"We don't call them smoothies," the young man behind the counter at Healeo informed me when I asked if I could see the smoothie menu. "We call them superfood drinks." He softened the correction with the smile of a Mormon missionary bequeathing his bus seat to an 80-year-old.
I have a soft spot for functional fruit beverages, whatever their name. There was a month there in the mid-1990s when I tried downing a wheatgrass shot and a ginseng-dosed fruit smoothie before I started my cooking shift. That habit died after I tired of re-tasting the wheatgrass all night in chlorophyll-spewing burps and realized that the sugar crash overtook any ginseng buzz I could detect. But the problem with most smoothies is that they're basically ice cream/sorbet drinks with fruit and vitamins added. Perhaps Healeo's superfood drinks wouldn't have the same effect.
Healeo, which opened a couple weeks ago on the corner of 15th and Madison in the Pearl Building (also home to Anchovies & Olives), is the Justice League for superfoods: proprietary supplements, tinctures, teas, juices, energy bars, sandwiches, even a soft-serve vegan ice cream with granola and fruit fixings. The store's almost as big on design as it is on branding.
The hemp smoothie with hemp milk, hemp seeds, banana, kale, and bee pollen was the prettiest jade color, I thought as I sucked firmly on my straw, eager for my superfueled day to ensue. Pretty ... but chalky ... and not terribly sweet ... and tinged with the metallic loaminess of greens that really taste better cooked. The flavor improved the more I sucked, but then I took a 60-second break when I stopped at a crosswalk, and when I started pulling at the straw again it had gone back to being bad. Then my throat started tingling and swelling up, and I suddenly remembered the time in my late 20s when I'd purchased a jar of bee pollen and chucked it after two days because I'd had the same allergic reaction. Oops.
That wasn't Healeo's fault, of course (and it's easy to order any of the drinks without bee pollen), so I returned a few days later to try an açai superfood drink with goji berries. This one was the color of a ripe raspberry, with great tart-sweet punch and so many antioxidants I could feel my free radicals screaming en masse. Once the slaughter ended, the remaining radicals led away in shackles, I only needed a 10-minute victory nap.
I'll try another one sometime, I don't doubt. Probably after a porkfest or a meal so decadent that my body insists on an act of contrition. Then again, I could spend the $7.50 ($6 plus tax and tip) on a bag of frozen blueberries and make myself a superfood pie.