We were big fans of Jamaican restaurant Miss Lily's when it opened last year, so we expected good things of the adjacent sandwich shop and juice bar Melvin's Juice Box. The sunny, cheery lunch counter serves sandwiches and Caribbean lunch plates, as well as quite a number of juices and smoothies from Melvin Major. His long beard and megawatt smile make him unmissable behind the counter, as he was before when juicing at the organic grocer Lifethyme.
After trying a few of the juices, we can see why. They're pricey, let's be clear—$8-$10—but that's (sadly) the going rate around New York these days at juice-everything-from-scratch spots (which'll always be pricier than Jamba Juice and its ilk). Melvin's creations are dense in flavor and true to taste, not watered-down or sugared-up.
The Rootsman ($9), for instance, lists kale, banana, and coconut as its components. It's thick and intensely creamy and has the unmistakable, oily-but-appealing taste of fresh coconut as its base, banana adding a little sweetness but really not much. The kale carries a distinctive flavor, but this doesn't taste like a green juice; nor a milkshake. It's banana and coconut in their rawest forms. We felt like it could've used a little chilling down; ours was cool, but not cold, and I would've preferred it at the usual icy smoothie temperature. But otherwise, no complaints.
Ditto the Green Light ($9), which sounds (and tastes) like a salad: kale, celery, chard, and collards with parsley, lemon, and ginger. It's smooth and not fibrous, relatively thin the way you'd want juice to be. The lemon and ginger brighten up what otherwise tastes like, well, chewing on greens; I ended up squeezing another wedge of lemon into mine and preferring it that way.
Either of these feels more like a meal (or at least a substantial part of one) than a juicy sipper. But those who prefer solid food have plenty of good options with Miss Lily's sandwiches. Given how much we loved their jerk chicken at the restaurant proper, we weren't at all surprised by the quality of the jerk chicken sandwich ($9). It makes use of a generously portioned and pleasingly juicy chicken thigh, brined and spice-rubbed before it's cooked in a C-Vap oven and then grilled. It's spiced up with the jerk sauce and again with a peppered-up mayo. Sweet, squishy buns aren't always a wise sandwich choice but in this case, it really helped to cut the heat.
Vegetable roti ($9) is another fine choice, the flaky flatbread stuffed full with vegetables cooked to retain a bit of tenderness. But learn from our mistakes: something this joyously sloppy should be eaten in, not taken out.