The morning sun coming through the windows at Forest Greens Juice Bar in Lake Bluff splashes little pools of light on the café tables, illuminating the rainbow-hued array of cold-pressed juices in the cooler. Behind the counter, staff workers fill bottles with a bright green batch of just-made juice, and mother-daughter owners Nancy Dini and Annemarie Ranallo discuss the batch of soup Dini will be making that day.
“Mom’s soups are becoming legendary here,” says Ranallo. “They fly off the shelves.”
But there’s more than just soup. The grab and go section of ready-to-eat natural foods, a cooler full of heat-and-eat selections, and an array of fresh-pressed juices are just part of the picture. There is also a broad menu of made-to-order items ranging from gluten-free avocado breakfast toasts to roasted vegetable quinoa bowls.
“We cover all of the bases,” says Ranallo. “Cold-pressed juices, smoothies, tea and coffee, snacks, and full meals that are keto, paleo, and vegan. My vision for Forest Greens was to provide a way for people to access healthy organic food and drinks at any time—offerings that are portioned correctly and prepared with fresh, high-quality, organically grown ingredients.”
Dini and Ranallo opened Forest Greens in July. But the seeds for the idea were planted shortly after Ranallo had her first baby. Anthony was a happy and active infant, except for two problems: asthma and sensitive skin that was prone to eczema.
“We had him in and out of doctor’s offices and it got to where he had to be hospitalized for the asthma,” Ranallo recalls. “The only cure they would prescribe was to pump him full of drugs and steroids. I was especially opposed to the steroids because they just mask illness rather than treat it.”
Looking for better solutions, Ranallo found a pediatrician who worked with her to shape a holistic approach to Anthony’s healing. Central to this was clean eating and drinking—an approach to nutrition that cut out processed foods made with unhealthy additives, refined sugar, and highly-processed grains.
“Pretty quickly, we started seeing improvement with Anthony’s conditions,” she says. “His skin cleared and he was breathing better.”
The whole Ranallo family adopted a similar diet, adding a lot of fresh-pressed juices to the regimen.
By 2016, Ranallo had four children who were active in a range of sports. “I’d be with them and I’d see firsthand that a lot of the kids’ teammates had no idea that eating better could keep their bodies in better health and improve their performance. I thought, ‘You know? I should really open a shop that would make getting the right food and drink possible.’”
The Ranallos rented a commercial kitchen and tested the retail food waters by supplying protein bars, raw desserts, salads, and smoothies to Reprise Coffee in Winnetka. Their success prompted them to open Forest Greens.
“In the beginning,” says Ranallo, “I thought we would just be able to do juices and raw treats. But finding this space, which had room for a fully-equipped kitchen, allowed us to offer much more.”
The menu at Forest Greens now includes almost two dozen items. Cold-pressed juices are a focal point: options always include at least three “greens” choices, such as Goodness Greens (raw kale, spinach, celery, cucumber, parsley, apple, and lemon), plus a celery juice, a carrot juice, a beet juice, and an all-fruit selection. The Rainbow, for example, has red and green apples, green grapes, strawberries, mango, and lemon.
Juice shots—a more-concentrated version of the cold-pressed juices—come in three varieties, plus a morning detox.
Then there are “refreshers”—combinations of cold-pressed juices blended with coconut water, kombucha, or fermented lemonade. Smoothies run the gamut from Liquid Sunshine (coconut milk, orange juice, strawberries, pineapple, mango, peach, and honey) to the Black Magic (coconut water, blueberries, spinach, activated charcoal, and lemon.)
Snacks and treats include five different protein bars, steel-cut oats, and raw desserts, which include a clever play on a Twix bar.
Satisfying customers’ breakfast and lunch appetites, there are six varieties of Acai bowls—fruits, vegetables, and almond or coconut milks topped with house-made granola, and natural sweeteners. Gluten-free toast can come spread with avocado, egg salad, or nut butters and fruits. For pasta, there’s the Mac and NOT Cheese, made with chickpea pasta, cashews, sesame seeds, and nutritional yeast.
The heartiest offerings include a daily selection of dairy-free hot soups and chilis. Then there are “Buddha Bowls,” made with quinoa or riced cauliflower and topped with different combinations of seasonal vegetables and proteins.
“We are a gluten-free kitchen,” Ranallo adds. “And we use mostly raw ingredients. If a sweetener is needed, we use honey, maple syrup, or dates.”
It should also be noted that Forest Greens sources its eggs from EGGceptional Abilities, a microbusiness in Lake Bluff. “We were so delighted to meet Mary Ann Barry who raises her chickens using organic practices to provide work for two autistic individuals,” says Ranallo. “We save all of the pulp from our produce. EGGceptional Abilites comes to pick up the pulp three times a week to feed to their chickens, so it’s a full circle, which minimizes our waste almost to nothing.”
“We are so pleased with how this business has been growing,” Ranallo sums. “We have been approached to open more locations in other areas, which tells me that there is a growing appreciation and desire for the clean food we offer. It’s meant a lot to my family, and it feels really good to pass that on to others.”
Forest Greens Juice Bar is located at 123 N. Waukegan Road, Suite 100 in Lake Bluff, 708-658-4231, forestgreensjuicebar.com.