What’s With These Açai Bowls?

An acai bowl from Bowldega
An acai bowl from Bowldega Lauren Drewes Daniels
Over the last few years, açai bowls have become a health superfood craze. The bowls are prepared from pureed açai berries grown in Central and South America and served as smoothies in a bowl, topped with fresh fruits, nuts, granola or seeds. Known for their vibrant purple color and creamy frozen yogurt-like texture, these berries and subsequent art-like bowls are Instagram-worthy pieces of eye candy. But are they healthy? Maybe. Do we care? Meh. Maybe...

The açai berry itself is quite healthy. But, because of their bitter taste, they are often sweetened with artificial sugars, blended with yogurt, milk or syrups. So, while they look amazing, whether or not they’re a calorie bomb is sort of up to the size and toppings. But they are delicious. And so are banana splits.

Mamaka in Fort Worth opened this summer and has lines winding out the door waiting for their beautiful purple fruit-topped bowls. The company has two other stores (Waco and Fayetteville, Arkansas) and labels itself as a health food restaurant on Facebook. Yet, nowhere on their site do they provide nutritional information. A call to the store revealed that, true, there’s nothing published but the "small bowls have about 300 to 400 calories" and the regular bowls "about 500." It also depends on what toppings you get.

We tracked down a few other bowls recently and tried them.

The Juice Bar

click to enlarge Very Very Acai Bowl from The Juice Bar - ANGIE QUEBEDEAUX
Very Very Acai Bowl from The Juice Bar
Angie Quebedeaux
The Juice Bar has several locations throughout the DFW area. They have been around since 2012 and are locally owned with a focus on quality ingredients and unique flavors. They currently have six choices of bowls on their menu. The Very, Very Açai Bowl blends the açai with blueberries, banana and agave and is topped with sliced bananas, blackberries and homemade granola.


click to enlarge The menu at Bowldega acts as a great guide newbies. - LAUREN DREWES DANIELS
The menu at Bowldega acts as a great guide newbies.
Lauren Drewes Daniels

Bowldega operates inside of Bodega at the AMLI apartments in the Design District. They have a chalkboard behind the counter that details how to build your bowl, which is good for rookies. A medium is $11 and after selecting your base there are not less than a dozen toppings to choose from, including chocolate nibs, agave, dried coconut, slivered almonds and granola.

Nekter Juice Bar

click to enlarge Peanut Butter Acai Bowl from Nekter Juice Bar - ANGIE QUEBEDEAUX
Peanut Butter Acai Bowl from Nekter Juice Bar
Angie Quebedeaux
Nekter Juice Bar has 13 locations around DFW. Their menu consists of juices, smoothies and bowls. The Açai Peanut Butter Bowl (pictured here) is delicious because the peanut butter balances the sweetness from the bananas, strawberries and green apples nicely.

Rush Bowls

click to enlarge Lemon Squeeze Acai Bowl from Rush Bowls - ANGIE QUEBEDEAUX
Lemon Squeeze Acai Bowl from Rush Bowls
Angie Quebedeaux
Rush Bowls has two locations currently (Mockingbird Station and Union Station, downtown). They offer “destination bowls." Think the beach, jungle, summit, and paradise, as well as endurance and wellness bowls. They promise "up to 5 servings of fruit and vegetables" across their site.

Here's the thing though. According to Rush Bowl's site, their Paradise bowl has only 265 calories and is made with mango, pineapple, guava juice, froyo and then topped with either granola or honey. Even leaving off the toppings, that's hard to swallow because Google says one serving of mango has 200 calories and that's just one of the five ingredients. Guava juice? That's just pretty much just sugar.

Are we saying just get a banana split? We might be saying that. 
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Angie Quebedeaux is a freelance food writer for the Observer. A "ragin' Cajun" from Lafayette, she's been in Dallas since 2002. She is an HR director by day and loves to “laissez les bon temps rouler.”