Food - Glutton at Large: Juicy Jenny

Eating clean at the juice bar’s vegan lunch buffet

“$15 for rabbit food?! That’s ridiculous,” my husband said after I told him we were headed to Juicy Jenny’s vegan lunch buffet in Buckhead. Yes, I told him, but this is no ordinary rabbit food. Owner Jenny Levison’s eating-clean approach to feeding people comes with immeasurable benefits. Whether you are a meat eater or not, it feels good to cram your body full of nutrients and raw foods. After all the abuse it’s dealt on a daily basis, from pollution, stress, and ingesting junk, it’s nice to give your system a fresh jolt.

Juicy Jenny has a cozy, welcoming, slightly eccentric vibe. Mismatched, comfy chairs and sayings pinned up on the wall make you feel like you’re in your creative aunt’s living room instead of a restaurant. When the weather is nice, the staff opens the French doors and large windows, which allows a rejuvenating breeze to swirl around the dining room. It feels a lot like Levison’s other restaurants, Souper Jenny, the wildly popular soup emporium located at the other end of the same shopping center, and nearby Cafe Jonah. Women fresh from Blast 900, an intense interval training program frequented by the Lululemon-clad Buckhead set, overtake the space around noon. Try to get there around 11 if you want first dibs on the best seats.

Popular among this crowd are the eight or so cold-pressed juices (made to order and refrigerated in a small cooler at the door), superfood smoothies made with everything from peanut butter to kale, vegan baked goods such as cookies baked in-house, and even a healthy breakfast option of hot cereal made with quinoa gluten-free oats, flax, chia, hemp, vanilla, and the restaurant’s house-made nut blend.

The real treat is Levison’s vegan lunch buffet, available each day from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Here you’ll find a rotating selection of six to seven vegan dishes arranged in a line of huge serving bowls that spans the length of several rectangular tables. Many dishes are raw and/or organic. Recent offerings included things like kale salad with a puckery vinaigrette, crispy sweet and tart apple slices, and huge walnuts, and big bowls of grains packed with fresh field peas and bright vegetables. Levison tries to reduce waste whenever possible. Don’t be surprised if the shredded bell pepper salad is tomorrow’s veggie burger topping.

The one-trip-only buffet costs $15. You can either fill up a bamboo paper plate the size of a folded-up newspaper or a brown to-go box. I recommend the to-go box because the high sides prevent any stray bits of food from falling on the floor. No matter what vehicle the food comes in, selections are always wholesome, colorful, and diverse. Levison and her cooks try to pack as many vegetables, grains, antioxidant-rich fruits, and healthy fats as they can into each forkful.

Almost everything on the line is served at room temperature. The only warm items are the veggie burger of the day (located under the foil on the warm griddle) and the soup of the day. Unlike the hearty, meaty soups typically found at Souper Jenny, expect to find more Asian-style soups here. Think clear, gingery broths with eggplant and tofu or vegetable stews made with minimal ingredients. One day there was a cream-less English pea soup packed with intense spring flavor. Fragile seed crackers and hummus dip add that missing bit of carb-y crunch.

As more studies indicate your gut is the center of your immune system, it makes sense to take better care of our bodies, especially as we age. Vegetables are good for us — especially raw and organic ones — and we should all eat more of them. When you are investing in your health, $15 doesn’t seem like much at all.

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