April 23, 2019 | 71° F

Frutta Bowls brings study spot, coffee shop vibes to Easton Avenue


New Brunswick is no beach, but a little acai makes a big, delicious mark. From their inception into New Jersey just four years ago, acai bowls are super widespread. They’re known for their fresh, blended fruity bases, with bountiful toppings like coconut flakes, banana slices and Nutella drizzles and they’re also known for their Instagram-ability. So it’s no surprise that after Hub City’s beloved Playa Bowls opened, another of those health-conscious havens popped up on Easton Avenue this March: Frutta Bowls.

With its rival just a few blocks away, tucked onto Mine Street, Frutta Bowls is opening up to some tough competition. Both stores sling up many of the same goods: acai bowls, pitaya bowls, blended kale bowls, oatmeal bowls and smoothies. Although, Playa Bowls covers a few “bases” that Frutta Bowls does not: banana bowls, chia pudding bowls and coconut bowls. Other than that, the concepts are so similar, but where do they differ?

As soon as you step into the new store, located steps away from Stuff Yer Face, the difference is as clear as water in the Bahamas — there is so much space. Anyone who goes to Playa Bowls knows there’s hardly anywhere to sit unless it’s warm enough to snatch a spot on one of the tables right outside. Unfortunately, in the days of an endless New Jersey winter, it hasn’t been realistic to soak up the sun with a pitaya bowl. But whether it’s a rainy day, a sad 40 degree April day or an insufferably hot June day, Frutta Bowls has the space.

When you enter, you immediately take in the natural light, open space, industrial floors and cozy spots for studying and eating, with cute decor, too. It captures the comforting feels of your favorite coffee shops. The mix of music that sweeps throughout the space induces nostalgia and happiness, with picks both super contemporary and not — think Weezer’s "Island in the Sun," Hot Chelle Rae’s “Tonight Tonight” and Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long (All Night).”

Aside from all the sweet, healthy vibes, this place is a restaurant, after all. And priced at $9-12, the bowls are good. The store is so full of tempting options, though, and there are so many to try. But you can never go wrong with something simple and delicious, like the shop’s title track, per se - the Frutta Bowl. It’s a refreshing mix of organic acai blended with guarana and banana, topped off with granola, strawberries, pineapple, kiwi, Nutella, peanut butter, honey and coconut flakes, and it’s so darn good.

As for other key differences between the battling brands, Frutta Bowls accepts RU Express, but it doesn’t offer a student discount like Playa Bowls does during its happy hour. Frutta Bowls opens at 11 a.m. and closes at 11 p.m. from Thursday to Saturday, 10 p.m. from Monday to Wednesday and 8 p.m. on Sundays, while Playa Bowls runs on a strictly 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. schedule. So your best pick might depend on the time you get a craving for the blended fruit bowls.

But while Frutta Bowls is similar to a spot down the street, it’s unique in that it’s a great place to stretch your legs and sit down in a little study-friendly oasis. And whether it’s Frutta Bowls or Playa Bowls, you’re bound to get a taste of something tropical in New Brunswick.

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