Union Juice (John St.)
Union Juice at John and Adelaide is much bigger than its first location in the Annex. Found on the ground floor of the Pinnacle on Adelaide condo, this site is meant to be the brand's flagship shop.
This upbeat juice bar has a bright, minimalist and industrial look, courtesy of Jacknife Design , the agency also responsible for Union's cute-yet-hip branding (it also did the rebrand for the Second Cup down the street). Custom furniture by hollis+morris gives off a Scandinavian vibe, which is fitting given the inspiration for these juice bars is a Denmark-based chain called Joe & the Juice .
Juices, smoothies and panini are all made-to-order (although pre-made bottled juices will make an appearance soon as well), and a visit here is meant to be a visual experience, with colourful fruits and veggies all lined along the bar counter. Staff whip up drinks right in front of customers, so they can watch as the produce goes into the juicer.
With so many condo dwellers living above this spot, Union intends to cater to a morning crowd; if those heading off to work prefer a jolt of caffeine to juice, there's quality coffee in the form of bottled cold brew ($4.95) and espresso-based beverages made with beans from Propeller (the Annex location only has drip). There are also plans to put in a DIY yogurt bar.
In the meantime, there are grab-and-go Nomz Energy Bites ($1.50 or $7.95/pack) and chia puddings ($6.25), along with açaí bowls ($9.50 each) and salads ($6.95-$7.25).
As we arrive at lunchtime, we try an assembled-on-the-spot Ciao panino ($8.95), which contains prosciutto, cream cheese, red onion and tomato pressed between pumpernickel flatbread.
And the juices? They come in all colours of the rainbow. First, you should figure out if you're in the mood for a predominantly veggie- or fruit-based drink (however, all juices except one is cut with fruit, to add a bit of natural sweetness). Ingredient combinations are already set - you can ask to have them altered, but they've been created and tested to please palates.
Green juices like the Mow My Lawn ($7.50/12-oz cup; $9.50/16-oz), a mix of kale, spinach, green apple and ginger, have proven popular so far, and it's easy to see (er, taste) why: they combine super healthy-for-you ingredients, yet the kale and spinach aren't overpowering (this is a good thing). The green apple makes it go down easy and the ginger adds a bit of zing.
For those who prefer orange to green, there's The Ringer ($7.50/$9.50), with apple, pineapple, carrot and lemon. The carrot flavour really shines through in this one.
Smoothies come in 16-oz cups only, and whey or vegan proteins can be added ($2 each) for gym-goers visiting pre- and/or post-workout. We try the Pre-Gamer ($7.95), a blend of blueberries, spinach, dates and coconut milk, and it's almost like eating a meal, with small crunchy bits to chew on.
It's important to note that the produce here is not organic and the juices are not cold pressed; the reasoning behind this is that the brand wants to offer more accessible price points (drinks range from $7 to $9.50). The ingredients are fresh though - I actually see a Bondi Produce truck pull up during my visit.
Quick expansion appears to be the name of the game for Union; the plan is to open another location in the PATH by the end of 2015, making that its third juice bar opening in a year. Like condo-mania, is Toronto ready for this juice boom?
Photos by Jesse Milns