The Dish List: Nekter

What: Nekter

Where: 4237 Campus Drive, Suite B163 Irvine, CA 92612

How Much: $5-$9

Hours: Mon-Fri 7a.m.-7p.m. Sat-Sun 8a.m.- 6p.m.

Rating: 2/5

For those UC Irvine students who are looking to get their “juice cleanse” on, Nekter is the place to go. However, Nekter has its own challenges ahead if it wants to draw students into its pricey and expensive lifestyle — because the typical student seeks a cheap yet filling meal. Will a health-kick attitude draw UCI students into the juice bar’s new location at the University Town Center? I for one was not convinced to hop on the juice bandwagon for a couple reasons, mainly for the prices and its ambiance.

Courtesy of Katrina Yentch

Courtesy of Katrina Yentch

With student’s unhealthy late-night study food and post-party hangovers polluting their systems, Nekter encourages customers to try out “the cleanse.” A liquid cleanse comes in the form of  medicine-looking bottles that contain concentrated juices made from completely natural ingredients, which range from spices like parsley to leafy green vegetables.

Keep drinking these every day, and Nekter claims that by the third day of the cleanse, “you will start to notice a change in your system, your skin and your mood.” Does this sound organic, hip and overpriced enough yet? You can purchase a full set at the fridge for just $58!

The juice bar itself has a kitchen-like ambiance. For the crowds this location attracts, tables inside are pretty scarce, and everything feels scattered yet empty. The blenders are whirring and the acoustic music plays loudly enough to attempt to cover those sounds. Folks, do not come in here to work on homework. (There’s also no free Wi-Fi, so I don’t think the staff wants people hanging out here either.)

As I first walked in, I also couldn’t tell what I was smelling, but I shortly realized that it was most likely spinach and kale being grinded to a pulp. Customers walking out of the store had varieties of murky purple and red beverages.

I admit, I was a bit of a wuss with my first-time order. I didn’t try the most popular drink, the “cleanest” of all clean beverages, called “The Greenie,” which consists of parsley, spinach, kale, celery, cucumber, lemon and apple. You can understand why it deserves the title, right?

I drank a smoothie called “Popeye’s Acai,” which contains acai, banana, spinach, vanilla bean cashew nut milk and agave nectar… that took a good 10 minutes to make at the bar. I can’t blame them too much for that; there were only three people on staff. It’s definitely on the lesser side of the sweetness scale. Don’t expect a Jamba Juice-type smoothie if you are ordering at this juice bar. It simply tastes… well, healthy. I didn’t expect the cashew nut milk to have much of a presence in the drink, but I most certainly tasted it more than I tasted the acai.

Speaking of acai, Nekter offers acai bowls if you’re looking for something a little more filling. For about seven dollars, you can get a pretty hefty 16 ounce cup of acai mixed with your choice of pre-designed toppings like granola and berries. I suggest this because I have a newfound addiction to acai bowls. This is an expected move for Nekter to make after seeing the similar menu from other places that specialize in acai bowls like Banzai (Costa Mesa, Laguna Beach) and Birdie Bowl and Juicery (Costa Mesa).

In terms of comfort level and atmosphere, it would be much more recommended to go to (the much further) Birdie Juicery, as the ambiance is much quieter, aesthetically pleasing, and generally offers the exact same things that Nekter has and more seating as well. Banzai Bowls is just as far but it has a somewhat “surf shack” feel to it. The atmosphere is definitely more fun. Nekter, in comparison to the two, is a designated “grab and go” type location.

Overall I wouldn’t recommend Nekter for the economically savvy student but more so for the “urban” Orange County mom. The store offers what can be found at other locations in the University Town Center and main campus, but with a healthier edge to it.