Blue Pearl is Lower Merion’s first vegan café.

Beetballs, massaged kale and reishi mushrooms are just a few of the organic offerings at the new Blue Pearl Café, the area’s first all-vegan restaurant. Open for breakfast and lunch, Blue Pearl serves noodle dishes, salads, fruit and granola bowls, and baked goods, plus coffee, tea, smoothies and juices.

The brainchild of FJ Leto, an Episcopal Academy grad who lives in Newtown Square, Blue Pearl opened its doors on Aug. 22 after months of COVID-related delays. Scheduled to debut in March, Blue Pearl had to be retrofitted with clear glass and a new contactless ordering system, among other things. “It was a lot of work but now we have great protocols in place to keep our staff and customers safe,” says Leto.

Blue Pearl—a reference to planet Earth—is an outgrowth of Juice Dr., Leto’s Ardmore-based company. Juice Dr.’s cold-pressed, bottled juices are sold via subscription service and at Green Engine Coffee, Merion Cricket Club and Malvern Buttery. The company also offers immunity boxes packed with organic produce, super foods, juices and recipes.  “This is a way of life for me and right now,” Leto says. “Almost everyone is looking for a diet that puts their body in a state of optimal health.”

Leto eschews the term “vegan,” even though he is one. He notes that veganism can be intimidating because of its zero-tolerance policy for products that have any animal interaction, including garments, toiletries and household items.

Although everything at Blue Pearl is vegan—and gluten-free, too— Leto prefers to describe the menu as plant-based. “We’re a great option for someone who eats a diet predominately of plants but doesn’t consider themselves vegan, which is more of an ideological stance,” he says.

Leto thinks Ardmore is the perfect spot for Blue Pearl, given the new, decidedly more hip development happening in town. “It’s the most up-and-coming place on the Main Line, if not the entire Greater Philadelphia region,” Leto says. “What’s happening here matches the modern, healthy, holistic ethic of our cafe and our company.”

Blue Pearl is currently open for takeout and dine-in service, with outdoor seating.

44 Rittenhouse Place, Ardmore, juicedr.org/blue-pearl-plant-based-cafe

A Plant-Based Eatery Opens in Ardmore

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