It would be hard for most people to turn down a chance at refreshment from a place whose name literally translates as “Life Bar” – and that is just what the owner/founder of Barvida in Darien is hoping.
“I’ve been involved in health and wellness my whole life,” Brennan Branca said at the new juice bar at 879 Post Road, noting that he was born in southern California – the unofficial home of health food – and that his interest carried through into adulthood.
“Playing NCAA Division I soccer at Columbia University – where we co-won the Ivy League championship in 2016 – just helped me get more into it, which was awesome,” he said.
“After college I held a number of jobs,” Branca continued. “I was a personal trainer, I interned at a finance company, I got my real estate license and worked at The Corcoran Group in New York City. But being from southern California and now in Darien, I knew there were a lot of differences in what a ‘juice bar’ could mean.”
Part of that was determining what it shouldn’t mean, he said. “Some juice bars have been around for20 years now, but they haven’t necessarily evolved over that time. Or they taste fantastic, and have lots of cool colors, but not high-quality ingredients. They’re laden with sugar, which represents an unbelievable number of calories. That’s missing the mark, in my opinion.”
Instead, Barvida was created as a 100% organic, 100% plant-based juice bar & café which, Branca said, balances nutrition with a taste experience that doesn’t resemble munching on cardboard.
“I’ve kept in contact with a lot of people out in San Diego,” he said. “Since I’ve done sports my whole life, I know a lot of trainers, nutritionists, physical therapists, and so on. I went through my contacts and got a lot of them onboard to curate our menu.”
That menu ranges from juices – the “Dope Detox” features kale, celery, cucumber, cilantro, ginger and lemon; the “Vital Eyes” includes carrot, apple, turmeric, ginger, lemon and cinnamon – to smoothies (such as “The Morning Show,” with banana, chocolate protein powder, cinnamon, dates, almond milk, cacao nibs, cold-brew coffee, espresso beans and sea salt), wellness shots and superfood bowls.
Opening a restaurant is always risky, of course – and the timing of Barvida’s opening in the midst of a pandemic did give him some pause, Branca said.
“But I saw this as an opportunity, to provide people with healthy, essential options,” he said. “Our menu has items that can actually boost your immune system, and our wellness shots are full of vitamin C. Now more than ever we need to be focused on building up our immune systems, and I think that will play in our favor.”
In addition, “There’s nothing compared to owning your own business,” he said. “It’s cool, and a little scary. But I’m going through every process and finding my way around it – I’ve really learned a lot.”