Color on color on color.
That’s how Alix Barash describes the offerings on the menu at BŌL, which not only reflects a use of vibrant ingredients, but also the ethos behind the business she founded seven years ago.
The Mothership location, as Barash calls it, opened on Cape Cod in Wellfleet, Massachusetts in 2015. Its success inspired a second location in Wakefield, which opened on Main Street in 2019.
When Barash first opened BŌL, “it was a tiny little hole in the wall with one blender,” she said. “I had $500 and no idea where it would take us… and here we are.”
The menu offered today is still true to its original roots, and the mission remains the same: to offer an entire menu free of inflammatory foods. Opening the Wakfield location allowed Barash to expand the offerings from smoothies and bowls to include toasts, superfood waffles, warm rice bowls and kale salads. All of the various milks — or “mylk” as listed on the menu — are made in-house and range from oatmylk to almond mylk.
Smoothie bowls have names like: Earth. Fern. Violet. Fuschia. Gold. Grass. Rogue. Indigo. Flamingo. Earth offers a mix of açaí, strawberries, cacao, peanut butter, cinnamon and bananas, all topped with strawberries, bee pollen, granola and toasted coconut. Flamingo features strawberries, coconut butter and banana, topped with strawberries, bananas, chia seeds, granola and toasted coconut.
All of the items on the menu are free of gluten and dairy, plant-based, and organic. They also reflect Barash’s personal way of eating, which she developed in response to living with Lyme disease.
Barash was diagnosed with Lyme at the age of 25, and some doctors think she was undiagnosed for ten years before that. Now 36, she’s been living with chronic illness for twenty years, which continues to be a daily struggle.
When she was first diagnosed, Barash was living in Portland, Oregon and attending nursing school. She eventually had to leave school, and spent years undergoing treatment for various ailments within her central nervous system, including her brain, heart and spinal cord. These treatments were based in Western medicine and involved a lot of antibiotics. After about five years, and being told she may never have children, would likely end up in a wheelchair, and would eventually lose her vision, Barash decided the Western approach to healing was “doing more harm than good.”
So she pivoted to a more holistic healing practice, one rooted in Eastern and Chinese medicine, with a focus on things like acupuncture, yoga and plant-based eating. Changing her diet began to change how she felt. “It gave me a glimmer of hope,” she said.
During this period, she also spent a few weeks in Kauai, Hawaii, with her husband, where different kinds of food and health options were available. Eventually, inspired by this pivot and her time in the Pacific, Barash decided to open a cafe and share her approach to food as medicine with others.
“I so miss that nursing part of my life I haven’t been able to go back to, and probably never will,” she said, “now I [help heal] in a different way.”
BŌL has become her way of sharing this gift of healing with others. Barash wasn’t sure what to expect when she first opened the cafe on Cape Cod, where fried food is the standard (and exactly what not to eat if avoiding inflammatory foods), but she received an overwhelming amount of support for her vegan bowls, with some customers sharing their own stories of adjusting their diets as a way to manage chronic illness or improve health.
The community in Wakefield has also been tremendously supportive, especially in response to Covid-19 and the pandemic. She and her husband are avid surfers and have long visited the shores of South County for its surf, especially in and around Matunuck. When the idea of opening a second location in Wakefield surfaced, “we decided to give it a whirl,” she said.
“We have really great locals who believe in what we’re trying to do,” she added, which is to create “a community of education and love and support,” especially for people who are healing. “It’s more than a menu for fun — every ingredient is well thought-out.”
In fact, every item on the menu was crafted by Barash, most after a year of personal experimentation with plant-based ingredients. When deciding what should go into a bowl or smoothie, she first considers the antioxidant qualities of the plants and their health benefits, and then how the colors mix together and present visually.
This creation process reflects a childhood spent around her family’s hand-painted textile company in Sheffield, Massachusetts, where the factory is the size of a football field. “I’ve been around buckets of paint colors all my life,” Barash said, noting she grew up in a very creative family, and that this creativity was complemented by scientific thinking. That history, combined with now raising her own daughters and developing a business with sustainable practices, has influenced the shape of BŌL.
“It sounds cheesy to say, but the blender became my paint bucket.”
For more information about BŌL and its menu, visit boloflove.com or the cafe at 318 Main St., Wakefield, which is open daily from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.