Finding the Foodie Soul at Soul Origin

Lee’s quick note: It has been a while since we posted anything for Team Glasses Food Blog, and that’s more of the busy schedule at our grad schools than anything else. Since our semesters are over, we’ll be crunching out our more or less usual two weeks for posts whenever possible. Let us take this time to thank you for visiting our site and reading our reviews. We definitely want to hear from you soon. Now on to the review.

Part 3 of the Sydney Adventures: As I was waiting for my companion to get a pair of shorts that his wife was looking for, I decided to wander around the airport a bit to find a decent and healthy meal before the flight. After sumptuous meals here, I admittedly dreaded the idea of a bumpy ride and a less than stellar airline food. Thankfully, I did not need to go far because when I looked right, I found Soul Origin.

Seeing the counter and the selection of different ingredients and viands reminded me of a deli at first. The kitchen tiles and rustic vibe along with the ferns on top made the entire place inviting to both sight and scent.

My re-opened and slightly squished but yummy Salmon Baguette

For my snack here, I had a Salmon Baguette. The baguette consists of fresh salmon, capers, cream cheese, mixed lettuce, capers, avocado, and red onion. Kudos on the bread that held these ingredients firmly together. It had that fresh-off-the-oven feel and texture to it, firm but not stale, just the way I liked it. At the same time, the cream cheese helped bind the saltiness of the capers, and the slight sweetness of the salmon, along with the avocado slices, into a subtle yet fulfilling experience while waiting for my flight home.

I went here on a summer, so I still have their summer edition menu too, as well as their catering menu as well. I figured they have a different selection per season as well, which makes for a wide variety all year round. Should be different now its the Winter Season there

As I finished my baguette and headed to the loading bay, I took a moment to savor the last vestiges of my meal. In my mind, Soul Origin is a place I’d definitely drop by for another meal again in the future when I find my soul travelling back to Sydney.

Food Score: 4.5/5: Aside from being a healthy alternative to plenty of sandwich places, the selection here is fresh and balanced, making it a great place for a snack or even a meal.

Ambiance Score: 4.5/5: The well stacked and organized viands offer enough eye candy to passersby, and the place itself had a wonderfully rustic vibe to it without being over-the-top.

Service Score: 4/5: The service here was fast and straight to the point, given the busy nature of the airport, so no complaints.

GERD Score: 5/5: While there maybe some possible triggers here for people dealing with GERD, there’s plenty of selection here that it will still be worth a meal here.

Neurodivergent Note: Special kudos to Soul Origin for having this comprehensive allegens guide with their menu items. It is very helpful not only for people dealing with GERD or Neurodivergence, but also those who deal with special dietary regimens on a daily basis.

The Allergen Index

Team Glasses Score: 4.5/5: For anyone looking for a healthy and great meal in Sydney Airport, Soul Origin is a must go to for a bite or three.

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El Loco at Excelsior

Part 2 of the Sydney Adventures: After the second work day in Sydney, I ended up joining the team for a couple of pints and some tex-mex for… Taco Tuesdays in El Loco at Excelsior. Honestly, I felt loco for Tacos when we got there.

The place was nicely situated on a corner, with colorful wooden benches on the outside and a mix of a pub and a cantina inside. The mexican-inspired decor made for a touch of life amidst the dimmer lighting inside.

For early dinner here, the team ordered some pints of local beer, Nacho Supreme as an appetizer, and some Carne Asada, Baja Fish, and Secretos de Tacos for our Tacos.

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Nacho Supreme

The Nacho Supreme, like any tex-mex meal, had plenty of cheese and chillies along with diced tomatoes and spring onions. Judging by how the nachos was prepared and feels to the bite, I’d say it might actually be made in-house or at least, not just shoved out of a plastic pack and placed on a plate, which is a plus in my book. It was crunchy, lightly salted and firm, being able to hold the mix of ingredients on top of it without feeling soggy at all.

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Baja Fish Tacos

With the Baja Fish Tacos, I’m not a huge fan of it since the fish was covered in batter. I feel the fish could have been grilled and placed on the tacos instead. The salsa berde and the chipotle mayo thankfully brought some punch that helped balance its flavors.

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Carne Asada

As for the Carne Asada, I loved the mix of the firm and chewy taco along with the slight spice mixed in with the meat. It’s what a tex-mex taco should be. It has a solid base that won’t crumble to the newly cooked meat and fresh vegetables, while not being too doughy or floury to the bite.

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Secretos De Tacos

And last but not least, the Secretos de Tacos; while not as appetizing at first glance, I can safely say that it is quite interesting and worth a try. The secret meat blends well to the accompanying corn bits, chipotle mayo, and greens. It even led to an interesting discussion between us co-employees on what it could be, but giving the answers we came up with would spoil the surprise.

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Feeling full but wanting to make the most out of the remaining day, I went out ahead of them. It was 7:30pm thereabouts and the afternoon sun shone on my face as I walked away. I enjoyed my time at El Loco at Excelsior because of both the good food and the chance of getting to know my officemates a bit more in my short time here. It is a good place for some company and friends after a long day.

Food Score: 4/5: The food here at El Loco was hearty and filling after three or four tacos and best enjoyed with good company since the place is suited more as a casual dining and bar area after a long day.

Ambiance Score: 4/5: The decor, while slightly dim, was very colorful and vibrant without appearing too forced or loud to the eyes.

Service Score: 4/5: The service here was attentive enough to what we needed, be it additional orders or additional tissues. We even got our table reserved in advance without any problems at all.

GERD Score: 3.5/5: Given that El Loco is geared more as a dining place and a pub, there would be a limited amount of options for anyone who is dealing with GERD.

Neurodivergent Score: 3.5/5: A continual problem with Tex-Mex is the blend of seasonings and spices, which could easily trigger anyone who is sensitive to these foodstuffs. Having a menu with the exact ingredients stated would be a great bonus to neurodivergent diners with food restrictions.

Team Glasses Score: 3.5/5: For good tex-mex meal and time at the pub after work, El Loco should be a good treat with the mates. However, for those dealing with GERD or Neurodivergent issues, there are at least still some options to enjoy.

Bondi Wholefoods: A Sydney food adventure – Part 1 of 5

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A Sydney food adventure for ½ of the Team Glasses Food Blog, yes you’ve read that right. I found myself in Sydney for a week because of work, so I decided to sample some places I’ve had here. First of them was Bondi Wholefoods.

After the eight-hour flight and another 30 minutes of train and walking, my boss and I decided to try something healthy and organic near where we’ll be staying.

It was an open air dining experience, with cozy chairs and sleek black facade complemented the plants around the place. They even have ready to eat sandwiches, wraps, and even cans and bottles of kombucha near their counter. For my meal here, I’ve tried the Slow Cooked Bio Lamb Wrap.

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Slow Cooked Bio Lamb Wrap

The combination of smashed avocado, grilled eggplants, roasted pepper strips, and baby spinach was both fresh and well thought out. The biodynamic lamb was unfortunately much too bland for my preferences. The wrap that held these together was amazingly great at doing so without turning soggy or breaking up in my hands. Alongside this, the tzatziki on the side complemented the wrap.

For breakfast the next day, I tried their Spiced Organic Chicken Wrap (toasted) with some hot chocolate mixed with soy milk.

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Spiced Organic Chicken Wrap

The texture of the wrap was much better with the slight crunch on every bite. The lime, coriander, brown rice, tomatoes, sour cream, cheddar cheese, plus the accompanying chipotle salsa made for a wonderful tex-mex burrito-style experience altogether. It was much more to my liking.

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The hot chocolate, of course, is always a pleasing site and a good accompaniment to the Spiced Organic Chicken Wrap.

Food Score: 4/5: The gestalt of my food experience here at Bondi Wholefoods was pretty good overall, despite the first encounter. However, that’s more of my taste preference than anything else.

Ambiance Score: 4.5/5: Especially during the wee hours of the morning, the quiet start of the day while sitting around with the greenery is already something to look forward to dining here.

Service Score: 4/5: The service we received here was warm and accommodating all throughout our time dining at Bondi Wholefoods.

GERD Score: 4.5/5: Aside from catering to many food restrictions, outlining the ingredients used to make the food is always a helpful guide for everyone dealing with GERD.

Neurodivergent Score: 4/5: The selection of non trigger foods such as gluten free items is a great relief to neurodivergent diners. Another plus is that additives are used sparingly, if at all, in their dishes.

Team Glasses Score: 4/5: For the health conscious or even someone looking for a filling meal that doesn’t make him or her guilty, Bondi Wholefoods is the place to go.

Year End Special: Mantra Bistro

Year-End Special: Mantra Bistro!

And we’re back! After the rush of year-end obligations and the Christmas holidays, we finally found some time to try out an up and coming restaurant we’d just heard of while browsing articles on social media. After all there has to be something great afoot if even expats are said to be flocking to a food spot in the metropolis. This was what brought us back to Legaspi Village to visit Mantra Bistro, located at the Grand Midori on Bolanos Street.

We had been forewarned that the exterior was “unassuming” (as many of our favorite culinary finds have been). If it had not been for the colorful sign saying “Mantra Bistro” and the warm greeting “Come In, We’re Awesome”, we might have missed the place entirely. We quickly discovered that the Mantra Bistro actually covers two rooms: the actual restaurant/bistro, and the “Tapas by Mantra” bar just a connecting door away. Since it was a bit too early for us to enjoy the edgy and dim lighting and bar fare at the Tapas area, we remained in the main bistro area, which felt more like a slightly upscale casual dining restaurant than anything else. Its classy interior had few, but striking, designs on the walls evoking traditional Indian motifs in more contemporary color schemes. This simple but elegant decor was the first feast for our eyes on this evening.

We started our evening with a complimentary appetizer of fried roti chips with a tangy, savory tamarind dip. This did much to whet our appetites for the hearty dinner ahead. We decided to try the Rogan Josh, a goat curry with tomatoes and spices, which we paired with the Dal Tadka, a dish of yellow lentils stewed with cumin seeds, chili, and garlic. Since this was our first time to try the food at Mantra Bistro, we opted for the “mild” spiciness level for our food.

A real treat of the evening was having some warm roti bread alongside our spicy selections. The Rogan Josh was rather on the hot side, with a full bodied curry just slightly tamed down by the stewed tomato. The meat was carefully slow cooked to the point it was practically falling off the bone. The Dal Tadka was less spicy but just as flavorful, with the lentils stewed to just the right consistency. The serving sizes of these bowls were rather hefty, making them perfect for sharing for 2 up to 4 people.

But the best part of the night were the drinks we got to wash down our hearty meal with. I chose some sweet lassi, my favorite yogurt drink, to cleanse my palate. Lee chose some hot masala tea, which in other cookbooks or cuisines is also known as karak. Karak is something he’s been trying to find in the city ever since he returned from overseas, and to serendipitously have it on this evening was a real joy.

Ever since the inception of this blog, we’ve tried a number of Indian and Indian-themed restaurants, but so far, Mantra Bistro has met our expectations not just in terms of quality but even in authenticity. There is something to be said after all when even homesick expats troop here for a good taste of home. We look forward to enjoying more of the dishes from this exceptional place, hopefully in the near future!

Food Score: 5/5: Where do we even begin? The food defies the stereotype of Indian cuisine being “very hot” and “overly flavored”; the dishes bring out a more subtle yet memorable blend of flavors. We appreciate having hot bread, a unique appetizer, and of course delicately prepared drinks to round out our dining experience. Our only nitpick would be having a few too many meat bones in our goat curry, but otherwise it was all good.

Ambiance Score: 5/5: Mantra Bistro is both classy and artsy, taking care not to fall either into being overly uppity or downright kitschy. It’s a great place for business/client meetings, as well as for nights out with family and friends–which can even continue on at the bar next door.

Service Score: 5/5: The servers were very courteous to all the patrons, and did not hesitate to present us with options for our meals or answer our questions. The team was very professional and sharp all throughout, from our arrival to the time we headed out the door.

GERD Score: 4/5: Mantra Bistro is a great place for people with GERD because it lists down the ingredients used for each menu item and because we could adjust the spiciness of the curry based on our preferences. Of course, Indian cuisine is meant to be shared so it’s always bring to have company along.

Neurodivergent Score: 4.5/5: Although the fact that this is a bistro means there are plenty of alcoholic drinks, non alcoholic options such as lassi and fruit juices are available. Though bread is a perfect partner to many of the curries and sauces on the menu, gluten free options such as basmati rice, zeera rice, saffron rice, and biryani dishes are also prominently featured. People sensitive to various natural spices and flavorings may need to inquire about these, or pick milder dishes for their culinary trip.

Team Glasses Score: 4.5/5: We’re glad to have found this spot, which we would recommend for people wanting some authentic Indian cuisine. Cheers to you, Mantra Bistro!

Mantra Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

An Evening and a Bowl at Ajisen Ramen

 

Sometimes, the cure to a really long week is a nice cup of tea or a massage, but for crazier than usual times, Ramen is the banner call of the day. After meeting some of the Ortigas puspins (stray cats), we decided to have hearty bowls of ramen. Just as luck would have it, Ajisen Ramen was just around the area, in a quiet strip of walkway through Emerald Ave.

Seeing the same logo, letters, and ramen reminded me of simpler times during my University years with my friends after class. This time around, I got to share new memories with Kat here.

 

For dinner, I picked some Seafood Ramen. The noodles were just right with the firmness and chewiness one expects off typical ramen. The broth was just as I remembered from my college days with the fattiness contributing to its creaminess rather than overwhelming it. The broth temperature was well within the heat one expects at first service. I didn’t care much for the kani sticks or the overly large cabbage slices there, but the star for the show really was the squid. It’s not easy to cook squid that isn’t overly chewy or rubbery, but they got it just right. It was firm but almost melts in the mouth.

 

Kat, on the other hand, picked a bowl of Spicy Tan Tan Ramen. The heat of this dish was of the slow burn sort, making it perfect for a rainy day, or a sunny day with a large glass of tea. Apart from noodles and ground pork, there was little in the way of viands, making this perfect for a light sort of meal.

 

We also shared a plate of gyoza together. To me, it was par for the course with the dumplings done well enough, but the seasoning of the pork inside needed a bit more work for me.

 

Overall, it was a filling dinner and a much needed break from the daily grind of life, and perhaps even some luck for our day from the lucky cat (a calico) statue moving its paw to and fro.

Food Score: 4/5: Our food was served hot and fresh off the kitchen, plus the flavors were spot on with our bowls of ramen.  

Ambiance Score: 4/5: The branch of Ajisen Ramen here was cozy with some mix-and-match decor here and there, which would either feel homey or out of place in some instances depending on preference.

Service Score: 4/5: The servers were attentive to our needs from the time we entered the place to the time we left.

GERD Score: 4/5: One good thing about Japanese food be it here at Ajisen Ramen or elsewhere is that one can either share a large bowl of ramen or a sushi roll, it’s an experience to be shared. As it is, their menu speaks for itself if a menu item is spicy or not, but perhaps they can do more with placing signs that something is spicy or trigger-inducing ingredients for GERD.

Neurodivergent Score: 3.5/5: The trouble with these sorts of meals is that one is never sure what sorts of spices or flavorings have been combined to get that ‘umami’ factor. Nevertheless there are still enough fresh options on the menu for diners with more food restrictions.

Team Glasses Score: 4/5: Our dinner trip in Ajisen Ramen is something great for a quiet meal out in Ortigas with some friends, but there are some caveats here and there to keep in mind as well.

An Evening with Ajisen Ramen

Sometimes, the cure to a really long week is a nice cup of tea or a massage, but for crazier than usual times, Ramen is the banner call of the day. After meeting some of the Ortigas puspins (stray cats), we decided to have hearty bowls of ramen. Just as luck would have it, Ajisen Ramen was just around the area, in a quiet strip of walkway through Emerald Ave.

Like old times in College

Seeing the same logo, letters, and ramen reminded me of simpler times during my University years with my friends after class. This time around, I got to share new memories with Kat here.

Seafood Ramen 🙂

For dinner, I picked some Seafood Ramen. The noodles were just right with the firmness and chewiness one expects off typical ramen. The broth was just as I remembered from my college days with the fattiness contributing to its creaminess rather than overwhelming it. The broth temperature was well within the heat one expects at first service. I didn’t care much for the kani sticks or the overly large cabbage slices there, but the star for the show really was the squid. It’s not easy to cook squid that isn’t overly chewy or rubbery, but they got it just right. It was firm but almost melts in the mouth.

Spicy Tan Tan Ramen

Kat, on the other hand, picked a bowl of Spicy Tan Tan Ramen. The heat of this dish was of the slow burn sort, making it perfect for a rainy day, or a sunny day with a large glass of tea. Apart from noodles and ground pork, there was little in the way of viands, making this perfect for a light sort of meal.

Gyoza

We also shared a plate of gyoza together. To me, it was par for the course with the dumplings done well enough, but the seasoning of the pork inside needed a bit more work for me.

Overall, it was a filling dinner and a much needed break from the daily grind of life, and perhaps even some luck for our day from the lucky cat (a calico) statue moving its paw to and fro.

Food Score: 4/5: Our food was served hot and fresh off the kitchen, plus the flavors were spot on with our bowls of ramen.  

Ambiance Score: 4/5: The branch of Ajisen Ramen here was cozy with some mix-and-match decor here and there, which would either feel homey or out of place in some instances depending on preference.

Service Score: 4/5: The servers were attentive to our needs from the time we entered the place to the time we left.

GERD Score: 4/5: One good thing about Japanese food be it here at Ajisen Ramen or elsewhere is that one can either share a large bowl of ramen or a sushi roll, it’s an experience to be shared. As it is, their menu speaks for itself if a menu item is spicy or not, but perhaps they can do more with placing signs that something is spicy or trigger-inducing ingredients for GERD.

Neurodivergent Score: 3.5/5: The trouble with these sorts of meals is that one is never sure what sorts of spices or flavorings have been combined to get that ‘umami’ factor. Nevertheless there are still enough fresh options on the menu for diners with more food restrictions.

Team Glasses Score: 4/5: Our dinner trip in Ajisen Ramen is something great for a quiet meal out in Ortigas with some friends, but there are some caveats here and there to keep in mind as well.

Whistlestop

A city that never sleeps needs its share of 24/7 food establishments to cater to denizens at all hours. One of the longest standing in this business is Whistlestop, nestled among the bars and restaurants of Jupiter Street, Bel-Air in Makati City. After a few hitches in previous plans, we finally seized the opportunity of a sleepy Saturday morning to grab brunch here, in preparation for a day jam-packed with activities.

 

We eschewed some of the usual breakfast fare of pancakes, bacon, and sausages for dishes that would do just as well for lunch. Lee decided on the 1977 Vintage Tapa, while I most uncharacteristically chose to start off my day with Beef Kebab.

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The 1977 Vintage Tapa was flavorful, a balance of well marinated sweet and salty tapa flakes, and perfectly seasoned garlic rice. However, the sunny side up egg was rushed and the meal was too oily for my tastes.

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The main downside to the Beef Kebab was the size of the kebab pieces themselves. Apart from increasing the portion size, I believe that this dish could have been improved with the use of more spices in the meat to give the dish its characteristic kick.

 

It would take us more time to thoroughly sample Whistlestop’s extensive menu of all-day selections hailing from various cuisines. We hope to find more culinary gems and must-haves during future visits here.

 

Food Score: 3.5/5: The menu at Whistlestop is inclined towards a combination of bar chow and hefty main courses and entrees, making it ideal as part of a bar crawl or a recovery scenario. At least for the dishes we picked, there was more that could be done in terms of flavor and presentation.

Ambiance Score: 4.5/5: Whistlestop evokes the feel of an old-time saloon, a look that goes easily from day to night. It is a place wherein one can relax among friends for brunch, fill up for lunch or dinner, pre-game for a night out, or recover in the early hours.

Service Score: 4/5: While we appreciate the servers telling us off the bat which items were available, a little more attentiveness would have helped make our dining experience better.

GERD Score: 3.5/5: Being a watering hole, its menu options for people with heartburn leaves much to be desired, but in fairness, there are at least some options along with a list of ingredients in some menu items. Having a buddy or two tag along might help make the meal ideal or at least doable.

 

Neurodivergent Score: 3.5/5: Some of the dishes at Whistlestop rely heavily on preserved and seasoned meats, which may be a no-no to some diners with dietary restrictions. There is little too in the way of non-caffeinated and non-alcoholic beverage selections.

Team Glasses Score: 3.5/5: Over the years, Whistlestop has definitely earned its reputation as a 24/7 dining spot. It is a good place to go when ending a bar or restaurant crawl in the area…if one is not planning to stick to a strict diet! For us, our search for our recovery food fix still continues. 

Whistlestop Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Juju Eats

Juju Eats

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Before an event we needed to attend, Kat and I reminisced a bit from the times when our offices were still nearby and we’d catch a meal or two in the area. In the midst of the same old streets of Tordesillas, we spot Juju Eats, its green and white signage catching our eye neighboring another branch of Kite Bar. With our hungry tummies, we decided to pre-game here for a bit, and stepped inside.

The interiors were simply neat but rustic with its wooden surfaces and furnishings, and there’s plenty of space to move about, even to leave a bike or two around. It almost reminded us of a coffee bar, or a fancier version of subway at first glance. After ordering, the staff assembled the food in front of us as well, which is a plus.

For dinner here, I chose some Crispy Catfish (comprised of fried catfish, green mangoes, green papaya, cilantro, their house mix, red onion, cashew nuts, basil, and nampla dressing) while Kat picked the Bimbimbap Bowl (comprised of red rice, kimchi, oyster mushrooms, picked onions, carrots, romaine, cilantro, sesame seeds, and korean dressing).

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Crispy Catfish

With my Crispy Catfish, the mix of fresh ingredients and dressing almost overwhelmed the catfish at first go, but once it made itself known, the crispy fish complemented the crunch of the fresh vegetables and nuts, and nampla dressing (which unfortunately was spiced by chili, being a thai one). Perhaps my younger self without the heartburn would delight over this wholeheartedly, but with me, I still enjoyed it despite the chili.

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Bibimbap Bowl

The Bibimbap bowl was quite hot thanks to the kimchi, but the greens and vegetables provided a welcome respite from the heat. The red rice base made the dish substantial enough to be considered a light meal, albeit a little heavier than a salad.

The reusable glasses for water, along with the eco-friendly choices in serving food was just icing on the cake with our stay here. With our tummies full and satiated, we set out once more for another adventure, to our event and with another great place to dine included in our list.

Food Score: 4/5: We’ve held the belief that one can’t go wrong with fresh ingredients and a well thought-out recipe, and Juju Eats has them in both our Crispy Catfish and Bimbimbap Bowl. We do think that they could explore this further with other combinations in the future to spice things up.

Ambiance Score: 4.5/5: After our time here, we found that Juju Eats was definitely a place one can relax and dine after a long day at work, a quiet place to study for your next recitation in class, or to savor the moments of the day with a cup of tea.

Service Score: 4.5/5: The servers here were quick to get our orders, neat from start to finish on how they prepped our food, and always ready to be helpful with our questions.

GERD Score: 4/5: While Juju Eats has a great selection of healthy eats, I sincerely hope they make an update in its menu. There really isn’t any quick-to-see icon if the sauce is spicy or not, so those suffering from GERD might make the same mistake as I did today.

Neurodivergent Score: 4/5: Some of the ingredients may be a bit too much in terms of spice and seasoning for sensitive diners. However the array of gluten free and preservative free foods is not one to be passed up on.

Team Glasses Score: 4/5: After experiencing what Juju Eats has to offer, we found our stay to be a lovely experience, and recommend the place for anyone looking for a casual dine with family or friends, a study date with yourself, or even just to unwind after the week, while still eating healthy.