Liam – June 11, 2018
As a dedicated recreational cyclist, my favorite time to pedal about is early mornings before the rest of this city is up and at ’em. Usually, I’ll head out with no particular destination or route in mind, but the other morning was different. I was headed to the Gold Coast for some juice—Danish-inspired juice.
I love juice—any kind at all—almost as much as I love riding my bike through Chicago’s empty morning streets, and since the weather was finally right, I headed out to a juice joint I’d been waiting for months to try. Joe & The Juice opened its first store in 2002 in Copenhagen, and from its inception, it has been a juice joint unlike any other you’ve been to or heard of.
The buzz was that it was a Coyote Ugly but with good-looking men behind the counter slinging healthful libations instead of attractive women slinging liver picklers. I went to a Coyote Ugly bar once. Didn’t like it; not my thing. So I wasn’t sure about Joe & the Juice, but I had to try it before I knocked it.
Remember the movie “Cocktail,” starring Tom Cruise, Elisabeth Shue and Bryan Brown? It’s the one where Cruise is a bartender who flips bottles and glasses and tosses ice and—WOW! BOOM!—it’s a rum and Coke! This kind of bar tending is what the industry now calls “flair bartending.” Well, Joe & The Juice has built a reputation—and a competition—on that same idea. The annual competition—the ShowOff— is a thing to behold. Who’d have thunk being a juicer could be so exciting?
The store I rode to is Chicago’s flagship (10 E. Delaware Place). They open at 6:00 a.m. every weekday but Wednesday, when they open at 7:00 a.m., like on weekends. I arrived shortly after 6:00. The joint was empty, save for the three employees behind the counter, none of whom was exceptionally hunky—two women and one guy with a slim build. And that’s not a dig, simply a statement of truth. None of them was shirtless or twirling blenders on their heads as I had expected, even at 6:00 a.m. on a Tuesday. The décor made it look less like a typical juice place and more like a nightclub lounge where bottle service would be offered. Smooth hip-hop and R&B jammed through the sound system.
The menu at Joe & The Juice is what you’d expect from a juice joint. There are juices and smoothies, shakes, sandwiches, coffees…one of the juicers, Denia, informed me that the espresso machine was down, however. No matter. I wasn’t there for the Joe. I was there for the juice. I chose “Joe’s Identity“: spinach, kale, broccoli, lemon and cucumber. I requested some spice, you know, to give my morning a kick. “Add some chili,” I said. Denia liked my choice. It was 85 calories and cost me just over 12 bucks.
Was it worth it? That depends on how you value a dollar. What I can tell you is that it was a really good cup of juice. It put me in the mood for all things summer—and Danish. By lunchtime, I was craving a smørrebrød; I like mine with salmon and red onion. Thankfully, The Danish Home’s Annual Summerfest is coming up on June 23, when the open-faced sandwiches will be offered as well as a multitude of other enjoyable things, like a bakery booth, BBQ ribs, games for the kids and a bouncy house (which I may be too big for but I’m going to politely attempt admission anyway). This year’s theme is “Chasing the Blues Away,” and with all the fun, food and games and a performance from a Blues Brothers tribute band, Summerfest 2018 is sure to send any blues you’ve got packing.
My experience with my juice that morning is just the thing Joe & The Juice founder and CEO Kaspare Basse set out to give patrons. His story is interesting, unlikely even, and inspiring. He’s completely self-aware and unapologetic in his approach to business. He puts all of his scruples in the people he hires. He expects his juicers to be experts and performers—so much more than mere baristas.
Joe & The Juice is really shaking up the industry. In no time, it’s going to give Starbucks a run for its money. There are currently three Joe & The Juice locations in Chicago—the flagship store on Delaware, one at 8 East Huron and the third at 215 West Hubbard. And they’re growing. Currently, Joe & The Juice has 247 locations worldwide. According to Denia, they aim to have over 100 locations in Chicago city limits alone by 2020.
At this point, you’re likely asking yourself, “What makes this juice so Danish?” Simple. Joe & The Juice is yet another example of Danish ingenuity. It’s something new, something challenging and something bold, and something that works. There’s nothing more Danish than that.