Choice Health Bar
1087 Limahana Pl., Lahaina
I like to think of Choice Health Bar as my food reality check. So much of what I eat doesn’t pass the freshness and vitality test, yet I scarf it down anyway and expect my body to function well. At Choice there is no compromise. Kathryn Dahm and Emily Kunz have designed their menu of smoothies, acai bowls, juices and health elixers to optimize seasonal fresh produce, superfoods, housemade almond milk and coconut water, plus additives that nourish your body and mind.
Entering the casual dining room, I perch myself at the bar and peruse the menu, sprinkled with playfully named drinks: Insane Maca-Chino, Wow Maui, ManGoes Coconuts, Green Buzz Bowl and Force Field to name just a few. Someone sitting on a nearby sofa remarks, “Mmm, the Chronic made into the bowl is the bomb.” Translation: you can change any of the smoothies—including the Chronic, a blend of hazelnuts, hemp protein, banana, coconut, cacao nibs, vitamineral greens and mint—into an acai bowl, and any bowl can be made into a smoothie. In fact, unlike some places Choice welcomes special orders and customizations.
I found myself a bit lost among the options, so I started out with the Wow Maui, a fresh tropical fruit smoothie medley of papaya, pineapple, strawberries, banana and orange juice. Like all of Choice’s smoothies it’s thick, icy cold, all organic—and delicious.
A group of regulars walks in and Dahm asks if she should get some Insane Maca-Chinos going for them. This smoothie comes off of the health elixier menu and is filled with maca, cacao, shilajit, ashwagandha, lucuma, banana, Tahitian vanilla, coconut and almond milk. I dive into a sample the color of cafe au lait; thick and creamy, it tastes like a mocha only better.
Dahm, who previously worked as general manager for Honokowai Farmers Market, has an encyclopedic knowledge of superfoods. I ask her about shilajit: what is it and why should we be eating it? “Shilajit is nectar of the mountains. It is the most amazing dirt on the planet,” she says. “It’s insane minerals, but not a plant or an animal. It is an ancient medicine like a lot of the other superfoods.” She adds that we “can learn so much from the ancient way of healing using superfoods like spirulina, goji berries, maca and bee pollen.”
Kunz, who also formerly worked at the Honokowai Farmers Market, runs the produce end of things. She says she works with Maui farmers directly to find the best available produce. “I buy individually from those who we think are doing it best,” she says. “Our ultimate goal is to go hyper local, and get produce from the West Side only, but that is not an option yet.”
“We really got a lot of encouragement from the community,” Dahm says. “Miranda and Kea of Beeline were customers at the health food store and we would get together and host our own acai bowl ‘throwdown showdowns.’ This is where the inspiration and excitement for this started. We want to be a magnet for learning.”
Choice offers its own twist on the plate lunch: a salad, a healthy grain and a bowl of soup with a raw dessert for $12. A group of construction workers who enter rather timidly don’t seem convinced, so Dahm asks, “What are you hungry for? What does your body feel it needs?” She comes up with a new custom item for them, “the hungry man bowl” and throws it together.
They admit to never eating healthy and having the urge to run to Taco Bell across the street, yet they finish lunch with a new outlook. “It’s great that you tried it,” Kunz tells them. “You ventured out of your comfort zone.”
“People ask me if we are going to open up more locations on the mainland,” says Dahm. “[But] I don’t think you could do it in another location. Are papayas falling into blenders in Seattle? No.”