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O Jus: A Mile End Smoothie, Soup, and Internet Cafe

Posted by Amie / December 6, 2011

o Jus smoothies in the Mile EndWith construction taking a break for the holidays on avenue du Parc, it's definitely time to help out the restaurants and shops that line the street. With that in mind, I shuffled through the damp weather into the cupboard-sized oasis of Mile End cafe, O Jus. Full of colour and fresh fruit decorations/pizzazz, the smoothies, soups, and desserts here are a sight for both sore eyes and empty, unsatisfied stomachs. From the "Mile-End Smoothie" with wheatgrass, banana, and mango ($5.95) to the homemade muffins ($1.50) and one of the best bowls of soup in the area ($3.25/$4.25!), this Mile End is one of the loveliest places to hole up for lunch, dinner or a snack any time of the miraculouly construction-free day.

O Jus is a really cute little place that I first thought was called Gabytech because I can't read a sign properly and they were just setting up their internet cafe and computer repair centre at the time. 20111206_O-Jus-mile-end-internet-lounge.jpgThe three-stool window counter doesn't leave a lot of room for laptop browsing while sipping a smoothie or hot soup, so this isn't the kind of place you're going to while away the afternoon.

O-Jus-mile-end-smoothies-wheatgrassBut it is the kind of place you're going to grab one of those wheatgrass smoothies to go (a whole serving/shot of frozen wheatgrass and it doesn't even taste that green! Looks like I underestimated you, banana) or get a soup to eat while staring out the glass front window.

I'm picky about smoothies and juices. Sure, you can use frozen berries from wherever and whip up something cold and pretty smooth and sweet and filling. But then you can also carefully chop only the highest quality, well-chosen fresh fruits and vegetable daily, store them in a fridge instead of a freezer since they're not going to be sitting around long, and juice them to order. None of this guava or papaya from a frozen package stuff. The "Jeanne-Mance" with strawberry, mint, lime and honey is a safe bet ($4.75/$5.95), or try the "St-Urbain" with oatmeal, dates, your milk of choice (almond, soy, or rice I believe), and flax; the "Park Ave" with avocado, honey, and milk (a whole lot of avocado!), or the "Espalanade" with coconut milk, guava nectar, and banana. Okay, so there is guava nectar, but it's a whole lot better in nectar form than watered-down frozen pulp form. Plus it wasn't shipped in a refrigerated truck, and the packaging is recyclable at least.

Then the juices - careful mixes of fruits and vegetables leaning heavily on local apples, beets and sweets over savoury veggies, it's hard to escape sugar, but you can probably make a special request for something deliciously bitter. There's a juice for whatever ails or doesn't ail you: The "Blushing Beauty" (apples, beets, and celery) is just a little bit of salty-savoury mixed with a whole lot of tangy sweet. And for those in serious need of a medicinal kick there's the "juice that kills" (carrots, garlic, celery, parsley, and honey).

O Jus Cae's soup, panini, and cosmic cookiesI'm also picky about soup. It's all about broth - it's got to be homemade. ACTUALLY homemade. Not from a powder and preferably not even from an organic bouillon cube. That's a quick trick for making stock at home when you don't have a lot of space in your freezer to store leftover vegetable trimmings and/or bones (if you're not vegetarian), and don't just make stock constantly. At a cafe when you want just a simple bowl of comfort the first question to ask is "how do you make your soup stock?" They're going to have more than enough leftover vegetable trimmings with all the juicing that's going on, so it's nice to see the extra carrots and celery going to good use.

O jus cafe picture of soupWhen I like the answer, I'll probably like the soup. And I loved the soup here ($3.25 for a small, $4.75 for a large ikea bowl). I've tried three - red lentil, rice and vegetables, and tomato. They're intentionally not salty (some ould say very simple, plain or maybe even bland, but I disagree in this case because you could actually taste the flavour of the vegetables instead of having it be over-cooked mush soup), so the owner actually immediately offered me salt when I ordered the rice and vegetables.

Please never add salt without trying a dish first! The cook made the soup how they thought it should be, like a sushi chef is supposed to add the right amount of wasabi per piece under the fish on top of the rice in a piece of nigiri. So try it first, and then adjust if necessary. Your tastes may not be the same as the chef's, and that's allowed.

I ended up not thinking it needed any salt. She was right, it wasn't salty, and it was jumping with sharp flavour. No vinegars or corn syrup or sweeteners or MSG. Not that any of those necessarily make the soup worse (the latter two are maybe not things you want to be injecting every day, and as much as I love pickles, I don't want to turn into one), but this was soup in its purest form. The celery was still crunchy. The onions were silk, and a drizzle of olive on top pumped the soup up from simple home-cooking to satisfying gourmet. The red lentil tasted a little burnt in a good way - roasted spices, rich in inflammation-calming and digestion-helping properties. The tomato didn't impress, but only because I'm spoiled with Lufa Farms local almost-organic tomatoes in my weekly veggie box - fresh and actually flavourful year-round - instead of canned. The tomato soup here was one you could make simply at home with some onions, garlic, canned tomatoes, and broth, but if you're not the type to make it at home, here's a good place to get it at a good price (under $5 all-in for tons).

The owner told me she doesn't skimp on ingredients or flavours, but she doesn't add anything extra either. As in she makes her food how she wants to eat it. Only nourishing, healthy, and can-be-eaten daily kinds of foods. This isn't a splurge kind of place where you expect to go whole-hog, so to speak. Mostly vegetarian, mostly light, and always energizing could instead be the cafe's mantra.

So I already wrote a bunch about the wheatgrass smoothie, but this isn't a bohemian kind of place. The owner is a respectable, poised woman who amazes me every time I go there with her serene expression and natural grace. She's not a doe-eyed youngster opening a cafe on a whim, but neither is she a tired owner whose been there her whole life and doesn't love it anymore. It's very much her cafe, and it's very much her love. You can tell she's comfortable there, and you can be too. It feels like there's an invisible sign on the door that says, "Welcome to my home. You're a guest and I'm happy to have you here."

And there's maybe another one next to it that says, "And would you like a cookie?"20111206_O-Jus-mile-end-cosmic-cookies.jpg...because they have a few of those. Made with a mix of seeds and grains, these aren't gluten-free, but they're packed with enough good-for-you things that you could get away with having them for breakfast. There were also the banana muffins straight out of the oven. A bit of margarine and all organic flour, and made fresh, they sat on a little cooling rack on the counter, just like someone's home kitchen.muffins and energy ballsGo for the energy balls if you really want to feel like you're doing something good for yourself, though. A little goes a long way, so resist the urge to sample one of everything. Actually, the large soup is pretty hefty, depending on which soup you choose. If you've got to take something to run and you're not a fan of a liquid lunch, there are also a few ciabatta panini like brie, apple, and walnut or goat cheese and sun-dried tomato.O-Jus-mile-end-sandwiches-ciabattaThe bread isn't made in-house, and there aren't any gluten-free sandwich options either, but with such a range of juices, smoothies, organic hot chocolate, and espresso, O Jus is out to set itself up as a neighbourhood staple. They're going to need more space, though, because this cafe has everything else it needs for success.

O-Jus-mile-end-smoothies-soupO Jus
Where: 5443 avenue du Parc (at St-Viateur)
How Much: $10 for a very large soup, energy ball, and coffee including tax. Juices around $6.



Magda / February 10, 2012 at 05:01 pm
Another ostensibly amazing place that has no gluten free options.

This city should shape up. Please!
Amie / February 11, 2012 at 06:58 am
Yes, I agree! Even their little energy balls have oats I'm pretty sure. I asked about everything. BUT! I just went to the new place in Place Ville-Marie yesterday that has a bunch of raw vegan options (they also have an amazing looking chocolate cake made with white flour : (

So there are a few more options slowly coming out of the woodwork.

Check it out:
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