Smoothie Operators

The Slurpee Alternative

photograph by John Anderson

Like so many other foods -- sushi foods -- sushi, Pacific Rim cuisine, American goat cheese -- I first sampled summer's frothiest, most fortifying beverage in San Francisco. Funky little smoothie stands cropped up and spread like wildfire across the Bay area years ago, long before most Texans had ever heard of spirulina or protein powder. But as usual, Austinites were a step ahead of the times. While other residents of the Lone Star state sucked down Slurpees during summer's dog days, Austin's in-the-know masses enjoyed smoothies, sipping the vitamin-packed, fruity sensations at veteran vegetarian haunts such as Martin Brothers, Mother's Cafe & Garden, and the late Smoothie King on the Drag. Today, smoothies have gone mainstream. Downed by the gallon by both the health-concious and not, no scorching Austin summer would be complete without them. Following are a few suggestions on where to cop a cool, refreshing cup.

Wrapidos & Smoothies

3023 Guadalupe, 476-9727
Open daily, 11am-10pm

A new arrival on Austin's smoothie scene, one half of Wrapido's menu is devoted to adventurous blends of fruit and flavorings. This hip little lunch and dinner counter does five non-dairy smoothies in addition to half a dozen varieties featuring yogurt, sherbet, or skim milk, and three "energy" smoothies boosted by additions such as wheat bran, protein powder, and nutritional yeast. The Strawberries in Paradise selection ($2.75, 14 oz.; $3.75, 24 oz.) is a piña colada without the headache, and those in need of roughage will appreciate the Forever Fi-berry, a cleansing concoction of blackberries, blueberries, oat bran, wheat bran, banana, apple juice, and nonfat frozen yogurt ($3.25, 14 oz.; $4.25, 24 oz.).

Mother's Cafe & Garden

4215 Duval St.,

Mon-Fri, 11:15am-10pm; Sat-Sun, 10am-3pm

An Austin veteran, Mother's has been serving up smoothies to its faithful clientele for years. While several of the selections are astoundingly simple -- the Sun Ray ($2.75) combines merely fresh orange juice and banana -- choices such as the Banana Nut ($2.75), an earthy helping of cashews and bananas buoyed by apple juice, and The Energizer ($2.95), a rich blend of carrot, piña colada, and papaya juices with bananas, oranges, and strawberries, are one of a kind.

The Juice Joint

1625 Barton Springs Rd., 494-1767
Mon-Fri, 7:30am-9pm; Sat-Sun,

A tiny spot on Barton Springs Road serving big, bold smoothies that are long on fruit. What sets The Juice Joint apart from most other smoothie stands is that fresh apples are pulverized for apple juice, huge quarters of pineapple are ground for pineapple juice, and plump oranges are squeezed for orange juice. The Juice Joint steers clear of frozen fruit pieces, reducing fresh mangoes, papaya, a wide assortment of berries, and even ginger to drinkable form before your eyes in imposing countertop juicers. A peach-mango smoothie with a fresh apple juice base ($3.50) was so aromatic it earned comparisons to scented suntan lotion, and a banana-mango-strawberry blend proved nearly thick and filling enough to be a meal in itself.

Central Market

4001 N. Lamar, 206-1000
Open Daily, 9am-9pm

Before you begin your trip through this mammoth food market, stop by the customer service counter area and order a smoothie of the week ($2.55), a velvety creation made with the store's fresh fruit arrivals as well as the occasional handful of frozen berries. Central Market's smoothie is one of the least expensive in town, but it measures up to the competition and at least one selection tastes new and different every week.

Martin Brothers

2815 Guadalupe, 478-9001
Mon-Thu, 10:30am-11:30pm; Fri, 10:30am-11:30pm; Sat, 10am-11:30pm; Sun,10am-10:30pm.

Martin Brothers' smoothies have kept the campus crowd cool for years. The restaurant's signature fruit blends ($2.50) made with banana in an apple juice base are so thick you can eat them with a spoon, especially if you order a liberal addition of nutritional yeast or wheat germ (45cents additions). Fans of tropical tastes will likely favor the cafe's pineapple and coconut juice smoothie base. For extra sustenance, indulge in a little added yogurt, great in combination with peaches and strawberries.

Clearwater Cafe

601 N. Lamar, 476-0902
Juice bar open Mon-Sat, 8am-9pm; Sun,10am-4pm

The folks at Whole Foods turn out smoothies with fancy names like Da Blues, Red Sky Night, Grass Skirt, and Blue Lagoon, but the beverages' flavors remain straightforward and pleasing. If you have the time, indulge in your smoothie in-house, as the cafe's to-go versions seem significantly smaller than the tall parfait glass portions served inside. The extra thick Creamsicle ($3.50), a selection that is rich and filling regardless of portion size, pairs bananas puréed in orange juice with Rice Dream, a creamy, non-dairy delight.

Feeling creative? Turn your home into your own private smoothie stand with a little guidance from Smoothies: 50 Recipes for High-Energy Refreshment, (Chronicle Books), due for release just in time for summer. Authors Mary Corpening Barber and Sara Corpening, twin sisters and owners of San Francisco's acclaimed Thymes Two Catering company, detail concoctions both simple and gourmet. One recipe calls for mangoes, buttermilk, ginger, and lime juice, while others combine fruit with sorbets, soy milk, and flavorings.

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