Taste the rainbow

Health-conscious salad and smoothie shop blows into East Austin

Health-conscious salad and smoothie shop blows into East Austin

Willow & Co Austin salad
Willow & Co specializes in vibrant salads, toasts, and smoothies. Willow & Co/Facebook

Regulars at Wright Bros. Brew & Brew may have noticed a sign popping up in mid-March on the building's patio walkway. They might have even overlooked it, thinking the slim typography and name — Willow & Co — advertised a new upscale boutique or indie jeweler, and not Austin’s newest spot for grab-and-go food.

Owner Valerie Williamson admits the moniker was a gamble. She borrowed a nickname from a longtime friend as way to differentiate her concept from the scores of shops with “juice” in their name. But it also aptly describes an approach that takes the hippie trappings out of health food.

Willow & Co "very softly" opened on March 15, according to Williamson, and has a vibe that’s worlds away from the visual clutter of many local juice shops. The space, opened along with business partner Richard Kooris, is minimal and almost entirely white, save for a wood counter and scattered houseplants. There is even a Marie Kondo quote on its Facebook page to drive the point further home.

That cleanness extends to the fare. “I had a healthy upbringing and a real love for food,” Williamson says, noting that her parents grew and raised their own food. The principles instilled in her from an early age extend to the shop, where she uses local and organic produce and agave, honey, or fruit as sweeteners instead of refined sugar.

“The only thing that has sugar is Nutella,” she says.

The menu is simple with a selection of smoothies, toasts, and salads with house dressings like beet vinaigrette and spicy peanut. There are also frittatas for vegetarians and carnivores alike and a turmeric soup made with coconut milk, shiitake mushrooms, baby spinach, ginger, garlic, and serrano peppers.

Although Austinites can get similar fare at several places around town, Williamson adds unexpected ingredients like protein powder or blue algae to most of the offerings for an extra oomph of health. Guests can also get foods made with increasingly popular CBD oil.

“Everything is sprinkled with something good for you,” she says.

Now that Willow & Co has found a groove, Williamson said the shop is entering a new phase. Though it was originally sourcing juice from a local purveyor, Willow & Co now is making everything to order. New menu items are on the way, too, to accommodate paleo and keto diets. There’s even a CBD frozen pop just in time for balmy weather.

Williamson says eventually she might expand the concept if she can find other markets where there’s a gap. But for now, she is brightening up East Austin, one smoothie at a time.