In February 2010, Aaron Levine decided that it was time to make the dream he’d had since college – to open a fast, easy, and healthy restaurant – a reality. After buying a frozen yogurt machine and creating recipes in his house, Levine felt he had the skills and confidence to at least open a frozen yogurt establishment. He and his wife started their restaurant with the intent to serve food made in-house, using mainly fresh, natural, and organic ingredients. Since 2010, Happy Cup has expanded its menu from frozen yogurt to açaí bowls and, most recently, wraps, salads, and protein bowls.
At Beaches Town Center, the tiny spot is beachy and rustic, with Mason-jar lights hanging from wooden beams above the counter, and colorful graphics that describe Happy Cup’s food philosophy. There are just a few seats inside, with additional outdoor seating for those who crave a salty breeze. Despite its smallish size, there’s a lot going on inside Happy Cup.
One of the restaurant’s walls is dedicated to Graffiti for a Cause, a creative fundraiser that allows diners to pay to decorate a brick of their choice, with all proceeds going to a specific organization. In past years, Happy Cup has donated to Seaside Schools and Dreams Come True. Behind the water jug and cups is the fitness wall, where Happy Cup highlights Northeast Florida athletes.
Supporting the community is one ingredient at Happy Cup, but fresh food is key, which is why employees of Happy Cup do most of the shopping themselves. An eventual goal is to serve primarily local food but, so far, it’s been a challenge to establish a constant local supply. The Levines get local items when they can, however, and in addition to organic and natural ingredients, they offer menu items that can support a paleo, vegan, or vegetarian diet.
For lunch, diners have the option to start with a salad, a protein bowl, a wrap, or the famous 50/50 bowl – a combination of a protein bowl and a salad. The protein bowl includes organic quinoa and rice. I tried the Southwest bowl ($8), a blend of black beans, corn, red peppers, cheddar cheese, chipotle ranch, and salsa. I added on house-roasted, organic chicken breast ($4.50).
I also sampled the Asian wrap ($7.50) made with organic tempeh ($3), after one of the cooks insisted that Happy Cup’s tempeh is the only one that he likes. The wrap tasted fresh, and had a great almond-carrot crunch to go along with the soft peas. The ginger miso and teriyaki flavors mixed splendidly with the nutty tempeh.
Frozen yogurt has blown up across America. Healthful fro-yo … not so much. Aaron Levine’s goal is to ensure that people can splurge on frozen yogurt without feeling guilty. Two of the six flavors change weekly, with four regulars: Vanilla, Dark Chocolate, Peanut Butter, and Original Tart. The day I visited, the self-serve included Maple Cream and Orange Pomegranate Sorbet, which was tangy and sweet.
The next time you’re at the end of Atlantic Boulevard near the ocean, stop by Happy Cup for a healthy, tasty fix.