Fare Is Fair

Fare Is Fair

As the sun peeked out after a day of drizzle, I popped into Pedals Smoothie & Juice Bar on the corner of State and East Streets. The decor lived up to the name: bike gears framed a mirror and chalkboard, wheels turned into art on a wall, a bicycle doubled as a console table. A loveseat looked comfy, while tables and chairs were arranged to take advantage of large windows, with more seating outside.

The focused menu—smoothies, bowls, juices and now toasts—also amped up the bike theme with names like Midnight Ride, Fat Tire, Beet You Up the Hill and Acai You At The Finish Line. Unsurprisingly, co-owner Katie Hughes-Nelson loves to ride bikes and, before the pandemic, purchased a bike-blender—a bike-powered Vitamix blender. The contraption turned out not to be feasible for the business, but it’s emblematic of her thinking about health and wellness.

At Pedals, cold-pressed juices are made daily, as are nut butters—which can be purchased separately—and dairy-free milks, or “mylks.” Everything is plant-based, and the only ingredient with gluten is the toast itself. Hughes-Nelson says she sources as much as possible locally or through fair trade. Made without palm oil, Pedals’s “Newtella” contains organic, ethically harvested cacao.

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The Eli Whitney Museum and Workshop - The Leonardo Challenge

I started my sampling with one of the vibrantly colored juices displayed in the mini fridge: the Healthy Green ($8) a tangy, slightly savory combo of kale, cucumber, celery, green apple, lemon and ginger. Primed for more, I sipped on the fruity, creamy Beach Cruiser ($8.50), an eye-grabbing summery sky blue smoothie made of coconut mylk, pineapple, orange juice, banana, blue spirulina and crème de coco.

After conferring with friendly staff, who showed me the wide range of the “signature bowl” bases, I chose The Criterium ($12) with its raspberry-hued mix of dragon fruit, pineapple, banana and strawberries. A sign near the register explained that dragon fruit, or pitaya, is rich in antioxidants, including Vitamin C, and prebiotics, which foster the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Topped with strawberries, bananas, shredded coconut and Newtella that had literally been made the minute before, the bowl was visually pleasing and ample enough to serve as lunch. The variety of textures and flavors led to a game of what combination do I want on my spoon next?

Like the other utensils and containers, that spoon was reusable and compostable. For their bottled juices, Pedals offers “looped packaging,” in which bottles can be returned, sanitized and reused. Each time a customer brings one back, they get a dollar. So far, over 5,000 bottles have been returned.

As the pandemic set in, business slowed at Perk on Main, the Middletown restaurant Hughes-Nelson owns with her husband, Patrick Nelson, and she had time to “deepen my thinking” about environmental issues and healthy eating. In November 2020, she and Nelson opened the first Pedals in Durham, followed in 2021 by two New Haven locations, first on State Street and then on York near Broadway. While Pedals is in some ways less complicated than Perk, the former has Hughes-Nelson mulling more complex ethical issues, what’s “important in our hearts” and “what our kids eat and drink.”

If you too grapple with such questions, or if you just like tasty, healthy fare, pedal over to Pedals and give Hughes-Nelson’s answers a try.

Pedals Juice & Smoothie Bar
999 State St, New Haven – (203) 745-3558
284 York St, New Haven – (485) 655-2105

Written and photographed by Heather Jessen.

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