: pure, refreshing, and even a little sneaky (some have juiced veggies mixed in for added vitamins). And though they have the usual smoothie all-stars (strawberry, apple, banana, orange), they also juice fruits you don't see every day, like watermelon, papaya, and guava. Top off the experience with excellent customer service (someone even offered to walk me to my car), and it's quite easy to conclude that sometimes really good things do come out of strip malls.

When I live to be 130 years old, will you still be laughing about the fact that I drank liquid shrubbery?
Bill Kelley
When I live to be 130 years old, will you still be laughing about the fact that I drank liquid shrubbery?

I had heard rumors of a spectacular smoothie shop in Mercado Central, and so I set out there, braving the heavy Lake Street construction. Fortunately, there's always tons of free parking on the neighborhood streets if you're willing to walk a block or two. Once inside, the place is still a little difficult to navigate: There are two La Lomas in the bustling food court and shopping center. The smoothie La Loma counter (1515 E. Lake Street, Minneapolis; 612.728.5430) can be found not in the central food court area, but off on the side by the pastry shop. Here they serve up the classic fruit smoothie, either apple- or orange-juice based, with a scoop of ice and lots of fresh fruit such as strawberries, raspberries, peaches, pears, bananas. (The exact mix seems to vary depending on the time of day and availability.) It's hard not to feel healthy while seated in a sunny booth with huge windows, absorbing rays of light and sucking fruit juice through a straw like a bumblebee that has discovered a flower loaded with nectar.

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