Clean your machine: The Juice Laundry opens a coffeehouse-style vegan hangout

The Juice Laundry goes beyond the cleanse to offer vegan-friendly fare at its new location in the Coca-Cola building on Preston Avenue. Photo: Ron Paris The Juice Laundry goes beyond the cleanse to offer vegan-friendly fare at its new location in the Coca-Cola building on Preston Avenue. Photo: Ron Paris

Mike Keenan has a message for all the carnivores out there: Being a vegan doesn’t mean gnawing on carrots all day. In fact, it turns out vegan grub is actually pretty tasty when done right.

Keenan introduced The Juice Laundry’s cold-pressed fruit-and-vegetable juices to Charlottesville in 2013. He started out making small batches of nutrient-dense juices in a corner of Carpe Donut’s kitchen in McIntire Plaza to distribute around town, and his goal from the beginning was to open a juice bar with an extensive menu of smoothies, salads, soups and other vegan-friendly goodies.

Two weeks ago, Keenan welcomed his first customer into the new Juice Laundry storefront next door to Blue Ridge Cyclery in the Coca-Cola building on Preston Avenue. Just as he envisioned, the space feels a lot like a coffee shop—long communal table, couch with throw pillows, free Wi-Fi—but with completely different offerings. The menu doesn’t contain a single animal product, because Keenan says he wanted to create a place where vegetarians and vegans could walk in and not have to wonder, “What can I eat?”

The shop’s hours are 7am-8pm Monday through Saturday and 8am-3pm Sunday, and Keenan says he’s excited to offer healthier first-thing-in-the-morning options.

“Breakfast is oddly deficient in terms of healthy, easy options,” Keenan says. “And that’s crazy, because if you’re thinking about whether you want to start your day out right, it should be the opposite. Breakfast should be the meal when you really fuel your body so you don’t have that 2pm hangover from the butter-soaked biscuit or bagel.”

A large display board upfront features more than a dozen colorful tiles, each one with a description of a juice, nut milk or cold-brew coffee. Keenan’s original concoctions such as the Gentle Green (kale, spinach, cucumber, grapefruit and apple) are still on the menu, but so are several new juices like the Guava Green (spinach, pineapple and Caribe Juice’s guava fruit) and Coco Gold (coconut water, coconut meat, coconut sugar, turmeric, cinnamon and cardamom).

The cooler is stocked with a rainbow of hefty glass bottles, many with distinct horizontal lines where the juices separate, plus other treats like avocado-based chocolate mousse and chocolate chia pudding—and when they say “chia pudding,” they don’t mean just a few seeds sprinkled on top. You get a mouthful of the gummy, fiber-rich seeds with every bite of the pudding, which contains filtered water, almonds, cacao, dates, chia seeds, maple syrup and pink salt.

For something a little more substantial than juice (for breakfast or otherwise), Keenan says the smoothie bowls have been the most popular menu items so far. All the smoothies, like the Superman (banana, dates, blueberries, dragon fruit, goji berries and almond milk) and his favorite, the Blaze (mango, ginger, cayenne pepper, banana, strawberries, dates and cashew milk), can be served as a “bowl,” which is exactly what it sounds like: a freshly-blended smoothie poured into a bowl with toppings such as granola, fruit and chia seeds.

Salads and soups haven’t made their way onto the menu yet, but Keenan promises they’re coming. Not only that, but he boldly promises that even the most die-hard meat eaters will appreciate his vegan chili.