Enjoy Your Veggies at Danville’s PB&J Bar

by Nancy Bishop

Eat your veggies!

Seems like we’re hearing that advice from everywhere these days – TV news, social media, magazines, newspapers. Even your mother! (Of course, that’s what she’s been saying ever since you were a toddler…)

If you’re a real meat-lover, that can be daunting advice. You know you should, but that hamburger or steak cooked on the grill is calling your name.

Well, there’s a new Danville restaurant that’s making it easier – and absolutely delicious – to eat your veggies.

The PB&J Bar opened on Mill Street in March, just a couple of weeks before COVID-19 forced everyone to stop eating in restaurants. But owners Christian Force and his fiancé Shannon persevered, offering take-out until indoor dining was again allowed.

PB&J Bar owner Christian Force (right) poses with Brandon Dalberto, a personal trainer at Altera Life.

Located at 554 Mill St. in Danville’s historic downtown, the restaurant’s real name is “The Plant Based and Juice Bar, LLC.” However, says Force, “We love the fun and simplicity of PB&J bar.” Years ago, the bright green building had been a diner called Pappas that was known for its hot dogs, but they weren’t anything like the Carrot Dog that has a place on the PB&J menu. Succulent grilled carrots join spices, spicy mustard and kraut in this “dog.”

Carrots are a big ingredient at the PB&J Bar.

These are not your typical boiled-to-mush veggies that you learned to hate. Think roasted, grilled, fried with delicious seasonings. Hungry for breakfast? There’s a Rainbow Breakfast Burrito or pancakes topped with berry compote among the many offerings, including some yummy looking raspberry Danish pastries. For lunch there’s “burger” options like the “Classic,” a lentil, mushroom and seitan (a protein made from wheat gluten that mimics the taste and texture of meat) burger topped with tomato, greens and mayo, and a number of other options, including salads and even a grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwich — or PB&J as the restaurant is named!

But, wait, the “J” in the name stands for juice, and there are lots of fresh options made from whole fruits and vegetables. My choice when I visited recently was a Berry Smoothie. Lots of raspberries and blueberries with a bit of oat milk. It was so delicious that I forgot to take a photo!

Yes, it’s a Vegan menu with no animal products in sight, but if you haven’t ever tried it, give it a chance and you will like it. Personally, I’m looking forward to returning and trying a number of the menu items, especially the eggplant parm on their brunch menu and the Buffalo cauliflower taco bowl.

So why a vegan restaurant? For Christian and Shannon, it was a natural extension from their other business on Mill Street, the Altera Life Health Club, which offers nutritional counseling along with personal training. As part of the nutritional counseling, they had started providing meals to people in need, and out of that grew the idea of a restaurant.

“With the religious and ethnic diversity here, there are many vegetarians in the area, and people wanted this. Everyone thinks vegan is so different,” says Christian. “But it’s just good food – real food. There are options for everyone on the menu.”

The variety of vegan desserts are to die for!

PB&J Bar sticks to “whole foods” on its menu, using limited processed foods. They get their produce from local farmers Briar Creek Farms and Tewksbury Farm. The coffee comes from nearby Bason Coffee Roasting. “We want to keep it local and benefit the community,” Christian says.

Only the freshest ingredients are used in the food at the bar.

Altera is the Latin word for “other,” so Altera Life is literally an “Other Life.” And it has been an “Other Life” for Christian, who’s originally from Berwick – a Berwick High School Bulldawg who played on the football team. He says he reached a point in his own life where he decided to get healthy and adopted a plant-based diet along with exercise. “I started living this other life.”

Altera Life helps its clients transition to and maintain healthy lifestyles through proper nutrition and physical activity. The club offers personal training and nutritional consulting. There’s also a sauna and even special eucalyptus towels!

Like other small businesses, particularly restaurants, COVID-19 has made some differences in operations. Seating capacity is limited, social distancing is in place and masks must be worn until you’re seated. There’s more frequent cleaning, too. It’s healthy eating in a healthy atmosphere.

But the community has been amazing since PB&J was only in business for two weeks before the mid-March shutdown, Christian adds. “They continued to order take-out to make sure we stayed in business. And since late May when dining-in was again allowed, they’ve been coming to the restaurant as well.”

Come on out and start your other life. Eat your veggies. They’re really, really good at the PB&J Bar in Danville! And don’t forget to follow them on Facebook to get regular menu updates.