Living in Northern NJ really is really fantastic. You are 10 minutes away from four malls, 45 minutes from the Jersey shore and 20-60 minutes away from New York City, depending on traffic.
This past weekend, two girlfriends and I decided to head over to Greenwich Village, which is stocked with boutiques, bars, trendy restaurants and where you'll find Chelsea Market.
Being that I am always searching for the next best gluten and dairy alternative, well, to basically everything, and after trolling through Instagram, I stumbled upon Mike & Dave's and decided to pay them a visit. If you're looking for an ice cream replacement and the next foodie trend, this is the place to go. Mike and Dave state it perfectly when they say they're offering "smoothies with structure." Its definitely not your typical ice cream replacement, but that is a welcomed change. They really are setting the bar for any newcomers that are joining the foodie and nutrition landscape.
Below I've laid out my review of the ambiance, menu, service and of course the "nice cream" (as Mike would say) for you to check out. There was no way I could try all their original blends (of which there are many), so my review is a tad limited. However, I can say with confidence I will be going back very soon!
Now remember, we are talking New York City where retail space is tiny, especially if you're just starting out, so I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of space. There is an elongated bar on the right hand side and by the front window with bar stools, which was nice considering it was in the 40's when we went. Who would want to eat their "nice cream" outside in the cold! It is also very bright, airy and they have laminated menus hanging on small clip boards to the left, which was a really nice touch. There is also a display of Anke's cookies which they use for a mix in. What I really loved was the transparency of the "back of the house". Once you place your order, you can literally see the ingredients, how they're stored and how the product is blended to perfection.
Wow, just wow! Being a Nutritionist, I can be a little skeptical when it comes to substitutes for not so healthy treats, but I was pleasantly surprised when I read the menu. First, you have a choice of a "snack me" or "meal me" size. I went for the "snack me" and I'm glad I did, because they certainly are generous with portion sizes. You then pick your base from a variety of choices such as banana, cherry, strawberry, blueberry or peanut butter (pb) which is made with a powdered peanut butter (PB2 brand). Finally, you choose your mix-ins which vary in category from chocolate, crunch, sweet, nuts, fruit, salty, protein and seed/spice. Obviously it took me 10 minutes to decide what I wanted because the options were so vast. All ingredients are also noted vegan and/or gluten free (v, gf), which makes choosing what you want seamless, especially if you have multiple
Regarding their protein choices, I was able to ask Mike what brands of protein they use which are Optimum Nutrition Whey and Orgain (plant based). Considering I work in the supplement industry, Mike and I had a great conversation about some alternatives especially to the whey due to Optimum's use of artificial sweeteners, colors and preservatives. Orgain has a great grass-fed whey I recommend to my one on one clients and is certified organic as well. I think they are on the right track in this category, but definitely could clean up the protein offerings a bit.
As I mentioned, Mike was there and helped me through my blend choice and answering all my questions. The service really was impeccable, especially with only having two people on staff when customers were constantly in and out. Anytime it even seemed like a customer had a question, Mike was quick to offer assistance. In the past I have had difficulty at food establishments when asking questions about allergens and can be a bit apprehensive, even today, but that feeling quickly faded after chatting with the staff here.
Finally, what I created!...
My concoction ended up being their peanut butter base with granola, banana, chia seeds and pistachios. If I had to choose a name, it would probably be the "Nutty Buddy Supreme" because the peanut butter and pistachio flavors really came through nicely. The consistency is similar to ice cream in that its creamy and its cold. It really does remind me of a smoothie bowl, but definitely heartier. I chose the "snack me" size as mentioned earlier and wasn't able to finish it! To be fair, my friends and I did just finish brunch not too long before. I was really happy with my choices nutritionally and for the most part regarding taste. When I return, I will probably choose a fruit base or add agave or honey to add a bit more sweetness. I noticed they offer "nice cream" sandwiches which made me think of using the cookies, breaking them up and creating sweet dips with the blends as well(I guess I had a cannoli cream and broken cannoli shell thing going on in my mind, lol). Being that we stayed in the shop, I was able to hear other customers reactions, and all were positive.
What I really would've liked was to sample their in house blends. Choices are a great thing, but sometimes it can make it difficult to make a decision, especially for those who are not apt to combining flavors properly. If I could offer a little advice, I'd challenge Mike and Dave to make samples of their blends and allow customers to taste them. With a new venture like this, not everyone is going to be open to this concept because ultimately it is a change in the food landscape, which can come with resistance. If there was some method of sampling, I think it would broaden "nice cream's" reach to those who are skeptical of the healthy foodie movement. I'd also love to see use of edible essential oils. Peppermint, lavender, basil, thyme, lemon and orange are great flavor additions while offering some health benefits as well. Even some fresh herbs would pair nicely with their fruity foundations such as basil, cilantro and mint (talk about detox). Experimentation leads to invention and innovation so I say go for it!
On their menu, they have a blend titled "muscle recovery meal" which I can appreciate being an avid weight lifter and bodybuilding bikini competitor. With that said, I would challenge Mike and Dave to configure the macros for each blend and each ingredient. That would really take their transparency another step further in addition to the current calorie listing they have.
All in all, I truly enjoyed my experience at Mike & Dave's. They are another testament to the fact that a movement is underway regarding health, wellness and nutrition. I typically post a rating on a 1-10 scale for each place I visit, but in all honesty don't think I can do that here. They're product is really innovative and I've truly never had anything like it, so it wouldn't be fair of me to rate. What I will say is that this is a spot that is definitely worth trying. I definitely anticipate seeing more locations open in the near future!