Rio Rock Açai Cafe offers fresh toppings but minimal serving sizes

Amanda Morse

“People here, they live healthy: they’re biking, they’re surfing, they’re running. People take care of themselves. Then what goes hand in hand with that is nutrition, and [acai] one of the healthiest things you can put in your body,” said Mike Rupers co-owner of Rio Rock Açai Cafe. The cafe opened on May 2 and is located in downtown Kentfield.

Gluten-free, vegan, paleo and other diet choices are commonly practiced among citizens of Marin. With the establishment of more açai bowl cafes in the county, the presence of these nutritious and filling smoothie bowls continue to stay prevalent.

Owners Mike Rupers and Bee Belanger celebrate their new cafe
Owners Mike Rupers and Bee Belanger celebrate their new cafe.

Motivated by past experiences in Europe where they witnessed many people with açai bowls, Rupers and co-owner Bee Belanger felt that an açai cafe would complement the Marin vibe well, ultimately inspiring them to create Rio Rock Açai Cafe.

With its convenient location down the street from Kent Middle School and across from College of Marin, Rio Rock Açai Cafe was bustling with customers on a Wednesday afternoon at around 3 p.m the week following its opening day. The green awning and brightly-colored logo caught my eye the moment I began to approach the cafe.

The open layout inside the cafe creates a clean atmosphere that continues through to the counter, where the açaii bowls are made.

As I began to read through the menu, there were many different options. From a basic strawberry, banana and granola bowl (Rodeo Beach Surf Bowl) to a tropical strawberry, kiwi, banana, coconut flakes, honey and granola bowl (Sleeping Lady Bowl). In addition to açai bowls, they also serve smoothies, coffee, tea and a large selection of side order options. These sides include everything from bee pollen, flax seeds and organic pumpkin seeds to extra açai (3oz) or fresh fruit.

Mini sized Rodeo Beach Surf Bowl. The earthy feel throughout the cafe contributes to the healthy lifestyle.
The earthy feel throughout the cafe contributes to the healthy lifestyle.

Although I was impressed with the variety of options on the menu, what initially stood out to me were the prices corresponding to the serving sizes. I was unaware of how much açai was served in the “mini” selection that was listed at a price of $6.50. Based off this price, I believed that this would come with a substantial amount of açai. But, sadly, I was mistaken. The next option was a regular and that was more costly, at $9. The largest option they serve is a large for $11. I decided to order a “mini” Rodeo Beach Surf bowl hoping that it would be a significant amount.

The wait was about five minutes before I was served, and I was underwhelmed by the serving size. There were about five bananas slices, a few strawberries and a dropping of granola which covered up the açai. Unlike other açai cafes around Marin, which fill their bowls, I was served enough açai to fill the bottom of a to-go bowl. After paying almost $7, I was utterly disappointed by the serving size.

Prices and serving sizes aside, the açai itself was flavorful but had a watery consistency compared to other bowls around Marin, such as Mana Bowls and Ohana Bowls.

Mini sized Rodeo Beach Surf Bowl.
Mini sized Rodeo Beach Surf Bowl.

Overall, I did not feel as though the price matched the quality. The small plastic to-go bowl was filled less than half way and there were about six bites of açai. I was disappointed as I left the cafe still feeling hungry.

Seeing that this is still an up-and-coming business, there is plenty of room for improvement, especially with confining the prices for each serving size. While I knew that the “mini” was going to have less açai than the regular, I can say confidently that if people knew how much açai they would be served in this option, they would be upset after paying $6.50. No matter how fresh the bowl is, people want a nutritious meal that will leave them feeling full, not feeling as though their wallets are less full.