Back in 2008, Tiecha Merritt decided to open a store to sell wholesale Garlic Water Tonic, a drink that helps with high blood pressure.
“The space just evolved into a juice bar,” she said. “It was really spontaneous."
The Bush Doctor, tucked away on Putnam right off the corner of Tompkins Avenue is a hidden gem of healthy sandwiches and delicious, rejuvenating juices. The name of the juice bar comes from bush doctors in remote villages, who, as Merritt explained, “use the earth for healing.”
With this idea in mind, Merritt’s juices are not only healthy and nutritious drinks, but they provide specific healing properties in their ingredients.
The Body Builder helps strengthen your immune system and fight annemia, the Cucumber Spice brings down inflammation and heart burn, and Relaxation helps with stress and nervous disorders. All the juices are made with vegetables, fruits, and roots, and juiced right in front of you.
“We have over 51 different drinks,” Merritt said. She added that they keep a large selection of ingredients - which seem to line every inch of the wall in this tiny place - so that customers can create their own drink. “Kind of like a canvas and the customer is the artist,” she said.
I opted for the Rabbit Foot, made with celery, ginger, apple, and carrots, and said to help stomach troubles and better your vision. I was asked if I wanted a strong ginger flavor or not, and being a ginger fan replied with a sure, why not?
The drink is fantastic - fresh, and hearty - but I have to warn you, only ginger fanatics should say yes to the question I was asked. The drink has an incredibly powerful ginger kick that simultaneously invigorates and burns. The carrot and apple cools the drink down, and adds a refreshing sweetness to the overall flavor.
I tried their popular salmon burger, on a thin slice of hearty, multigrain bread with lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, and cucumbers. The salmon burger appeared to be a frozen burger, but for the price ($5.50) and the size of the place, that’s to be expected.
The burger has a strong taste of salmon with a lightly breaded, crispy, fried outside. The vegetables are crunchy and fresh, and the sandwich is topped with the house-made sauce, a thin dressing that is creamy and sweet, similar to a honey dijon dressing. This brings all the flavors of the sandwich together perfectly, although it does make for a slightly sloppy meal.
For desert I had the Creamy Pineapple smoothie, made with pineapple, banana, coconut milk, and honey. The drink is thickened with ice, and the coconut milk makes it creamy without the thickness of dairy. The pineapple and banana flavors blend together for a mild, summery taste, and honey makes for the perfect sweetener. What I love most about this drink is that you can actually taste the coconut flavor of the coconut milk, making it almost like an alternative virgin pina colada.
The Bush Doctor is largely supported by the immediate neighborhood, with Table Exquise a few doors down and recently acquiring Bed-Vyne Wine, a small wine shop, as a next door neighbor.
“We are a community-based juice bar,” Merritt told me. “We are not trying to be too mainstream, kind of humble when you come in.”
The place does have a low-key atmosphere that offers the “Soho, new age type of feel” that Merritt described, without coming off as elitist or exclusive.
In fact, time slows down as you visit the juice bar, and consuming for your health suddenly doesn’t seem like such a tiresome option.
As someone who has always cringed at the raw foods diet, The Bush Doctor may help me warm up to the idea.