GUILDERLAND — Bare, a healthy-casual eatery in Stuyvesant Plaza, has a long list of reasons why you should feel good about patronizing the restaurant.
First, their food contains no artificial ingredients, added sugar, dairy or gluten. It’s all plant-based and good for you — and they make it taste pretty good, too.
Also, they want to help you save the planet. They buy local ingredients whenever possible, and donate all their food waste to places like June Farms in West Sand Lake. They use eco-friendly containers and sell reusable cups, straws and bags.
I’d checked out the website before Virginia and I visited, and was a bit skeptical that a bowl of plants would be a satisfying lunch, especially on a day when a bowl of chicken soup seemed like a better idea. But they won me over, mostly.
First you have to find the place. It’s in the back of Stuyvesant Plaza, which means not where you usually go. Turn onto Executive Drive from Fuller Road, or drive through the main road in the parking lot toward the office tower and take the first right. It’s at the corner of the building, next to the yoga place.
You’ll find a sweet storefront that’s mostly counter, glass and light. There are just a few tables, some cheerful though artificial plants and a small retail section selling local vegan-gluten-free stuff, of which there’s more than you’d think.
Bare offers mainly bowls ($12) of plant-based fare that serve as a meal, and smoothies ($7). There are also hot drinks, overnight oats, shots and juices. There are seasonal and weekly specials, too.
One of the capable young women at the counter was rolling balls of what looked like chocolate cookie dough, called Bliss Balls. She handed us each a bite-sized piece. “They’re made with dates, cocoa, carob and peppermint extract,” she said, adding, “we change the flavor seasonally.” We bit. The peppermint and chocolate gave them a lot of flavor, and made me forget about the dates. They’re $4 for a bag of three golf-ball-sized treats.
You can build your own bowl or smoothie, but that’s never worked out well for me so I chose the Creamsicle Crush bowl with strawberries, mango, banana, coconut milk, apple cinnamon granola, goji berries, chia seeds and peanut butter. Virginia placed an order for the Very Berry, with açaí, strawberries, blueberries, almond milk, triple berry granola, coconut shreds, dried blueberries and almond butter. She also ordered a Berry Restore smoothie.
We went to a table to wait and watched as customers wandered in and out. The space is divided into a counter area with stools along the front window and a small dining room. You want to sit in the dining room.
That’s because the machines that pulverize, blend and puree your food are very loud — OSHA-worrying loud. “I can see the advantage of to-go orders,” Virginia commented. Ear plugs are provided to the staff.
Otherwise, the walls are a soothing gray, the people are nice and the food is healthy and tasty. But it’s intermittently super-loud.
In a few moments our names were called and we picked up our food. The bowls aren’t large, but there’s plenty in there. They come with wooden flat spoons, whose texture is a bit unexpected and affects what you eat. At least they’re compostable.
I didn’t expect that the bowls would look so appealing and colorful, with unexpected textures and colors. They don’t just dump the ingredients in; they’re carefully arranged. A small pile of goji berries here, sliced strawberries and kiwis piled there, between them a valley of crunchy cinnamon and nutty granola. A scoop of smooth, glossy peanut butter is added just so. The base of this smoothie is strawberry, mango, orange, banana and coconut milk blended into a chilly, smooth sorbet. It was unexpected, tasted mostly like banana, and delicious.
There’s enough variety to keep your interest as you eat, and I alternated between the fruit and granola, dunking pieces into the smooth fruit base or the peanut butter, whose salt gave a nice contrast to the rest of the bowl.
The dried goji berries, which look like elongated red raisins, are a superfood, packed with nutrients, tart and quite chewy. The chia seeds look like small dark poppy seeds, and added a bit of crunch, but I didn’t love them, either.
Virginia was enthusiastic about her bowl. It was delightfully, unabashedly purple with a base of almond milk blended with açaí, strawberries and blueberries, topped with tiny dried blueberries, shaved coconut and more strawberries and blueberries. The almond butter is not as eye-appealing as the peanut. It’s more of a puree, but delicious anyway.
“The bowls don’t look very big, but they’re enough for a meal,” Virginia said. She liked the contrasting crunchy, chewy and smooth textures. “They give you a lot to think about,” she commented.
Take a menu card with you; we both referred to it to remind us what we were eating.
The berry smoothie was made with blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and almond milk. “Not too sweet,” Virginia observed. She brought it home and added some sweetener, which helped the berry flavor come out. They don’t use any extra sweetener. It’s all on the fruit to provide it.
The tab for our vegan, gluten-free lunch came to $33.48.
Our meals were interesting and tasty, and we left Bare feeling good about our healthy meal, its provenance of ingredients and about food waste going to local farms.
WHERE: 1475 Western Ave., Guilderland; (518) 650-7094; bareblends.com
WHEN: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
HOW MUCH: $33.48 with tax
MORE INFO: Credit cards:
Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover. Parking lot, although you might have to walk a bit. ADA compliant