SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — Syracuse’s first acai restaurant opened on the SU hill in January. Purple Banana offers a wide range of healthy eating options, including smoothies, salads and its most popular menu item, acai bowls.
“It’s kind of hard to get an unhealthy meal here,” said Luke Nicolette, owner of Purple Banana.
Purple Banana’s acai bowls are made with a creamy acai berry base and topped with fruit, granola and other healthy toppings.
“When you bring in this berry with all these health benefits and you mix it with the right other products—fruits, whatever it may be—you get a delicious, healthy product. So that’s essentially what we do,” Nicolette said.
Nicolette said he got the idea for Purple Banana after seeing the success of similar restaurants in other cities.
“I learned about these acai shops while traveling, but there was nothing locally quite like this,” Nicolette said. “I saw how popular they were. I saw how healthy, how colorful, the vibe, everything about them was nice, and said, ‘We need something like that.’ So I got to work. I put my head down; I had a vision, brought it to life, and here we are.”
Part of the reason it took so long for Syracuse to get its first acai shop is because the acai berry, native to the rain forests of South America, can be hard to come by this far North of the Equator.
“It’s something we can’t get locally. We can’t grow it locally; we can’t even source it locally,” said Nicolette, adding that to overcome this obstacle, Purple Banana imports its acai berries from Brazil.
Purple Banana is less than a block from Syracuse University’s campus, making it especially popular with SU students. Nicolette said he enjoys his younger clientele.
“They engage heavily with their small businesses. They care about the Earth and how they leave it. They care about inclusion and including people and having everyone come as they are,” Nicolette said.
Nicolette said he wants Purple Banana to be a “customer-driven business.” He said he hopes that the restaurant can establish a home for itself within the local community.
“I just want to build a relationship with the customers and other small businesses and see where we can go together,” Nicolette said.
Purple Banana has only been open for two months. Nicolette has high hopes for the future.
“I try not to get too far ahead of myself—certainly I’m a dreamer; I have a big imagination—but if we get it right here, as a flagship location up on the SU hill, and we get it right, we like to think we can pop a few more of these up in certain areas,” Nicolette said. “I just know if we get it right, we’ll have the opportunity.”