The rich taste of peanut butter and the crunch of coconut and granola paired well with the light, fruity flavor of the acai. Josh Rhodes / Daily Nexus

Tucked away at the edge of Isla Vista’s commercial avenue, Pardall Road, lies the town’s newest hidden gem. The hit chain, Oakberry, originates from Brazil and has stores across the globe. Their December opening offers Isla Vista residents a taste of the country’s culture and a healthy fast food option, which I knew I had to go taste and review as soon as possible.

Oakberry was founded in 2016 by Georgios Frangulis and Renato Hairdar, who dreamt of changing the fast food landscape and its unhealthy perception; their menu offers robust, delicious fast food with its customer’s wellbeing and lifestyle in mind. The chain quickly spread around its native homeland of Brazil after the açaí phenomena took the South American country by storm and quickly opened over 100 stores domestically before expanding abroad in 2018 to the United States and Europe. 

The açaí berry is a delicious purple fruit originating from South America — more specifically, from the marsh and swamp lands in Brazil. Tasting similar to an infusion of blueberry and grape, the berry has been a staple in the diets of river-based communities along the Amazon River and offers a unique taste of the country that other foods can seldom hope to contend with. The fruit grows naturally on the Açaízeiro palm tree native to the forest and is harvested by locals and sold around the country. The açaí production cycle is core to the economic sustainability of indigenous riverside communities — like the Kambeba tribe — along the Amazon and helps protect the rainforest from deforestation as the trees do not need to be cut down in order for the fruit to be harvested. Rightly so, the açaí tree has gained the nickname the “Amazon Guardian.” 

Oakberry purchases their açaí berries from local harvesters in the northern river community of Brazil known as Santa Izabel do Pará, where they go through several sanitation treatments and quality selections in order to guarantee their delicious taste and texture. Oakberry’s açaí formula is 100% natural and doesn’t feature dyes, artificial preservatives or sugar syrups, as it seeks to preserve the natural taste and benefits of the açaí. In addition, their product can be enjoyed by anyone with dietary restrictions as it is certified by the Food and Drug Administration and United States Department of Agriculture, organic, vegan, dairy-free, halal, gluten-free and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point-certified. 

Oakberry’s comfy atmosphere includes two hanging rattan chairs. Josh Rhodes / Daily Nexus

The morning after a night out on the town, I wanted a refreshing delicious treat to help me perk up and get ready for my day. I was delighted by my glimpse into Oakberry as I was greeted by two hanging rattan chairs by the doorway which my butt would later fall in love with and randomly ran into some friends. Already regulars to Isla Vista’s Oakberry installment despite the store opening in December, we all placed our orders and sat down, eagerly awaiting our food.

 The menu mainly features smoothies, bowls, snacks and drinks with a few other products not listed on the menu available for purchase. Bowls and smoothies come in three sizes: classic (12 ounces), works (16 ounces) and the Oak (24 ounces) and can cost between $10 to $20, including unlimited free toppings. I purchased a works açaí bowl for $13.50 with banana, strawberry, blueberry, granola, coconut, chia seeds, peanut butter and cacao nibs and an Oakberry passion fruit-açaí kombucha. The brand makes their own unique flavor of kombucha using their signature açaí berries that I felt obligated to try.

 The colors of the different ingredients and the signature deep purple of the açaí immediately struck me as I got my first glance of my order. As I sunk into the first spoonful, I was greeted by an amalgamation of different fruity flavors and more crunchy bites from the granola and cacao nibs. My friends and I describe the açaí taste as similar to a bag of frozen mixed berries from the stores with an extra helping of ice: a delicious sorbet-like treat. I especially enjoyed the rich taste from the peanut butter, granola and coconut after I mixed my bowl’s ingredients together, which highlighted the light fruity taste of the fruit extremely well. I can’t help but agree with one of my friends’ offhanded comments about the flavor of her bowl, which she happily described as an “explosion in my mouth.” While I deeply enjoyed my work bowl, I wasn’t immediately impressed by the taste of my Oakberry kombucha. The drink was more carbonated than I expected, and while the taste eventually grew on me, I don’t think mixing the fruity flavor of the drink with my açaí bowl was the best duo. However, I am not an avid consumer of kombucha, so some might like the combination of the bubbly taste with the fruit. I definitely would not knock off trying it at least once since I did enjoy the drink eventually.

 All in all, I really enjoyed my first taste and visit to Oakberry. The açaí bowl was delicious and hit the exact sweet yet rich and protein-full meal I was craving after a night out. However, I did feel a little unsatisfied by how much I ended up paying after my first visit. While the unlimited free toppings — featuring additions like granola, cacao nibs, whey protein, peanut and almond butter, fruit and more — and the organic and freshly imported açaí from Brazil did help me explain the pricing to myself, I definitely did not need a drink to complement my bowl, and in the future I will bring my own water instead. Also, If I could change my order, I would add sweetened condensed milk to my bowl — a secret menu topping — which my Brazilian friend told me is how many in her country like to eat it. I am giving Oakberry a solid 8/10 rating, and would absolutely recommend visiting Isla Vista’s newest food destination as soon as you can!

A version of this article appeared on p. 7 of the January 25, 2023 version of the Daily Nexus.