By Jermaine Rowley
For The Diamondback
For Blanca Bejarano, a recent graduate of the University of Maryland, the opening of Frutta Bowls on Route 1 is a welcome respite from her drives to Beltsville, where she used to purchase acai bowls.
But it could also liven up her Instagram feed.
"It's a very trendy thing. We like to post it on social media," she said with a laugh.
The restaurant, which serves acai, pitaya, kale and oatmeal-based fruit bowls and smoothies, is the latest in a string of recent business opening near the university, including the College Park Grill and the Cambria Hotel.
Brazilian acai berries are blended with bananas to make the base for some of the restaurant's fruit bowls, and pitaya — also referred to as dragon fruit — is blended with pineapple, banana and almond milk for others.
The restaurant opened last month beneath The Varsity next to Bobby's Burger Palace.
Bowls are about $10, while smoothies are about $7. The restaurant also caters, according to Kelsey Healy, the owner of the College Park location, and the owner of Frutta Bowls's first location in New Jersey.
"It's just all natural fruit and everyone is loving it," Healy said. "And all of those three bowls we add granola on top, fresh fruit and a twist, so it can be either peanut butter, Nutella, honey, coconut and all that fun stuff."
Healy says business at the College Park location has been going well, even though the restaurant's opening was delayed.
Originally, it was scheduled to open in April but was pushed back after a holdup "with the town and permits," according to Healy. She notes that the restaurant's opening was delayed further to await students returning to campus for the fall semester.
"I recommend this place to everybody," said Matthew Dixon, who has been the maintenance manager of The Varsity for nine years. Dixon said College Park needs more healthy eating options like Frutta Bowls.
Dixon said he drinks the Pink Flamingo every day. It's an organic pitaya-based smoothie with banana, mango, pineapple, honey and sweetened almond milk.
Jake Brodsky, an alumnus of the university, was also sipping the Pink Flamingo while playing on the store's checkerboard with Laura Cholvibul, who has lived in Prince George's County for four years.
"I've just graduated and over the four years I was here, it changed so drastically," Brodsky said.
The recent openings on the Route 1 corridor near the campus, of everything from a Whole Foods to The Hotel at the University of Maryland, a development that included several restaurants, all play into the city and university's push to become a "Top 20 college town by the year 2020."
Despite the emergence of new developments, Sandra Kum, a senior public health science major who is also an employee at Frutta Bowls, said she thinks College Park is still a "food swamp."
"If you go to Route 1, you'll only see Chipotle and Panda Express and it's kind of the same stores in Stamp — there's McDonald's and Chick-Fil-A," she said.
Kum says traffic to the restaurant comes and goes due to the summer, but she thinks it will pick up once classes began in a few weeks.
Senior public health science major Genesis Sandoval welcomed the addition of a healthier alternative to fast food in the area, but expressed concern about the restaurant's pricing.
"I've just seen these acai bowls or whatever on social media, Instagram, Facebook here and there," Sandoval said. "This could have a positive impact on students. … They could come here instead of getting a cheeseburger or something from McDonald's. The pricing might be an issue."
Healy said although the prices are high, the meals are filling.
"If you eat one of these bowls instead of going out to another restaurant for a meal, these are really, really filling," Healy said.