Smoothie bowl, S. Florida ambience a special treat
Sometimes I think there has to be more than what Florida can offer me. As a lifelong resident of the very populated, orange-touting, palm tree-crazed state, I am so accustomed to humidity and heat that I almost envy the northerners with their snow days. But then I remember I can comfortably eat frozen treats in the cooler Florida months. This is probably why 3 Natives is so popular, with three locations in the state. Well, that and the fact that it serves delicious food. Touting its image as a "lifestyle," 3 Natives prides itself on selling juices in glass bottles as opposed to plastic and using organic produce and granola.
I am not a huge fan of drinking smoothies as meal replacement probably because of the consistent, mushy texture, but I can get on board with the concept of eating one with other healthy goodies nestled in. I had a pitaya smoothie bowl recently in south Florida, and I loved the vibrant pink color almost as much as the sweet, refreshingly unique superfruit itself, but I'd never had acai. I had my mind set on ordering a variation of this other superfruit as soon as I stepped into the small shop on University Ave, in Midtown, Gainesville.
The acai berry is an inch-long, reddish-purple fruit. It comes from the acai palm tree, which is native to Central and South America. Some studies show that acai fruit pulp is even richer in antioxidants than cranberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, or blueberries.
The menu on 3 Natives-Gainesville page online seemed more condensed than its longer-lived counterparts in southern Florida, but lo and behold there were a number of healthier wraps and bagels with such hearty, healthy fillings as tuna salad, black bean hummus, and (spicy) chicken salad. I thought the simple "Nutty Nanner" bagel filled with peanut butter, banana and honey sounded delicious, although I am curious to try the saltier salad creations touted as being homemade. There are also an adequate number of organic acai, protein, and superfood smoothies (11 total) and acai bowls (six total), to give a decent variety, so check the menu in-store for an accurate list of what's available.
My mom and her boyfriend, Johnny, were in town looking for a light breakfast treat due to the yoga class that was to follow. 3 Natives turned out to be just what they wanted. My mom quickly landed on the first smoothie option, the Berry Natural smoothie, $7.50, with acai, strawberry, banana, blueberry, and raspberry. I think the sweeter acai muted the tartness of the berries . She was very pleased with it, although berries tend to be tricky to get out of your teeth! Johnny chose the simple, but refreshing, Coco Loco, $8, with acai, banana, and shaved coconut. The best part of the smoothies was the adorable smiley faces made of fruit perched atop the smoothies.
My heart was set on an acai bowl, image at top of this review. The online menu says "Ask us about the Gator Bowl." OK, what is the Gator Bowl? First off, this is a location-themed dish at each of the 3 Natives locations. The Gator Bowl is described as containing acai, granola, banana, blueberry, papaya, chia seed and honey, the selected fruits I can only assume are due to their being Gator colors. While one of the more unique acai bowl options, I still had to ask what the most popular choice is at this location. The very nice cashier replied that The Bird was most popular, which is essentially the Chronic bowl minus the peanut butter, So I decided on the Chronic, $8.50, and I am glad I did as enough was going on in that colorful bowl to not require peanut butter.
It was almost too pretty to eat. Almost. One bite in and I was devouring the thing in minutes. A thick layer of blended organic acai created a soft bottom layer for a sturdy, yet generously-sized middle layer of organic granola. Even just the two together melded deliciously. The toppings were much more substantial than anticipated: Sliced banana coins circled around to lead into various sections of strawberry, kiwi, and pineapple chunks, my addition of papaya fitting in well, especially with the drizzle of honey and shredded coconut. It was a cohesive cluster, if that makes any sense. Not only was it substantially filling with all the different components, but it left me with a feel-good sensation from giving my body good-for-you treats.
It took me a while to decide on the acai bowl because they all sounded so tempting. That is not a horrible problem to have, but I think the Gator Bowl and the V.O.T. with raspberry, mango, kiwi and hemp seeds sound just different enough to give me a whole new acai bowl experience next time.
I was just as impressed with the service and décor as I was with the food. A few tables in the middle and a few comfy couches lined the walls of the spacious dining area, a large window out front allowing some great natural light that added to that feel-good sensation. The oceanic wildlife pictures on the wall seemed to be an influence from the south Florida locations, but I wasn't complaining, considering that is where I grew up.
The Pluses and Minuses of 3 Natives:
3 Natives + indicators: Varied menu options, good value for price of bowls, light and tasty-sounding lunch options. Midtown University Ave. location close to UF
3 Natives - indicators: Midtown Parking could be problematic at busier hours
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- Phone Number: 352 792-6805
- Address: 1023 West University Ave
- Urban GLOB Location: Midtown
- Web Site: 3 Natives Acai & Jice Bar
- Latitude: 29.65178
- Longitude: -82.33599