‘A healthy choice’: Palm Açaí Café opens on College Avenue

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Stephanie Li/Staff

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Palm Açaí Café, an açaí bowl and smoothie store, opened Aug. 27 on College Avenue, replacing a storefront that had been empty for the past six years.

The store, located at 2979 College Ave., has a clean and minimalist look, with high ceilings, big windows and an entirely white interior, creating a bright space filled with green plants. Last Friday, hip-hop music played quietly in the background as baristas juiced and blended fruit.

“I think we’re getting a pretty diverse group of customers coming in. You can tell there’s a big sense of community going on here,” said Chris Alcantar, co-owner of Palm Açaí Café. “It’s open, it’s bright, and the decor is something that (my co-owner) Ami prides herself on making it into an open space. She wanted it to be café style.”

Campus freshman Paxton Bryant said she would recommend the café to her friends because the food is “healthy and tasty.” She added that açaí bowl places are rare in Berkeley, which adds to the appeal of Palm Açaí Café.

The café serves various types of açaí bowls, smoothies, toasts, coffees and teas, including a signature drink called a horchata matcha iced latte. The horchata matcha iced latte comes from a combination of both of the owners’ family ancestries.

“Chris’ (Alcantar) family is from Mexico and mine are from Japan, so we combined our cultural backgrounds to make this drink,” said Ami McCartt, co-owner of Palm Açaí Café. “These are all menu items we came up with. We took about a year to come up with all our menu items. It was a lot of trial and error.”

Along with the horchata matcha iced latte, the café also serves an Oaxacan cold brew with Mexican chili chocolate. On the day of UC Berkeley’s home football game, the café served a blueberry mango açaí bowl, highlighting the campus colors. McCartt said the café plans to do specials and 10 percent discounts for campus students for every home game.

The café uses organic and high-quality ingredients to make all their food, McCartt said. According to McCartt, açaí is an antioxidant-rich “superfood” that makes for an energizing, filling meal.

“We’re very selective of the ingredients we use. We also want the bowls to be visually beautiful and colorful, as well as be textural with a lot of crunch,” McCartt said. “Each bowl has a lot of balance.”

Employees and customers alike said açaí and the café itself are unique in Berkeley.

“An açaí bowl place here is different. There aren’t a lot of places like this in the Bay. Some people come in and they don’t know what açaí is, so we tell them,” said campus sophomore and café employee Jorge Angeles. “It’s a healthy choice.”

Contact Mariam Zagub at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @MZagub.