There are arguments over which brand came first (technically Salud), which has the best blends (both rule) and which one really supports local farms (again, both). Coffee shops purchased bottles from Rainbow, while restaurants went with Salud. Rainbow opened in the heart of downtown; Salud occupied a storefront in Retro Row and a counter in Belmont Shore.
But as each one finds its footing and explores its perspectives on raw food, it's clear Long Beach should not bother to choose between the two. While this summer, Rainbow Juices opened Under the Sun, a separate restaurant next door that serves a full menu of tonics, elixirs and creative raw-vegan dishes, Salud has been slowly, quietly amassing an assortment of vegan snacks and meals of its own in the past two years.
Salud's most accessible feature is the grab-and-go fridge, which was once reserved for growlers of alkaline water, bottles of Lord Windsor cold brew and glass jugs of seasonal juice blends. Now, it's filled each day with power bites (raw activated nut balls), breakfast cups (containers of cold oatmeal made with the house almond milk and a chocolate-chia pudding), hearty fruit-and-nut salads, and, for those craving more sustenance, several kinds of zucchini noodles.
An experimental weekend lunch menu was launched last summer that included seasonal spring rolls, a macrobiotic bowl and "live nachos" (house-made flax-and-chia chips topped with sprouted beans, spirulina-pea guac and cashew cheese). This year, the lunch menus became more ambitious. Not only is food now available to order every day after 11 a.m., but also the previously limited raw offerings have been replaced with at least five semi-permanent dishes, plus a handful of seasonal creations inspired by the bounty of Long Beach's numerous urban farms.
The macro bowl is a filling heap of kale and black beans packed with butternut squash, cauliflower rice, micro greens and carrots. A burrito roll uses spring-roll rice paper to wrap uncooked takes on traditional Mexican fillings. And on Salud's Taco Tuesday, you can get two walnut-meat raw tacos and a glass of kombucha on tap for $10 if you dine in.
Everything on the raw-friendly vegan restaurant's menu is labeled as gluten-free, raw, grain-free or a combination of all three symbols. Some items that arrive warm—such as the rice in the burrito and the seasonal butternut squash soup—are placed atop a container of hot water, which keeps them below 118 degrees, the temperature at which raw-foodists believe ingredients begin to cook off their most vital nutrients.
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For a dairy-loving, carnivorous heathen such as me, easing into the next evolution of raw and vegan cuisine by making it an organic part of my morning routine has been a joy. Between the already-stellar juices (which are still the focus, filling a big sliding-door fridge behind the counter) and the expanding lunch options (now with coconut-milk smoothies!), Salud Juice proves there's no competition when both players are better than your average juice bar.
Salud Juice, 1944 E. Fourth St., Ste. 6, Long Beach, (562) 528-8444; www.saludjuice.com.