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Forget the trendy juice bars. This is the place to go for green juice

A selection of juices from Kathy's Kitchen in Hyde Park.
A selection of juices from Kathy’s Kitchen in Hyde Park.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)
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I’m convinced that the beautiful people in line at the juice bar, the ones with athleisure-wear clinging to their perfectly toned glutes, dress specifically for the occasion. It is important that one must look appropriately fit and healthful while buying the elixir that promotes said health and vitality.

I’ve never been a green juice person — or felt adequate enough or flush with enough cash to comfortably visit a juice bar. At some places around town, a glass jar of juice has become its own status symbol, the name on the cup an indication of your wealth bracket.

And when was the last time that the person behind the bar throwing celery in the Robot Coupe asked you if you’d like to modify your green juice? Or made eye contact? Or treated you like you were cool enough to pay $15 for their proprietary blend of kale, celery and cucumber?

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On a recent visit to Kathy’s Kitchen, a small market and juice bar in Hyde Park, owner Kathy Alston emerged from the kitchen a few seconds after I placed my order.

“Try it,” she said, then handed me a splash of moss green liquid in a plastic cup. “Let me know what you think. Do you want me to bump up the ginger?”

My jugo verde, a reminder of Mexico City, helps fight a cold or a hangover and contributes to my general well-being.

Dec. 30, 2021

I stared at her in disbelief, then drained the cup. The juice was electric with lime and sharp with hot ginger. Celery balanced the acid, a little salty, a little grassy. My eyes widened at its freshness. I was instantly addicted.

Alston is a juice blending master. The former engineer bought a Vitamix in the late 1980s and started concocting juices and smoothies for herself, family and friends. She shunned additives. She embraced organic whole foods.

“When I had my babies, I went from breast milk to formula, and I started studying the ingredients,” she said. “I started noticing the chemicals and bad things out there.”

Alston watched as her grandfather suffered from diabetes and died at the age of 57. Her father died at the same age after high blood pressure, diabetes and a stroke. Alston’s mother died at 67 from diabetes and the resulting congestive heart failure.

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“I’m looking at my own family, and I’m like, there is a problem with the American food system,” she said. “When my mom was sick there was no place for her to go for someone to serve her better food and low-sugar drinks. It just wasn’t available.”

When Alston retired from her career as an engineer, she started a juice business. She sold her juices at her local farmers market in Crenshaw, expanded to Atwater Village and other markets around Los Angeles. Driven by the desire to provide her family and neighborhood with more healthful options, she opened her first juice shop on Crenshaw Boulevard in Hyde Park in December 2020. By January 2023, she could accept EBT and added a small market area with fresh produce, pantry staples and prepackaged meals from local chefs.

The day’s produce offerings are displayed in boxes near the door. They change often, with whatever Alston finds at the multiple farmers markets she visits each week. She also sources her kale from Grow Good, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that runs an urban farm in Bell.

“People don’t know how hard I work to source excellent produce,” she said. “Whatever is in season, that’s the flavor this week. I’m comfortable with what I make.”

A Soul Bowl from Kathy's Kitchen in Hyde Park.
A Soul Bowl from Kathy’s Kitchen in Hyde Park.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

In addition to the juices, there’s a small menu of bowls and tacos showcasing the week’s bounty. You can build your own Soul Bowl with black beans, greens, sprouts, purple cabbage, avocado, onions and a slew of other produce. I order mine with a base of purple cabbage that’s sauteed until soft and sweet mixed with sprouts. It’s topped with mounds of mashed avocado, pickled onions, green olives and crumbles of feta cheese speckled with hot jalapeños.

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After a week of eating mostly brown foods, I find the name acutely appropriate. It’s the sort of thing I’d like to eat multiple times a week. And at $15 a bowl, I can maybe afford to.

Even with the shop, Alston continues to sell her juices at farmers markets to keep the business going. Providing her community with healthful food is only half the battle.

Where I go for easy, affordable, healthy meals in Los Angeles when I need more vegetables in my life.

Sept. 25, 2023

“There needs to be a fundamental cultural shift towards eating healthy that includes providing information, counseling and products that make people want to shift from old bad habits towards new healthier habits,” she said.

The shop mainly survives on repeat customers who buy her $12 juices and produce in bulk. While I waited for my order, one of her regulars came in and headed straight for the refrigerator in a corner of the market. She loaded a cart with various juices and prepared foods. Alston knew her name and told her about the week’s specials.

“I don’t have nearly the repeat customers I thought I would have, but I understand it,” she said. “I am in competition with what’s in the food system, and if you are hooked on the salt and the sugar, I can’t compete.”

On my drive home, I opened all three bottles of juice, eager for the wallop of freshness to lift me out of my afternoon slump. The lemon, ginger and turmeric were sunshine bottled. I finished half the celery, cucumber and kale in two greedy gulps. But I’m hooked on the celery, lime and ginger. I guess I’m a green juice person now.

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Where to get your next green juice and Soul Bowl

Kathy’s Kitchen Market and Juicery, 7701 Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 814-8208, kathyskitchenla.com

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