The party atmosphere of New Year’s Eve is over and the bubbles are fading. Now it’s all about resolutions. Many Jacksonvillians—heck, many Americans—are focusing on eating right and hitting the gym after the gluttony of the holiday season. For my part, my ongoing resolution is to shop as local and as healthfully as possible. We’re lucky that there are spots in this area that make it easy. The Riverside Arts Market and Native Sun all make my list, as does Grassroots Natural Market, a Five Points fixture with a few resolutions of its own for 2019!
If you’ve committed yourself to eating well, you haven’t fallen off the wagon just yet. If you have, the tight-knit, family-run Grassroots might be able to help. President and nutrition director James Robison says shopping at Grassroots means “you get to taste food as it’s meant to be tasted.” His sister (and inventory manager) Anna Michal said that people have told her that, at Grassroots, even run-of-the-mill items like tomatoes and bananas are amazing because they actually taste as they should. “Older people, they have said this [grass-fed beef] is ‘what it used to taste like when I was a child.’” It seems trivial, but simple, healthful, true, flavor-packed food means a more satisfying meal—and a happier everyone.
For James and his brother Jack, who opened the store together in 2006, “it is significantly busier than we ever thought it would be!” The original Riverside location was built to be a small store, run by only a few people. Now that it’s gotten bigger, they “want to change with the times, people want more food service.” So 2019 holds a lot of plans for the growing grocery, and Grassroots aim to do just that.
In the next few months, the Robinsons will be expanding their grab-and-go offerings and making more room for their juice bar. They’re setting up a commercial kitchen in Murray Hill to make food prep easier, and are in the process of working to renovate another building next door to the Five Points location. That space, which doesn’t have a name yet, is earmarked for a restaurant/beer/wine concept.
Ignore that beer and wine for the moment, though; the Grassroots juice bar and grab-and-go are your new best friends. The place is obviously a grocery store, but it offers some killer ready-made sandwiches and wraps. For those on a hardcore juice-cleanse kick, there’s a juice and smoothie bar here to help. They offer quite a tasty regular menu in addition to decadent, extremely filling selections like the Peanut Butter Cup smoothie (with your choice of milk, peanut butter, banana, chocolate syrup or agave and protein powder).
If you need a juice to help you tidy up your body after all that holiday partying, try the Citrus Explosion (which helps as a liver/gallbladder flush). Anna mentioned, “Each month, the juice bar chooses a featured smoothie” with an ingredient that is seasonally appropriate or simply new and exciting—like this month’s spiced gingerbread smoothie. Anna hinted that they’re working on a smoothie that incorporates “Blue Majic,” an algae that is super-good for you and turns your smoothie an electric blue. #DUVALLLL
Since James and Anna both spend a little time at Grassroots, they have some recommendations when it comes to picking up lunch from their grab-and-go section. James lives, eats and sleeps the store, and that doesn’t leave a lot of time for lunch. He (and his fork) make short work of a little container of curry chicken salad. When Anna gave her answer, a far-off look came into her eyes. “If I could choose anything for lunch now, it would be the vegan pesto sandwich.”
Looks like detox is the way to go for flavor and nutrition; both said they’d drink a daily detox juice. Anna takes hers with extra lime; James likes extra ginger and lemon. “Detox is one of the more popular juices,” said Anna, “it’s really fresh and bright.”
Of all the promising 2019 health food trends, James is excited about the variety of fermented foods and probiotics they’ve been stocking recently. “We want to try to make a push for gut health and digestive health,” James said. “So many people have difficulties there and don’t even know it.” He recommends trying some of the fermented foods they have in stock, like kraut and Natren, a probiotic that is vegan, non-GMO.
As if it’s not enough to shop at a local grocery, the shelves are stocked with lots of local goodies from farmers and producers like Frog Song Organics, Son and Skye Mushrooms, Arto Moro Tempeh, and more. “Local vendors will seek us out. And that’s what adds a lot of character to our store.”
James has loved seeing the Grassroots Market grow and change over the years, and he’s excited to see more new folks coming in every day. “I think what people are usually surprised by [is] the selection and the pricing. They are usually delighted the prices are lower. We pass on discounts that we get to our customers.”
Start those resolutions off right with a trip to Grassroots Natural Market and squeeze in some good old-fashioned meal prep for the week. Of course, if you forget to bring your lunch to work, or just need a pick-me-up, they’ve got you covered there, too!