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Who needs Starbucks? New juice bar looks to transform the way Houston looks at drinks

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Roots Juice, July 2012
Roots Juice is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. Photo by Karen Burd
Roots Juice, Juice&Smothie, July 2012
At $7 a juice, these are no cheap splurges. Photo by Karen Burd
Roots Juice, Interior, July 2012
The Roots Juice space is laid back and comfortable. Photo by Karen Burd
Roots Juice, Kale Chips, July 2012
Roots Juice throughs some interesting and unusual flavor combinations at you. Photo by Karen Burd
Roots Juice, Juicing Station, July 2012
Roots Juice  Photo by Karen Burd
Roots Juice, Granola, July 2012
Roots Juice offers a small menu of prepared foods. Photo by Karen Burd
Roots Juice, Muffins, July 2012
Photo by Karen Burd
Roots Juice, Nori Rolls, July 2012
Photo by Karen Burd
Roots Juice, Sandwich, July 2012
Photo by Karen Burd
Roots Juice, July 2012
Roots Juice, Juice&Smothie, July 2012
Roots Juice, Interior, July 2012
Roots Juice, Kale Chips, July 2012
Roots Juice, Juicing Station, July 2012
Roots Juice, Granola, July 2012
Roots Juice, Muffins, July 2012
Roots Juice, Nori Rolls, July 2012
Roots Juice, Sandwich, July 2012

Roots Bistro executive chef German Mosquera says the first thing he does every morning is make himself a fresh juice, so it seems only natural that the chef is now sharing his juice passion with Houston at the new Roots Juice, a juice, smoothie and light bites outpost next door to Roots Bistro.

Roots Juice serves 10 juice mixes and more than a dozen smoothies, some seasonal, with a focus on ingredients that are organic, local and sustainable whenever possible. (General manager Hal Kuehn jokes that they are still on the hunt for locally sourced pineapples.)

 At $7 each, these juices and smoothies will run you more than a Starbucks addiction, but Mosquera says the health benefits are unparalleled. 

They are a few ingredients that seem to pop up all over the menu — carrot, apple, banana, kale — but I was impressed how divergent the final products were. A citrus-heavy Liquid Sunshine was exactly what I crave in the morning, a light blend of grapefruit, orange, lemon, lime and pineapple. Watermelon is spiced up by cilantro, serrano and a cool bite of lime in the Summer Fling, but the stand-out juice for me was the mild and effortlessly refreshing Cuke, a blend of cucumber, apple, lime and mint.

It would have been equally enjoyable mixed with some gin, but I think that might defeat the purpose.

On the smoothie side, I ordered the It's Legal out of pure curiosity — it's a mix of hemp seed, hemp protein, agave, banana, date and spinach. While I expected the muddy green result to taste grassy, the banana and agave actually gave it a sweet, rich texture that was balanced nicely by the greener ingredients. It's seriously tasty, not just a novelty drink. The blend of spinach and spirulina notes and mint and cacao nibs in the Mint Choco-Mazing (in addition to banana and dates) is surprisingly pleasant — the sweet flavors don't mask the healthier ingredients but instead balance them nicely.

For a truly decadent drink, I loved the OMGoji, in which goji berries with serious bite were blended with sweet strawberry, agave, coconut oil, vanilla and a heavy dose of almond butter. Pure sweet with just a hint of tang.

Roots Juice also serves a full menu of coffee and tea as well as some prepared bites and plates to order, including some incredible housemade granola, and "paleo" muffins made with almond flour, flaxseed oil, agave and assorted flavors from chocolate to fennel. There's also a small menu of prepared foods, including sandwiches featuring either sprouts or goat cheese, spinach and tomato on focaccia bread and sprout-filled sushi rolls.

All smoothies and juices are made out of sight in an open annex of the Roots Bistro kitchen in front of the wood-fired oven, so the juice bar space is mellow and relaxing, with repurposed tables from New Living and chairs festooned with fresh flowers and Alice Waters cookbooks, a saltillo tile floor, a cork board wall featuring ads for yoga and Pilates classes in the area.

At $7 each, these juices and smoothies will run you more than a Starbucks addiction, but Mosquera says the health benefits are unparalleled.

With Roots Juice now open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., Roots Bistro is closed for lunch but the restaurant is expanding its hours into late night, offering a reverse happy hour on drinks and pizzas until midnight. At night the juice bar will also double as a private events space.

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