Battle of the Bowls: Smoothie vs. Açaí

by Sarah Russo

You’ve probably heard the buzz about the new health food restaurant on Marshall Street. Purple Banana is the only spot in Syracuse where you can get an açaí bowl. But açaí is just one way to enjoy a serving of blended fruit in the morning. Over at Original Grain, smoothie bowls are the way to serve up a healthy breakfast. You may be thinking, what’s the difference between a smoothie bowl and açaí, and which is superior? We’re here to break it down and figure out which bowl is best. 

In short, an açaí bowl features the açaí berry from Brazil. Here in the U.S., açaí berries only come as frozen puree and are likely found in the freezer section of grocery stores or can be purchased online through websites like Amazon. The berry is touted for having an array of health benefits, including healthy fats, fibers and antioxidants. Now, the term ‘açaí bowl’ seems to refer to any thick, blended fruit bowl. 

The biggest distinction between an açaí bowl and a smoothie bowl is the consistency and ingredients. An açaí bowl is made from the açaí berry and is a thick, almost ice cream or custard-like consistency. A smoothie bowl can be made from pretty much any fruit or combination of fruit and is blended a little less thick. Smoothie bowls are still thicker than a regular smoothie in a glass, but they are not as thick as an açaí bowl. Now that we know what each dish is, let’s get to the ratings. 

MENUS 

First up is comparing menus, starting with Original Grain. They offer smoothies and smoothie bowls, along with grain bowls and sandwiches.  According to their website, “All smoothie bowls are blended with banana, coconut milk, yogurt, and simple syrup and are available all day.” They offer five choices: Love You Matcha (matcha, kale, apple, mango, pineapple and granola), Flashy (dragon fruit, mango, strawberry, sweet potato, banana, granola and coconut flakes), PBandJ (strawberry, blueberry, peanut butter, granola, strawberry jam and coconut flakes), Puffy (cacao, peanut butter, coconut flakes, Reese’s Puffs and Nutella) and Purple Swag (açaí, blackberry, blueberry, granola and coconut flakes). Prices range from $10 to $11.50. 

Next is the new kid on the block: Purple Banana. They offer five main base options for bowls: purple banana base, coconut base, green base, sweet açaí base and pitaya base. Each base features three premade bowls. The purple banana base includes The Proxy (peanut butter, banana and cacao nibs), The Nuke (blueberry, strawberry, blackberry and raspberry) and The Fuse (cacao nibs, honey and kiwi).  The coconut base bowl includes The Pearl (strawberry, blueberry, kiwi and pineapple), The Lake Effect (mango, almonds and honey) and The Polar Bear (cacao nibs, almonds and walnuts). The green base serves up The Quake (kiwi, apple and pistachio), The Destiny (raspberry, strawberry and walnuts) and The Love (banana, pineapple, almonds and agave). The sweet açaí base offers The Magician (chocolate, orange and coconut), The Ninja (blackberry, chia seeds and raspberry) and The Freedom (blueberry, strawberry and banana). And finally, the pitaya base includes The Hades (kiwi, raspberry and blueberry), The Mermaid (coconut, pineapple and strawberry) and The Escape (honey, chia seeds and banana)

And unlike Original Grain, Purple Banana gives customers the option to build their own bowls for $10, which includes choosing the base and three toppings, with an additional $0.50 for each extra topping. Purple Banana definitely outdoes Original Grain in the customization category. 

CONVENIENCE AND TRAVELABILITY 

Both bowls are a quick and easy breakfast that will give you the energy and nutrients to start your day. But, both fail the travelability test. We do not recommend getting these bowls to-go, or at least not too far to-go. These breakfast bowls are best eaten immediately. Nothing is worse than digging into a soupy sloppy mess of a breakfast. But, it is actually not a bad thing to have to eat there, since both spaces are cute and inviting. 

LOCATION AND ATMOSPHERE 

Purple Banana is located in a prime spot off of Marshall Street. It is a quick walk from campus, while Original Grain is not within walking distance. Original Grain is located downtown on South Salina Street. Purple Banana and Original Grain are relatively similar in size and similar in style: hipster, modern and colorful. 

AND THE WINNER IS….

After intensive, painstaking research – aka eating two fruit bowls for breakfast – a winner for the best bowl has been chosen. This place offers unique options, and the dishes are a hearty serving for a good price. It is close to campus (which might turn into a bad thing since it does not take meal swipes or dining dollars) and is open until 5 p.m. The winner of the battle of the bowls goes to…. Purple Banana! Açaí bowls are truly one of a kind, which is why we think Purple Banana deserves number one. Don’t get us wrong, Original Grain blends up some killer smoothie bowls. The only thing is, a smoothie bowl isn’t really that different from a smoothie, whereas an açaí bowl is basically like ice cream for breakfast. But, if you want a good smoothie, then Original Grain is the perfect place for you! If you have not been to Purple Banana yet, what are you waiting for? We recommend trying one of their pre-made açaí base bowls first before going wild with the customizations. There are limitless combinations to make.

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