Dining review: Jump-start your health at Da Juice Bar

I have a friend who swears she healed her son's serious brain injury with food. Antioxidants, omega-3s, pure proteins — she found them in blueberries, eggs and other nutrition-packed foods and helped pave his road to health. Even if you're not recuperating from a bike accident, eating nutrient-rich foods is always a good idea.

But wait, I'm not a doctor. I'm a restaurant reviewer. That's why I'm excited to have found Da Juice Bar, where my desire to increase personal health and vitality can rest easy with my love of good food.

Dieters, athletes, vegetarians and those with various dietary restrictions can all find something to satisfy at Da Juice Bar. The juice cocktails ($4 to $7) are top-notch, with helpful names like Cholesterol Killer and Potassium Broth. The straight-up Veggie Cocktail tastes as fresh as the Whole Foods' produce section with high notes of celery and lemon, low notes of beet and carrot, and a spicy parsley finish. It's got a mere 1 gram of fat, 9 grams of protein, and enough Vitamin C to keep a scurvy-riddled pirate going for a month.

The deal, in my opinion, is the combo garden burger and smoothie or juice for $7.50. This garden burger is different from most. The moist, flavorful patty is made from mushrooms, onions, whole grains, low-fat cheeses and spices and comes on a wheat bun with big slices of juicy pickle, lettuce and tomato. Another bargain is the half sandwich and soup for $6.50. The lentil soup with its fragrant, carroty broth and yellow lentils is a front-runner, though I'm guessing the barley soup and borscht are close behind. The paradise veggie sandwich is as vibrant as the Italian flag with its ruby red peppers, fluffy white cream cheese and bright green lettuce and avocado.

I was not so enamored with their salads, especially the Asian chicken salad ($6.25). The sliced chicken on top was overcooked, and the salad itself had no transcendent quality, simply the sum of its rather boring parts. But the other meaty item I tried was a keeper. Da Juice Bar's breakfast burrito is da bomb. Bacon, egg (with a hint of spinach and onion juice), mashed potatoes, sausage and cheese wrapped tight for portability, this burrito ($3.99) will keep you in top form the whole morning. Add tomato and avocado for 50 cents more.

To-go orders are common here, but there's a perfectly lovely outdoor eating area for people-watching. Indoors, it's an incongruous jumble of commercial radio, the whir of blenders, photos of fruits, and notices for meditation and Afrofunk dance classes. Also, it is oddly joyless. One would think the healthy lifestyle would engender smiling, happy people. Not the case with the employees here. On both my visits, they didn't talk to each other much and barely communicated with the customers.

Still, they make a mean fresh-fruit smoothie with no sugar-laden additives. They even throw in a free supplement like spirulina, bee pollen or gingko biloba (though I learned this afterward, since my server didn't tell me). With the wide variety of fruits, vegetables and nutrient-rich extras they combine creatively at Da Juice Bar, you can feed your body's cells, not just your belly.

LISA DUPUY is a freelance writer and Pilates trainer. She can be reached at ldupuy@aol.com.

What: Da Juice Bar

Where: 3051/2 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale

When: Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Contact: (818) 243-6200

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