Juicing trend alive and well in Las Vegas

Chipper Pastron and his partners set out to launch a new restaurant and ended up being converted.

The restaurant was the Juice Farm, which opened in Old Town Pasadena in January 2013. The partners, whose other business interests include Morels French Steakhouse &Bistro at the Palazzo, wanted a concept that had a healthful focus, which eventually led them to juices. In the process, as they spent about a year and half researching and planning, they found themselves becoming evangelists.

“It’s a journey that has been most fulfilling and rewarding and, in some ways, almost life-changing for my partners and me as we have become more involved in juice and become juicers ourselves,” Pastron said. “The three of us all juice now, including our wives and families.”

But he admits to some hesitation at first.

“We were not sure how it would be received,” he said of the initial Juice Farm in Pasadena. “It was received terrifically.”

Sure, but that’s California. Would juicing be as popular in Las Vegas? Pastron and partners would find out, after they entered an agreement to open a Juice Farm at the Palazzo in December.

“A lot of people did not know if the concept would work, No. 1 in Las Vegas, and No. 2 in a casino,” he said. “Lo and behold, it has been terrifically received and embraced.”

Yes, the juicing trend is alive and well in Las Vegas.

This seems to be the key point: There are many types of juices, juicers (the equipment) and juicers (the people). Pastron said about 60 percent of his customers are veteran juicers.

“You can see it,” he said. “People who walk by, they don’t need to read the menu, they don’t need to read the signs. They get it.”

The rest, he said, are aware of the benefits of juicing but need some guidance.

So, before we get any further, what are the benefits?

“Certainly, if you’re not very big on fruits and vegetables, it’s a good way to get them,” said Mary Wilson, a registered dietitian and extension nutrition specialist with the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. “It can help you meet your daily requirement for fruits and vegetables in one drink.”

On the other hand, she said, “it’s not the be-all and end-all.” Since most juicers extract the pulp and seeds from the fruits or vegetables, you’re not getting the fiber you would from eating whole fruits or vegetables. But, she said, the pulp can be used in muffins, soups or sauces for rice or pasta to ensure you get that fiber. (Some machines, she said, do retain some of the pulp; if the juice is too thick you can just add water.)

“I know there are a lot of parents who might do juices for their kids who are fussy about vegetables, and I think that’s great,” Wilson said. “There are some wonderful combinations you can come up with to fortify your diet. Will it turn a poor diet into a good one? Probably not, but it’s a nice enhancement.”

Pastron said his own kids, who range in age from 5 to 19, are all committed juicers. The younger ones, he said, gravitate more toward fruit juices, as do many newbie adults.

The hard core, on the other hand, tend to prefer green juices. Pastron said Juice Farm’s three green juices are the No. 1 sellers among all of the varieties available at his stores in both Pasadena and Las Vegas.

They do offer three degrees of green juices, however, from Just Greens &Apple for newbies who prefer a bit of sweetness, to the slightly heavier Just Greens, to Super Greens, which contains romaine, fennel, kale, Swiss chard, celery, spinach and parsley.

“For someone who hasn’t had it before, I’ll often tell them it tastes just like a freshly mowed lawn,” he said. “It is an acquired taste. For me, it’s delicious.”

They also offer juice cleanses, which basically is going on a juice-only diet, for one, two or three days.

Or more, if you’re truly a hard-core juicer, like Las Vegas residents Pat and Zoe Thrall. The Thralls just completed a monthlong juice fast.

“I wanted to get my health and my energy back,” Thrall said. “I just turned 60 this past year, and I wanted to lose some weight and get my energy rocking, and I accomplished both things.”

He said there were transitional periods at the beginning and end of the fast, where they phased foods out and then back in. Thrall said he lost 22 pounds.

“I feel great,” he said. “It’s amazing. The first time I juiced, a couple of years ago, when I did a two-week, I had a day when I felt actually sick. Your body throws off toxins and you feel actually ill. Once you get through that day, the doors to energy take off.

“It’s really like clear energy. You wake up in the morning, jump out of bed and stay that way all day, really evenly. You feel the same ‘up’ all day. And then you fall off the grid and go right to sleep.”

When they’re not doing a juice cleanse, the Thralls usually have juice at lunch, with protein powder, and also in midafternoon. That’s the sort of regular use that is encouraging the growth of juice bars. For example, Jamba Juice, which has 10 stores in Las Vegas, used to offer just orange, carrot and wheat-grass juices, but recently added juice blends, including Tropical Greens, Orange Revival, Citrus Kick and Great Greens.

“Basically, juicing has taken over,” said Marisa Endy-Vanchieri, director of marketing and community relations for the Jamba Juices in Las Vegas.

Skinnyfats, which specializes in both “healthy” and “happy” menus, also offers juice blends.

“We’re not a juice bar, but we have five juices on the menu,” said Charity Faith, marketing director. “A lot of people enjoy the juicing lifestyle, whether they need to lose some weight or they feel the need to cleanse themselves. I believe it’s kind of an acquired taste, but once you’ve got it, you kind of get addicted to it.”

Like Juice Farm, Skinnyfats uses the cold-press extraction method. Their most popular juice blend, Faith said, is the Hangover Remedy, which contains carrots, celery, beets, ginger, spinach, cucumber and apple.

“It’s the most standard,” she said. “It’s what a lot of people will juice when they’re at home, although they’re using a different process. The reason it’s a hangover remedy is it’s very well-rounded, designed to revive everything. I don’t even drink (alcohol), and I drink Hangover Remedy all the time.”

Johnny Church, chef of MTO Cafe, said he introduced a red juice and a green one when the restaurant opened late last year because of the popularity of juicing.

“Instead of just having regular orange juice for breakfast, it’s a healthy alternative,” Church said. “We sell a lot — at least a gallon of each on a slow day, and on the weekends we can sell up to two to four gallons.”

Church said he also juices at home, on his days off.

“I notice the difference getting up and drinking juices instead of when I used to get up and drink coffee,” he said. “I feel like I get more clarity. I just feel better. It’s not something you can do just once. If you have a normal regimen, it’s so good for you.”

Wilson said the only possible pitfalls are calories and sugar content. A 16-ounce glass of juice, she said, can contain up to 240 calories. And juices that contain a lot of fruit can erode tooth enamel, especially if consumed between meals.

But dedicated juicers see lots of advantages.

“I have found that by introducing juice into my daily diet and making it part of my lifestyle, that has really helped me refocus my body,” Pastron said. “I feel physically better, have more energy, don’t feel as weighted down and bloated. It just makes me feel better all around.”

Contact reporter Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474.