Extract Juice and Tapas Bar exudes a feel-good vibe

A laid-back Hannibal Square juice bar with juicy cuisine to match


400 W. New England Ave., Winter Park | 407-960-6988 | facebook.com/extracttapas | $

As we scurried down New England Avenue one rainy Saturday evening, my dining comrade and I wrongly assumed our intended destination – Extract Juice & Tapas Bar – would have indoor seating. Peeping through Extract’s open walk-up window, as we squirmed and danced around as though we were being showered with sulfuric acid, we caught the surprised eye of a young lady. Seeing our desperate visages, she cracked a smile then apologized for the lack of indoor seating. “You can sit at one of the tables with the bigger umbrellas,” she offered, and before we had time to think about a response, she had already scampered outside to meet us. Meggan, aka “MegganTron,” seemed genuinely excited to see us on this wet and unusually cool evening. Then, by some stroke of luck, the rains stopped and we found ourselves enjoying the al fresco moments – first bantering with this carefree and animated server; then sipping on freshly blended juices; and finally, sampling a healthy offering of “tapas” items.

Under clear skies, we munched on popcorn laced with cayenne pepper and brown sugar while nursing Mason jars filled with refreshing juice blends. At $6, pours of both the Surprisingly Sproutstanding (Brussels sprouts, carrots, broccoli, cilantro, lemon, celery) and Hoyt’s Hangover Hiatus (orange, cucumber, mango, carrot) seemed generous by juice-bar standards. Combine your potable with a pita pizza ($7) and you’ll save a couple of bucks, just as we did after ordering “The Blend” – a crunchy little pie with cabbage, sunflower seeds, hummus, tomatoes and marinara. With the exception of the chicken-topped “Slick Chick,” all pita pizzas are vegan.

Continuing the meatless start, we sampled the honey-balsamic cheese dip ($9) and, like the popcorn, it too proved to be an addictive taste. The creamy dip, equally salty and sweet, came served with pretzel crisps and apple slices powdered with cinnamon. There was a small elevated Lazy Susan affixed to the umbrella pole, making it convenient for us to sample and share the varied dishes that were to come – dishes like ahi nachos ($14) stacked with yellowfin tuna, feta, peppers, cilantro and a whole lotta onions. The mound was liberally drizzled with a sriracha aioli, but it was hardly the spiciest dish we sampled that night. Even the jalapeño-spiced pulled chicken (or was it soy “chick-un”?) in the potato-roll sliders ($10) barely registered a zing.

No, the honor of spiciest dish went to the Thai pineapple lettuce wraps ($8), a dish our jocular waitress said was “not recommended for children.” Granted, it wasn’t that fiery, but the mix of fresh pineapple, cilantro and roasted peanuts tossed in a spicy-sweet sauce mustered a decent-enough burn. As our meal wound down, Meggan came back outside with a paper cup in each hand, offering up “happy endings.” The cups were filled with orange, pineapple and mango juice, then topped with whipped cream. We enjoyed the free dessert, but we enjoyed the good laugh even more. We also relished the house-made chocolate-peanut-butter pie, a dessert typically reserved for their weekend brunches, that we enjoyed at no extra charge. Sweet indeed!

There’s an undeniable SoCal aura at Extract. Seems affable co-owner and chef Jeff Davis, along with his native Floridian brother, Michael, and wife, Stacy, opened their first juice bar in Newport Beach, Calif. They closed it and opened one in Honolulu, but they always wanted a place in Florida. Hannibal Square may seem an unlikely locale, but the feel-good vibe is palpable. As we left, it started drizzling again, but as those raindrops kept falling on my head, nothing bothered me.

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