Good to Go column on South Block Smoothie & Wrap Co.
By Becky Krystal
Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011
The options at South Block Smoothie & Wrap Co. can be liberating or overwhelming. In contrast with its sliver of a location in Clarendon, the two-month-old, West Coast-inspired eatery has a large menu that raises many questions: regular or junior size? White or whole-wheat tortilla? No tortilla and make it a bowl - or a salad?
Amir Mostafavi, who owns South Block with his wife, Sommer, wanted to offer patrons plenty of customizable eats. But, he adds, "I think it's definitely important also to have ones that we've come up with."
Thank goodness for that. My dining companions and I had a hard enough time choosing from among the eight wraps listed on the menu.
Wraps (regular, $6; junior, $4.50) are an appealing place to start. Most include a "multigrain blend": a mix of red and brown rices, amaranth, black beans and veggies that Mostafavi, trained in graphic design and marketing, developed himself.
We liked the sweet and spicy kick imparted by the sauce mixed into the cheese-, rice- and corn-filled Eleventh St. BBQ. Mostafavi won't reveal the sauce ingredients; he does say that South Block starts with a commercial product and modifies it. We did not add the chicken or black-bean burger options ($1.50 regular; $1 junior); the wrap was pleasingly substantial, so we didn't miss the heartier proteins.
However, we did order the black-bean burger, with its smoky cumin goodness, added to the South Block Fiesta wrap, which comes with sour cream and salsa. Moist chunks of chicken went into our Thai Peanut wrap, but its Asian sauce and stir-fried vegetables clashed with the multigrain blend.
We admired how the wraps stayed together, even after being cut into several pieces. That's because of a quick layover in a panini grill that "kind of fastens the whole thing," Mostafavi says.
Especially if you decide to go with the junior wrap, you might want to add a smoothie (12 ounces, $3.65; 16 ounces, $4.55; 24 ounces, $5.50) to your order. Mostafavi says using flash-frozen fruit eliminates the need for added sweeteners, which let a bit of tang come through in our Go Bananas! concoction of pineapple juice, bananas, mango sorbet and vanilla frozen yogurt.
Acai bowls (medium, $4.25; large, $5.95) are also available at Mostafavi's other store, Campus Fresh, at George Washington University. They're sort of like a smoothie you eat with a spoon; each of the five varieties on the menu comes with its own list of toppings. Because the base is frozen, blended acai berries, ours got pretty soupy before we had a chance to eat it. But the meltdown didn't prevent us from enjoying its refreshing tartness.
In opening South Block - the name came from language in his lease - Mostafavi says he was willing to accept a spot with less space in order to snag a location that's one block from the Clarendon Metro station. Even a small storefront, though, won't hold back his big idea.