We’ve all heard of the magical berry Acai! The world-renowned superfood is super healthy for you. As long as you eat a balanced diet and don’t rely solely on Acai berries, or consume pre-made Acai smoothies or bowls (which may have lots of sugar.)
It’s not quite a smoothie or a sorbet.
The purple fruit mixture is sweet enough to be dessert but nutritious enough that it could pass for a full meal.
The acai bowl trend has hit stride in bigger markets like New York and Chicago and splattered retail districts and neighborhoods in California, Hawaii and throughout the country.
And now its presence is growing in Louisville.
Luebab Ahmed and his business partner, Aiman Ali, quietly opened Lueberry Acai at 808 E. Market St. in the NuLu neighborhood late last month in a small 1,000-square-foot space near Please & Thank You.
The name is a twist on Ahmed’s first name, the word “blueberry” and a nod to Louisville as well.
The acai bowl concept itself is certainly not new to Louisville. They’re on the menu at The Weekly Juicery, 632 E. Market St., LIFEBar inside Rainbow Blossom Food Markets and a few other places in town.
But even Ahmed, 27, is surprised at how quickly they’ve caught on in his new shop.
He didn’t even tell his own mother when he was opening the store, he said. He kept the menu simple at about a dozen items, but he still wanted his staff to have a few weeks to settle into the store and the routine.
Just through word of mouth, though, his business has boomed, he said.
It’s not uncommon to see a line to the door around lunch time. He’d planned to have two staffers onsite typically, but he’s bumped it to five in those high traffic points.
He’s still hiring, too, he said, but it takes more to make a bowl than just running a blender.
There’s a certain art that comes with preparing the acai. He blends the Brazilian berry with other fruits and almond milk to make a thick paste. When it comes out of the blender it should be firm enough that it could pass that old Dairy Queen Blizzard test. If he’s done it right, Ahmed can turn the pitcher over and shake it, and it still won’t budge.
Don’t try that after he serves it, though. The topping-heavy dish almost resembles an ice cream sundae. Turning the bowl over would throw the berries, nuts, bee pollen, bananas, coconuts and other superfoods he tops it with on to the floor.
The dish isn’t unheard of, but it’s not as mainstream as a burger and fries, either.
In a strange way, it’s almost like sushi, Ahmed said, even though there’s no fish, raw or otherwise, involved. The first time people order an acai bowl, they’re not really sure what to expect, and often, with the first few bites, they’re not even sure they like it. The texture can throw people off, and ingredients like bee pollen sometimes spur the same kind of reaction as sushi’s seaweed does to the less adventurous palate.
The Brazilian berry, too, isn’t something that hangs out in the average produce department. Ahmed imports the acai flash-frozen from Brazil. It shows up in small bricks that his staff has to break into smaller pieces to blend properly.
About 50 percent of his customers mispronounce the word.
But it’s OK, he said, he got it wrong the first time, too.
It’s “ah-sah-EE” not “ah-kah-EE.”
That tongue fumble, though, hasn’t kept them from ordering it.
He thinks some of the popularity comes from the fact that he doesn’t take himself too seriously. His bowls are priced at $9, and his smoothies and toasts go for about $7 and $5, respectively. There’s a high-end stigma that comes with superfoods and health foods in general, and he doesn’t want that.
He’s worked some humor into the menu, too. He’s got a “Peanut Butta’ Jelly Time” smoothie, that nods to an animation that hit the internet in the early 2000s. His dragon fruit bowl goes by Khaleesi, which is the name given to the dragon queen in HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” There’s a berry-focused “I Hate Bananas” toast because he says everyone has that friend or family member that can’t stand them.
He wants people to feel comfortable, he said. Whether they can pronounce the main ingredient in their bowl or not.
Read or Share this story: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/life/food/2018/04/16/lueberry-acai-bowl-restaurant-opens-louisville-nulu/514729002/