Everyone and their mother is on a juice cleanse right now. The sales girls upstairs banded together to do one, the office manager just finished hers, and now the epidemic has spread to my own kin. My cousin’s husband came into town last night, and as I tried shoving two pieces of quiche into his backpack for his wife, he turned me down. “Dawn [my cousin] isn’t eating anything right now.” I stopped dead in my tracks. What? Is she sick? What?
“She’s only drinking juice.” Blast.
Juice cleanses might as well be called the Skinny Girl’s Diet To Get Even Skinnier. When Number One/Le Jus opened in Highland Park Village this past mid-November, a mixed-use retail space of organic cafe and boutique, it achieved instant notoriety for its fresh organic juices and cleanse program.
Owners Dana Card (of Le Jus) and Brian Bolke (of Forty Five Ten and Five Ten) debuted their healthy cafe/shopping, two-in-one concept inside a rectangular interior filled with ample natural light and soothing muted colors. The result is a quiet, earthy space with only 20 seats (16 inside, 4 outside) filled by mostly female customers chatting and drinking green juice.
Dana Card, a willowy woman who greets every customer as if she’s known them for years, is militant about her menu offerings. “No grains cross our threshold, EVER!” she wrote in one email to me. “This is a grain free zone [smiley face].”
Card, a certified nutrition therapist, says she’s been on a journey her entire life trying to figure out nutrition. Her menu follows the democratic philosophy she lives by: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” On the organic juice side, the La Vie No. 1 (therapeutic green blend) is the most expensive item at $8 a glass. It’s made with 11 ingredients, and the apple and lemon balance out the bitterness of the chard, bok choy, and kale flavors. It tastes mostly like celery water with hints of tangy lemon masking the bitterness from a mix of indistinguishable vegetables. (Later I find out that those veggies include romaine, kale, parsley, fennel, dandelion, and cabbage.) The La Vie Pure is almost the same thing as the No. 1, except that it’s strictly green. No apple included. And to make the La Vie Melange, Card takes the Pure and mixes it with a fruit of the day. As for the Le Fruit juice, Card is a big fan. “I liken it to a fine wine. We’re very proud of the multiple flavor profile that each Le Fruit has. It’s complex and interesting, and makes it extra delicious.”
The cleanse program consists of eight 16 oz. blends in glass bottles at $88 per day. In her January column, Sarah Hepola tried the cleanse out and ended up eating a hamburger. It’s a pretty funny story, and I, like her, am confused by anyone who would shell out so much money to drink vegetable water.
But ask Dana Card if she adds any water to any of the juices, and she’ll get this horrified look on her face and say, “No, God, no. God, no.” Her juice, she says, is the most expensive juice per drop.
On the solid food side, Card has daily specials prepared in addition to a set menu. The names of these dishes, like the “egg salad salad” and “le jus jus” are too cutesy for my taste, but they certainly fit the kind of food on the menu. On the Saturday afternoon that I visited, women in their Lululemon yoga pants sipped on the de vine (get the pun there?) tomato soup, which looked like red tomato water. Throughout the duration of my two hours there, I maybe saw only one or two brave men step into this den of double X chromosomes.
Most of the food on the menu is cold and doesn’t require a stove to cook. After sharing an egg salad, guacamole maison, and citrus salmon tartart with my mother (a serious healthy eater), I regretted not ordering the watery tomato soup. It’s odd to eat such a chilly meal in the dead of winter. The guacamole with marinated apples ($12), which one of the employees said was “awesome,” was so mushy I felt like I was eating baby food. It was overwhelmingly acidic from too much lemon juice, but at least the pineapple salsa on the side made up for it. The dijon mustard-based egg salad ($12) wasn’t that much more impressive. It came with five celery sticks and a side of fennel salad drowning in its vinaigrette. What a disappointing way to spend $12.
The highlight of lunch hour: a citrus salmon tartart ($18). A mirepoix of onions, apple, and pineapple intermingled with small pieces of fresh salmon, and the citrus-y flavors paired well against the taste of wholesome sea salt crackers made from almond flour. I’d order this again.
Upon finishing our lunch, my mom contemplated eating a second lunch in Chinatown. “I feel like I haven’t eaten anything,” she said.
“I think that’s the point, Mom.”
Number One/Le Jus isn’t a place to go when you’re hungry, when you can’t afford $12 guacamole, and when you feel like eating warm, comforting food. It is, however, probably the best rejuvenating place to eat after Thanksgiving and the State Fair if you have that kind of money to spend. It’s a place for a small eight oz. glass of juice or hot latte with a grain free lemon poppyseed muffin ($6), No.1 truffle ($2.5), or peanut butter cup ($4) on the side.
As my mom and I were just about to leave and maybe eat our second lunch that day, owner Dana Card stopped by our table wearing a black turtleneck sweater. “Did you enjoy yourselves?” she asked in a soothing voice, not knowing that I write for SideDish. I’d seen her drop by other tables, introduce herself, and explain the contents of her juices to customers in her own soft, sweet way. She left complimentary thumbprint cookies with raw honey and cinnamon for us before she moved on to greet other customers. They were a token of her thanks. And with these fresh-out-of-the-oven, perfect little dessert bites, I finally got some of the warmth I was seeking.
Later, when I ask Card what kind of service she hopes her cafe will provide Dallas, she says, “My goal is for Number One/Le Jus to be lovely, lovable, and loving. Lovely – to enjoy the food, the clothing, the beautiful homeware; lovable – in that we’re kind and we care; and loving – in that we really give ourselves to everyone who experiences us.”