Big Island Juice Company: It’s All the Buzz
I went into the recently-opened Big Island Juice Company anticipating that I’d taste some pretty good juice. That did happen, and I’ll tell you more about that later. What I didn’t anticipate was that the proprietors, young couple Lokelani Fridella and Camu Wentzel, would be as interesting as the menu.
Fridella, a former Miss Hawaiian Tropics model, met Wentzel, a member of the Finnish rock band “Naked,” while living in New York. “He was living a rock star lifestyle…which was pretty unhealthy,” Fridella related. Concerned about his health, she convinced Wentzel to try juicing. Wentzel tried it, liked it, and was a convert. Eventually, the couple married, had a baby, and moved to Finland for a few months.
Juicing was in their blood, though, and Hawai’i and family beckoned. They decided to move to the Big Island and to open a juice bar in Hilo. After months of selling juices at farmer’s markets and to local stores, they found a great location on Waianuenue Avenue. However, it wasn’t food-friendly. Not easily daunted, they went through the rigorous process of obtaining a change-of-use permit. After a lot of work, Big Island Juice Co. held their grand opening on Jan. 29th and 30th.
Their restaurant’s space is both whimsical and restful. Near the entrance is their juice “tiki bar,” manned at my visit by cheerful employee Vincent Liu. The fun kitsch-y look ends there, though, and the balance of the restaurant is decorated with classic casual Hawaiian colors and fabrics. Fridella explains that the concept was for the juice bar to meet expectations of Hawai’i to both locals and tourists.
During my visit, Liu held court in the tiki bar, explaining the blends of juices and smoothies to customers. I sampled two blends: Lilikoi-Carrot-Turmeric/Pineapple-Orange and Dragonfruit-Pineapple-Watermelon. They were both marvelous, and I had a moment of “I didn’t know juice could taste like this.” Wentzel, as it turns out, is often up until the wee hours making juice, which they also supply to Abundant Life, Island Naturals, and the Conscious Culture Café. Remembering that they have a toddler, I asked when they sleep. “We don’t,” said Fridella, laughing.
It was Jamaica-meet-Hawai’i in the “Jawaiian Bowl” that I ordered, a terrific blend of jerk chicken, coconut milk, vegetables, and cilantro-coconut quinoa. More traditionally Hawaiian was the “Avo Bowl,” which featured two grilled halves of avocados cupping herbed quinoa and greens. The couple uses locally-sourced ingredients whenever possible.
If you are a fan of smoothies, Big Island Juice Co. will not disappoint. Not only do they have interesting combinations, such as the “Peanut Bradda and Jelly” or the “Hawaiian Heaven,” but also “Smoothie Bowls,” which arrive in a hollowed-out pineapple topped with fruit.
Having both lived in New York, Fridella and Wentzel were fans of the NY “brunch experience.” To that end, they will soon be adding a Saturday and Sunday special brunch menu “…because sometimes, you just deserve a splurge,” Fridella said. That menu will include Eggs Benedict (Classic, Florentine, and Crab Cakes), Breakfast Tacos, Raspberry Mascarpone Oatmeal, and Lilikoi Coconut Oatmeal, as well as a Breakfast Berry Torte.
Probably due to the proximity to a park, gyms, and yoga, an epicenter of health-conscious restaurants have cropped up in the Keawe-Bayfront area of Hilo. Big Island Juice Co. is a most welcome addition.
Big Island Juice Co. is located at 54 Waianuenue Avenue in Hilo, between Keawe and Bayfront Streets. Hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday (brunch until 2 p.m.), and Sundays (brunch menu, only) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 935-8454.