Searching for the Perfect Açaí Bowl in Isla Vista

Photos by Rick Zhang

Wenxuan Zhang
Contributing Writer

When it comes to taste and healthiness, compromise may seem inevitable in the search for a satisfying snack. Luckily, açaí bowls provide people with a great option to achieve that balance between taste and health.

Açaí bowls have been trending for the past couple of years. They are usually composed of a thick smoothie made by blending açaí berries, topped off with various fruits and toppings like oatmeal or honey. The ingredients for both the smoothie and the toppings are flexible, giving the bowl plenty of freedom to be diverse and creative. 

Searching for the perfect bowl, my friend and I chose to try Cajé and i.v. drip, hoping to crown a winner. While they share lots of similarities in ingredients, there are still some subtle differences in taste between the two açaí bowls. 

Both locations present visually appealing products, laying out sliced fruits such as bananas and strawberries over the smoothie base and topping it all off with granola. The variety of ingredients form a colorful layout, successfully attracting consumers who want to post photos of their bowls on social media. 

Scooping up a few spoonfuls of the smoothie, fruit, and nuts — either in separate spoonfuls or mixed together —  I found a great balance of taste in my mouth from Cajé’s açaí bowl. The slight saltiness came from the mixed nuts mixed with the natural sweetness in the smoothie. Similarly, the softness of the fresh fruits and the crunch of the granola all brought me an enjoyable feeling that was perfectly balanced when I chewed them together. 

Cajé, as a bigger store, has more options in the types of bowls offered. Besides the signature açaí bowl I ordered, there are seven other kinds of bowls, such as “Green,” “Cali,” and “Little Bowl Blue,” while i.v. drip only has three choices of açaí bowls. 

When interviewed about the specialties and difference in tastes, “I think we are definitely special,” said Kirston Carol, the food handler in i.v. drip. “Everyone has their own different formula.”

The smoothie in the i.v. drip bowl has more ice, giving a kind of melted ice cream feeling in the mouth, whereas the Cajé smoothie tastes thicker. Also, i.v. drip açaí bowls are less sweet than bowls from Cajé, though the sweetness level can be adjusted by using different toppings and excluding honey. 

For the “açaí bowl” in both, Cajé put more types of food in the bowl such as strawberries, blueberries, and bananas, not to mention the granola had more variety. 

Açaí bowls from i.v. drip are relatively more basic, made up of strawberries and bananas with simple oatmeal. In addition, the size of the bowl is also smaller, which can be reasonably attributed to the price, since Cajé set the price for all the bowls around $10 while all cost $7 at i.v. drip.

Though the price is not low at either place, I would say both are still worth the purchase, since they can serve as full meals. It could either be an abundant breakfast, a delicious and healthy lunch, or dinner as well. Needless to say that as a dessert in the afternoon, the serving size is big enough for two people to split. 

No matter which store the açaí bowls came from, they all brought me happiness and satisfaction after finishing the whole bowl with nothing left. The delicious tropical fruit açaí that had been blended in seemed to have a waking effect instinctively, which is completely in accord with the vibrant vibe of Isla Vista.