Real fruit, nothing artificial, blended fresh daily: those are the first few things to hear or see when at the new Chulitas Authentic Juice Bar. Open only since Bend's Summer Fest in July, the colorful juice bar-cart is already making a big impression on locals and tourists alike. But let's back up a minute.
Olivia Carrasco and Edgar Tapia were taking a trip up the California/Oregon coast to celebrate Carrasco's birthday, never intending on making a side trip to Central Oregon. But there they were, in a small southern Oregon beach town, thinking about how they'd really like to visit a place with maybe a bit more variety of things to do (no offense to the beach, of course). They did a little googling and mapping and made the decision to trek across the mountains and see what Bend was all about.
- Chulitas Authentic Juice Bar Owner Oliva Carrasco.
You probably already know the rest of the story: They immediately fell in love with Central Oregon, and after poking around all its nooks and crannies realized that nobody was offering their version of aguas frescas. In Spanish, aguas frescas means "cool waters" or "fresh waters." Aguas frescas are refreshing, non-alcoholic beverages made from fruits, cereals, flowers or seeds blended with sugar and water. Quite popular in Mexico, Central America and parts of the U.S.— including California where Carrasco and Tapia grew up—the drinks are often sold by street vendors. Common flavors include tamarind, hibiscus and horchata. Typical fruits used in the drinks include prickly pear, cantaloupe, guava, mango, passion fruit, cucumber and lemon.
Once the couple decided to make the move from Bakersfield to the lovely burg of Bend, they knew at once this was the place for them to launch their juice bar. Tapia says they were impressed with all the food and drink offerings here but noticed that something was missing. He explains, "We saw a lot of great cocktails in town, but not much as far as alcohol-free for families and kids. We wanted to bring a nice, fresh, fancy drink without alcohol."
- Honeydew Chia is an original Chulitas Agua Fresca Flavor.
Yes, their drinks are inspired by aguas frescas but, as already pointed out, they're using real fruit and real sugar, no syrups, nothing artificial; they're blending fresh daily and riffing on classic flavors and combinations while constantly experimenting with brand new ideas, such as the recent honeydew-chia offering. Carrasco says many of the new flavors come from their customers, as they're constantly asking their fans what they'd like to see on the menu. And they're making their drinks the way their abuelas (grandmothers) and mamas made them: from scratch! As Carrasco puts it, "We are excited to share our culture and our flavors here in Central Oregon."
When you step up to the vibey Chulitas cart, there's a choice of several different colorful, handcrafted drinks, many with complex ingredients, ladled out of huge Vitroleros (the traditional jars that hold aguas frescas). If you prefer, you can have that drink served in a large, rimmed cup. No, the rim is not just salt or sugar but a special Mexican candy that is melted down into a delicious spicy, sugar-like mixture that is perfect for rolling the edge of a glass or cup in; it makes you feel like you're having a fancy cocktail. A fan from Florida, who has a second home here in Central Oregon, was raving about the Chulitas drinks on the recent afternoon that this writer was having her first samples.
- Chulitas Authentic Juice Bar cart is on the corner of Bond & Minnesota several afternoons each week in Bend.
Small free samples are a Chulitas staple. The decision can be difficult when you have choices such as Strawberry Pineapple Lemonade, Honeydew Chia, Café de la Olla, Hibiscus or the Horchata with spice, Mexican vanilla, soaked rice and piloncillo (sugar cane). A recent, new, non-juice offering is Mini Pancakes served with a choice of fresh fruit toppings, dulce de leche, fruity pebbles and so forth.
Currently Chulitas is at the corner of Bond and Minnesota in downtown Bend several afternoons each week and at the Northwest Crossing Farmers Market on Saturdays. Follow them on Instagram @chulitas.co to keep track of what's happening. The cheerful couple would like to have a food cart lot home someday, with lots of parking available, so keep an eye out for that.