This past school year has seen a surge in new restaurants in Isla Vista. While most restaurants stay for a few years at a time, one particular location has had four restaurants in the past year. If you have walked down Embarcadero Del Norte between Amazon and 7/11, you may have noticed this yourself.
During fall quarter, we welcomed Kol’s Cafe, which specialized in authentic French crepes. Around winter quarter, Kol’s made the transition to Keggs, which focused on breakfast foods and eggs. As of now, the restaurant location has split in half: one side is known as Le Cafe and the other is Blend Me Tender. Blend Me Tender officially opened on Monday, April 11.
Blend Me Tender specializes in smoothies and bowls using fresh ingredients. The decor is clean, crisp and minimalistic. On the wall are a few quotes in bold black lettering, and a few retro accent decals. The shop itself is rather small, and has limited bar seating.
The decals help tie in a modern-retro theme that pairs nicely with the menu. The names of all the food seem random, but it’s easy to realize that the menu is Elvis themed. Every item is named after one of his hit songs, hence the inspiration for the name of the restaurant. The menu is split into three sections: juice-based smoothies, creamy smoothies and bowls. Smoothies come in two different sizes.
Because the staff seems to be the same as before, it’s easy to feel welcomed to Blend Me Tender. The workers are friendly and happy to explain things to you.
I decided on the Lady Madonna which includes açaí, pineapple sherbet, pineapple juice, bananas and coconut. It is topped with homemade granola, banana, shredded coconut and honey. Unfortunately, I’m allergic to raw banana (I know, why would I order something with banana?). They happily substituted strawberries for the banana.
After a while, I received my order. It came in a small, clear plastic container with a lid on it. The bowls are definitely on the thinner side as my fruit struggled to float on top of the smoothie bowl. It melted rather quickly into a fruit juice.
I personally don’t really care for presentation as long as it tastes good. This bowl wasn’t really eye catching, but the pop of white from the shredded coconut did provide a nice contrast. This could also be because I opted for strawberry instead of a brightly-colored banana.
After shoveling some into my mouth, I was immediately greeted with the familiar strawberry and açaí flavor. The smoothie wasn’t too sweet, so a lot of the natural açaí and strawberry flavors were brought out.
Following the açaí flavor is the pineapple, which makes up the majority of the aftertaste. Because coconut is blended into the bowl, your mouth has something to chew as you grapple with the flavors. The strawberry tasted super fresh, containing no artificial flavoring.
The next bite was taken with some of the granola, and this is when things started to get disappointing. The granola is toasted to be a shade darker than golden brown. It is made of oatmeal and walnut with a dusting of cinnamon. The granola itself isn’t very sweet, but rather nutty and slightly bitter at the end. When eaten with the smoothie, it did a great job of bring out the natural tart and sweet flavors of the fruit. Its effect is similar to adding salt on a mango.
Savory and sweet is usually a great combination, but not always. After a few bites, I was getting annoyed by the granola. It wasn’t a lot, but a little went a long way. It blanketed the delicate flavors of everything else, and that pineapple aftertaste soon was replaced by the bitterness of the granola. All the flavors just plateaued and finishing my bowl felt like a chore to get my money’s worth.
Blend Me Tender does a great job of providing customers a modern experience with a retro twist. Unfortunately, their experimentation fell a little flat with the actual products. Because they are new, this doesn’t come as a surprise. The workers are still getting into the groove of things, so I’d give it a while before trying it again. On the bright side, I got a nice reusable plastic container out of it.