Andrea Snyder is all about healthy, convenient and local dining – whether that’s a full, family meal; an easy, nutritious breakfast; a cup of coffee with a friend; or a quick, vitamin-rich juice shot on the way to a gym.
The Birmingham entrepreneur has all that covered.
Snyder and her husband, David, first brought us Urban Cookhouse, a farm-to-fire-to-table fast-casual restaurant, in 2010. They now own a licensee group that includes the Homewood, Summit, downtown Birmingham and Tuscaloosa locations, and Urban Cookhouses are in three other Alabama cities as well as four other states.
“We were one of the first concepts to bring local food to the fast-casual segment and figure out how to do it at that price point, which is $10 to $12 a meal,” she says.
Farm Bowl + Juice Co., which the Snyders founded in Homewood in January 2018, is just as forward thinking.
The small, bright storefront with an Instagrammable abstract mural outside and charming rope swings on the porch, is a neighborhood wellness stop specifically designed to promote a lifestyle of clean eating.
Farm Bowl came about because the Snyders recognized a need and had a place for it.
When they outgrew their original Urban Cookhouse location in downtown Homewood, they moved to a new building up the street. There was a sliver of extra space in the new location, so they decided to create another brand that complemented Urban Cookhouse but didn’t compete with it. From traveling, they were familiar with the juice bar and wellness café concept. They have since opened a second location in Tuscaloosa.
“We wanted it to be a wellness brand, and so we decided that we would be plant-based,” Snyder says.
“We have no animal products. We want you to always feel good. So we make cold-pressed juices. All of our smoothies are exactly what’s listed on the menu with whole ingredients like almond milk and coconut milk. We have overnight oats and coffee. It’s just a good place to come for clean eating,” she adds, whether that’s a snack or meal replacement or breakfast or lunch or something in between.
Acai berry bowls are at the center of the colorful, healthy menu, which includes oatmeal bowls, cold-pressed juices and smoothies, juice shots, toasts, juice cleanses and a kids’ menu featuring acai and oatmeal bowls and a strawberry smoothie.
Some of the ingredients, like acai berries and mango, are tropical but the Snyders source Alabama ingredients as much as possible. The same area farmers and makers who supply Urban Cookhouse also deliver here. This not only insures the restaurants have fresh, flavorful foods, but there’s also an economic impact and a sense of social responsibility in supporting the farms. “We’ve partnered with these farmers for a long time,” Snyder says, “So it was easy to … just get them to come next door and drop off another batch of something.”
There are in-season strawberries, blueberries and blackberries from Smitherman Farms; kale, spinach, honeydew and watermelon from Southern Oaks Farm; and year-round honey from Eastaboga Bee Co.; wheatgrass from Southern Organics; and coffee roasted locally at Seeds Coffee Co. Framed photos of these trusted partners line the walls of the restaurants.
The ingredients are made into things like the popular Nutty Professor, a bright, satisfying acai bowl. It has Sambazon Açai Berry Sorbet as the base, and then they add strawberries, almonds, granola, peanut butter and local honey. The staff can recommend add-ons, like sliced bananas, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds or cacao nibs.
Oatmeal bowls, with Farm Bowl’s blend of overnight oats, come topped with a variety of things, such as almond butter, local honey, chia seeds, hemp seeds, blueberries, strawberries, apples, nutmeg, cinnamon, toasted quinoa, walnuts and pecans.
The Power Up smoothie is a blend of almond milk, coconut water, avocado, blueberry, spinach, banana, coconut butter, cocoa nibs, chia seeds, hemp seeds, local honey and cinnamon. Recommended add-ons include vegan protein, nutmeg, spirulina or freshly made Seeds coffee ice cubes. The Bounce Back has kale, chard, almond milk, banana, local honey; chia seeds, cinnamon, vegan protein and ginger can be added.
There are cold-pressed juices for every need.
The Refresh is made with watermelon, mint, cucumber and beets; Hydrate works with coconut water, pear, cucumber and honeydew; Gym & Juice is a mixture of honeydew, apple, spinach, spirulina, lemon and celery.
Wellness shots, which Andrea showcased at a chef’s demo at The Market at Pepper Place this summer, are made to order like all the smoothies and bowls and avocado and honey toasts.
The Limelight is turmeric, lime, wheatgrass and cayenne. Cider is made with apple cider vinegar, apple and turmeric. The OG juice shot, with wheatgrass, lemon, ginger and cayenne, is especially tasty. So is the Fireball combination of lemon, ginger and cayenne.
Juice cleanses are daily combinations of juices and shots that cost $40 and $50. The “summer cleanse challenge” is popular with Farm Bowl’s Instagram followers.
“Our most loyal customers, the ones who spend the most money here, are actually men,” Snyder says. They are fitness-minded folks who like to order online and utilize the stores’ drive-thru for pre- and post-workouts in the afternoon. Her regulars include Samford and UAB students, moms looking for a nutritious after-school snack for their kids, and people just stopping by for a casual meeting over a bite of something healthy.
“Our customer base is very diverse, but they also are very educated,” she says. “They know exactly what kind of food this is.” The store draws plenty of visitors from out of town. “We’ve had a lot of celebrities here,” Andrea says. Courteney Cox is one of them. Lots of people in town with HGTV from the West Coast or New York City stop in, too, she says. “This is the way they’ve been eating for 15 years. They Google a juice spot and find us.”
The Farm Bowl staff is educated, too.
“We try very hard at that,” Snyder says. “We have an advanced menu test they have to take.”
Each item offers specific health benefits and some, like wheatgrass, have multiple benefits. The staff is educated on these uses and can steer customers toward foods that will, for example, fuel a workout or help with recovery.
Farm Bowl + Juice Co. provides a fresh, fun and convenient way to consume optimum nutrition, but Snyder wants it to be a place of fellowship, too. She has been pleasantly surprised by the social media following Farm Bowl has inspired. The store features photos of #farmbowlfamous fans online and in stores.
“I want people to make this a part of their lifestyle, to realize that this is convenient. It is a good value. We’re always going to take care of our customers. We also love for them to think of us as an alternative to your coffee shop. I want more of this,” she says, pointing to two young women deep in conversation at a nearby table. “Come and have something healthy besides a muffin. We have great Wi-Fi, and we’d love for you to just come and hang out all day.”
Farm Bowl & Juice Co.
1920 29th Ave. S.
Homewood, Alabama 35209
1470 Northbank Parkway #170
Tuscaloosa, Alabama 35406
7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
8 a.m. to 7 p.m.