As the final days of Cambridgian winters draw to an end (save a few snowstorms interspersed between 60-degree days), Harvard students begin to emerge from their thinly insulated colonial dorms and shed their goose-feather overcoats in exchange for sunglasses and T-shirts. Nothing could be more timely than the opening of Harvard Square’s newest establishment and blackhole for college student dollars: Life Alive.
Life Alive is a Boston-area chain of cafes that serve organic, plant-based dishes. With a cluster of brightly colored balloons welcoming visitors into a bohemian space decorated with aptly chosen hanging flowers and beach signs, Harvard Square’s Life Alive exudes a sense of calmness. The first floor is bright and floral, lined with colorful furniture and exposed brick, and when coupled with “Mystery of Love” by Sufjan Stevens playing on the loudspeaker, the restaurant’s ambience feels neither artificial nor deliberate.
Life Alive’s menu takes special care to highlight the various health benefits of their products. For example, lattes: a Matcha for “Stress Relief,” or a “Heart Opening” Mexican Chocolate. And their “Greens” menu section is hardly Annenberg lettuce: some bowls come with kalamata olives and bok choy, others “forbidden” (black) rice.
When asked to recommend the quirkiest items on their menu, Life Alive cashiers gamely proposed “Blue Magic” — a smoothie made of blue-green algae, coconut in three different forms, and chia, among other ingredients found only at Whole Foods. Alongside the Blue Magic smoothie, they also recommended Watermelon Poke, which although not in season still sounded intriguing enough to try.
“Blue Magic” tasted, unsurprisingly, much like coconut. The smoothie comes in a glass jar, with no straw because Life Alive doesn’t have straws. Although this omission was not a problem for this drink, as it had a more or less homogeneous consistency, thicker smoothies like the Mango Slush require a spoon for consumption. The smoothie itself had an overall mild taste, although it was rather gritty at the bottom due to the chia seeds. The smoothie’s greatest appeal is its color: something that falls between baby blue and cornflower. There is some self-satisfaction in knowing you’re getting your daily antioxidants through flashy health foods bolstered by everyone’s favorite cyanobacteria. All in all, this melted coconut gelato drink should have been icier for a more refreshing experience. Just as adding banana to a smoothie automatically makes it a banana smoothie, Blue Magic’s amalgamation of unique ingredients were lost in the overpowering flavor of coconut.
The watermelon poke was surprisingly good at impersonating fish: dispersed chunks of watermelon soaked with just enough chili lime and ginger miso vinaigrette flavor meant the only indication of watermelon was the subtly crunchy texture. Other pieces still retained a hint of sweetness, which combined with the mango pieces proved to be the perfect balance between savory and sweet. Despite the watermelon poke being labeled a seasonal dish, coupled with the juxtaposition of Life Alive’s beachy interior design against the month-old snow mound somehow still existing outside, the vegetables and flavors proved impressively fresh and alive. Certainly worth a re-order!
Life Alive feels like the perfect place to wistfully stare out at a bustling JFK Street, pretending to aimlessly stir (remember, no straws) my Golden Milk latte, after a long day sustained on multivitamins and seminar classes. It would be the place to go to aggressively type out emails while indulging in a palate of all conceivable forms of vegetables, fruits, and macro and micro nutrients. It is, to put it succinctly, incredibly vibeacious.