We are in the dog days of summer, so hot that it's not even safe to walk your dog on asphalt during most of the day.
When the heat is on, many of us grab icy beverages to cool down. Of the assortment of good drink locations already available, a couple of new spots have opened where we can chill and sip.
Nekter Juice Bar is the latest addition to the sprawling Shops at River Walk complex, and first off the location is a plus. It's situated between Yard House and the parking rectangle of death that is home to Eureka!, Chipotle Mexican Grill, PizzaRev, Poke Land, It's Boba Time and Crumbl. Parking close to the shop was easy on a Monday evening.
It's likely that the opening of the nearby Climb by LVL Fitness center will increase traffic and business since juice bars and health centers go together like peanut butter and housemade strawberry chia jam in a Nekter PB&J smoothie. For the next week, it's still golden.
As this is a dining column, let's return the focus to the actual menu. Only realizing that the aforementioned PB&J smoothie was an option after I ordered, I tried the PB mocha and pink flamingo smoothies.
The superfood smoothie was tasty despite the lack of jam and proved filling when I enjoyed its leftovers the next day for breakfast. The cold brew it contained — along with peanut butter, housemade cashew milk, vanilla protein, banana, cocoa nibs and agave nectar — was certainly a factor in my enjoyment.
Wanting to try something that fit more into that fresh and healthy juice category, I made a good call with the pink flamingo, a vibrant blend of dragon fruit, strawberry, pineapple, coconut water and agave nectar. Drinking that seemed to keep the heat at bay although the AC in the car may have also helped.
Nekter also has fresh juices, acai and other bowls, health shots, grab-and-go juices and freshers, which are mostly tea-based. It also has a "Taste of Summer" menu that I completely overlooked but need to go back to try since it gives watermelon a starring role in a cooler juice, berry smoothie and sorbet bowl.
This is the first location for the chain that is predominantly located in Southern California, so the menu will be familiar to frequent travelers.
Nekter Juice Bar (10424 Stockdale Highway) is open from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. daily. Visit nekterjuicebar.com for the full menu or to order ahead. Delivery is also available through Postmates.
Another chain joining the local boba tea market is Teaspoon. With locations mostly in the Bay Area as well as Southern California, this is also a nice addition.
The shop is located in the growing center built on the bones of Mexicali West. Neighbors include WaBa Grill, Urbane Cafe, Pizza Guys, Baba's Hot Chicken and Randy's Donuts.
Teaspoon offers classic drinks like house milk tea, Thai tea, liquid gold (double roasted honey oolong tea and cream), taro lover and black sugar assam. Signature drinks are colorful with options such as grasshopper (lychee green tea and fresh cucumber juice), strawberry sangria (black assam tea with natural cane sugar and strawberry marmalade) and silky mango (inspired by Hong Kong mango pudding made with mango puree, organic milk and honey boba).
I tried the classic creamy jasmine (jasmine tea with fresh cream and cane sugar) and the strawberry matcha royale (a drink reminiscent of the Italian flag with layers of matcha, milk and strawberry marmalade).
The classic jasmine was wonderful and exactly what I wanted from a milk tea with plenty of black sugar boba. It was also nice that they had bamboo compostable boba straws that felt less wasteful than plastic. And even the non-sharp end was enough to pierce the seal on the cup when I made that mistake in the car (all these drinks are on the go!).
The royale was a sweet treat, although you really need to mix it to blend the flavors, which results in a drink of an orangish-brown color.
Teaspoon also serves coffee and seasonal drinks, which currently include raspberry mojito (raspberry marmalade and freshly muddled mint leaves with a fizzy finish) and flamingo (fresh-blended watermelon juice layered over passion fruit juice).
Take note that you may wait a bit for these handcrafted drinks. The staff was upbeat and industrious but with the many possible variations, workers had to consult order tickets a few times. This is something that will likely improve with time as the crew becomes more familiar with the menu.
Teaspsoon (5601 California Ave Suite 300) is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Visit teaspoonlife.com to view the menu. Ordering ahead is not yet available at this location.
Orange you glad we told you?
Speaking of new beverages, Dutch Bros, which is not ready to give into the fall rush of pumpkin drinks, has instead launched an end-of-summer treat.
Only available for two weeks, the blended orangesicle Rebel energy drink is infused with vanilla and orange with a soft cream top.
"It's not time to say goodbye to summer just yet," Mary Beugelsdijk, senior product manager at Dutch Bros, said in a news release. "The blended orangesicle Rebel is the ultimate summer drink that has a nostalgic kick making you feel like a kid again. Enjoy the sweet summertime while you can with a Dutch Bros in hand!"