Three months after the grand opening of Poké Perfect, a possible competitor, with the name of Juicy Drop, arrived on Thursday, Aug. 10.
December 4, 2017
At first glance, one would not assume that the green leafed exterior of Juicy Drop could contain anything other than juice.
Customers however, will be surprised by what lies waiting for them inside.
Originally from Korea, the owner Tae Woo Kim (TK) lived in Boston. There, he saw how juice and salad bars have taken off in California and across the country.
The common issue that he encountered though, is that these juices weren’t very appetizing.
“I’ve gone to some juice bars around the country and tasted [the juice] and it was not good,” TK said. “When I asked about it, they say, ‘Oh, well this is the healthy one.’ We believe that healthy food can be delicious. That’s why I go to the farmer’s market to find the best produce.”
TK often frequents the Dekalb Farmer’s Market to get produce for his new batch of juices each morning.
“Every morning I go get the fruit and vegetables, and I come here and press the juice,” he said. “I like to do the green juices first thing in the morning. I never make the juice in the afternoon because once I make it in the afternoon, I have to sell it tomorrow, and tomorrow it will not taste as fresh for the customers.”
With easy access to the farmers’ market and a demographic open to organic and fresh foods, TK knew that Decatur was the place for him.
“I didn’t want to be anywhere like a mall,” he said. “When people come in, it is mostly random and out of curiosity, and that is better. Here is like in Boston, people just walk in and they love to eat here, but also, a lot of people don’t really know about our salads and poké because our name is Juicy Drop. They think that it is just a juice bar.”
The name TK chose for his restaurant actually covers many aspects of the restaurant.
“The name Juicy Drop not only refers to the juice that we sell but the salad and poké dressings, the smoothies and the fact that we press all of our juices. The juice is dropped and that is what is special.”
Along with some friends of his in South Korea, TK partnered with a company called Good Nature Cold Press. TK uses the CT7, the safest, most compact efficient cold press in the line. It’s range of capabilities allow TK to add juice to a number of items on his menu.
“Other places like Smoothie King try to put in whatever to make it full,” TK said. “They have frozen fruit which has no taste and they put in the powder so the taste of their smoothies is always the same. My smoothies are called ‘smoothie juice.’ That means we minimize the ice, and we don’t put any magic powder or frozen fruit.”
The health of his customers and the quality of his food is the most important aspect of his restaurant.
“This is a really hard job because everything sold has to be fresh,” TK said. “If a vegetable is not fresh, or an apple, pineapple or orange is not sweet, it’s not delicious actually. It is hard but I really love to do this work. My family is going to be healthy and my customers are going to be healthy.”
While poké was not in his original plan and is not his main focus, TK was inspired by the success of restaurants like Chipotle.
“The reason why Chipotle is a big success is that they show something to the customers,” he said. “The customers get to see how the bowls are made right in front of them. I wanted to do that too.”
With everything laid out in front of them, customers build their own poké bowls and can choose up to two types of protein, endless veggies and toppings and combinations of homemade poké dressing to add onto their Juicy Drop rice.
After eating Poké Perfect, Will Whatley decided to try Juicy Drop to see if the poké there met his expectations.
“When I first walked in, I thought that the vibe at Juicy Drop was amazing,” Whatley said. “It’s so chic, and it literally looks like an Apple Store. They have all of these cool plants and smooth jazz and seats that you can just sit in and chill.”
Whatley found that poké bowls at Juicy Drop had their own style.
“Juicy Drop seasons their sushi rice which was not something I expected,” he said. “Sushi rice is usually really plain but I really liked it because it had more flavor.”
With endless meat, toppings and dressings, Whatley found that he got his money’s worth.
“At Juicy Drop, the meats that you can put in your bowl are all the same price which is pretty cool,” Whatley said. “There is no limit on what meat you can get because of price. When I was ordering, [TK] was really helpful and walked me through everything. When he started adding shrimp to my bowl, he was like ‘Do you want more?’ and I was so surprised that I just responded ‘What?’ and he was like ‘Do you want more?’ and I was in awe and I just said ‘Hell yeah.’ There was shrimp in every bite.”
With so many options, Whatley was only able to try the poké bowl but is excited to try other menu items.
“The fact that they do cold pressed juices and açaí bowls is awesome,” he said. “I really want to try some of the juices and smoothies, and the açaí bowls. Everything is all so fresh, it’s incredible.”
TK hopes to give his customers a wide range of choices, fit for any time of the day.
“At Poké Perfect, they only really focus on the poké,” he said. “I believe that it is really dangerous to sell just one thing. My customers will get something different. A lot of people come here and will get the açaí bowl, smoothie or my juice. We have a good combination with the juice and poké because it is great for health.”
Outside of the restaurant, TK intends to connect customers to local farmers so that they know where the produce in their food is coming from.
He aspires to instill pride in local farmers and introduce customers to fresh food producers in their community.
“Once my sales go up, I’m going to start getting more produce from local farmers,” TK said. “We want to make a board with pictures of farmers and tell their story to show the customers where they got their food from. It will be a big chalk board saying ‘today’s spinach is from…wherever.’ But every day it will change.”