WESLEY CHAPEL — Donna Smith's restaurant opened in 2006, but many people still don't know about it. Or they have heard of it, but haven't tried it because they think that it's all healthy stuff that tastes like crud.
"We're still undiscovered," said Smith, who owns Juice Zone, a quick-service restaurant at 1219 Bruce B. Downs Blvd., in the same plaza as Target and Petco. "So many people equate healthy to 'it doesn't taste good.'
"But that's not true."
Juice Zone serves an array of customers — some who come because they love the food (and don't really care that the Philly cheese steak or Mediterranean panini with creamy feta on rosemary focaccia is actually healthy) and others who come to find things that aren't readily available in Pasco County, such as shots of wheatgrass grown in the store, freshly juiced organic vegetables and smoothies made of whole fruit (with no syrups or anything artificial). This is a place to try all of the things you've heard about on TV or read about in magazines — goji berries, acai juice, mangosteen juice, matcha green tea. And you can try out juicing — where the nutrient-rich juice of vegetables is extracted — without the expense of buying your own juicer and organic veggies.
"I'm proud of what we're doing," said Smith, who began her own quest for good health a few years ago, after both of her parents died from heart conditions. She began juicing and felt great. Smith wanted to open a business and, in searching, found Juice Zone was the only one who fit everything she wanted — good food that's fast and healthful.
In addition to smoothies, freshly squeezed vegetable and fruit juices, wraps, salads, pressed paninis and soup, Juice Zone also has a full organic coffee bar with lattes, espresso and cappuccino. Various teas are available, such as a ginger peach tea, and regular black and green teas. Soy milk, of course, is an option. And smoothies also can be made with frozen yogurt, such as in the Chunky Monkey, which is a thick, creamy blend of vanilla frozen yogurt, soy milk, peanut butter, chocolate and bananas.
Juice Zone was started in Canada in 1997 and began to franchise locations in 2000. Now, there are Juice Zones in 12 countries. There are only a handful in Florida. Right now, Smith's is the only one in Pasco County. A new store (not owned by Smith) will be opening in Trinity in a few months. And, this fall, Smith said she will open a juice bar at the Shops at Wiregrass, the fancy new mall near County Road 56 and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.
"I love everything here," said Melissa Van Schaik, a 31-year-old mother who brought her children to Juice Zone on Friday afternoon. "It's a good alternative to fast food."
Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4609.