Samba Rock Acai Café brings guilt-free berry creations and Latin flavor to Santa Cruz
Just a few years ago, during his couple of trips to Brazil, Ron Wilkerson enjoyed riding his BMX bike throughout the scenic landscape, as well as courting his current wife and business partner, Vanessa. It was there in Vanessa’s beautiful native country, where the Wilkersons had the idea to start an acai restaurant in the United States. “We flirted with moving and starting an acai café in other cities,” says Ron, “but Santa Cruz seemed to be the perfect spot for our first one, as it is such a health-conscious place with people who are open to new things.”
The Wilkersons enlisted the help of Rich Hansen of Indicate Design in San Francisco to create their dream space on Water Street. “Indicate Designs used inspirations from the favelas in Brazil, using completely recycled materials and overly heightened creativity,” Ron explains. “With myself being a pro BMX Freestyle rider for many years, and really into bike riding—and with the extremely high theft rate of bikes in town—of course we had to have inside bike parking, and our designer brilliantly incorporated it into the space.”
After the renovations, Vanessa resourced all the suppliers, developed the menu with Ron, and recruited their friends to be taste-testers—then, on Feb. 21, 2009, the Wilkersons officially opened Samba Rock Acai Café. The name, “Samba Rock,” was a good mixture between Brazilian and American words. “Samba Rock is a type of music and dance in Brazil that Vanessa loves very much, as well,” Ron adds.
He and Vanessa rave about the wonders of acai. The couple has “personally found that eating acai every day makes your body actually feel different. The properties that acai has works amazingly well inside your body, as well as it being completely unprocessed, natural, non-dairy stuff,” says Ron. Besides tasting amazing on its own, acai is especially tasty in the Da Silva bowl—which also includes strawberries, bananas and granola—and the berry actually makes you feel full longer (which explains why there are so many acai, “diet pills” available).
“Vanessa’s been eating acai since 1998 when it was only available by the beach for the surf and Jiu-Jitsu culture in Brazil,” Ron says. “Today, it’s one of the most popular foods in Brazil. Acai berries have one of the highest anti-oxidants you can eat, and they are considered a “super-food” because they include vitamins B, C, E, B1, B2, B3, Omega 9, Omega 6, and Fiber, making them good for the skin, joints, cholesterol removal, and high anti-aging properties.”
Besides their exceptionally fresh and tasty variations of acai bowls, Samba Rock Acai Café also offers numerous smoothies, as well as baked goods and caffeinated drinks. The seating is spacious and comfortable, the staff is always friendly and the grooving music will have you dancing in your seat while you enjoy your guilt-free meal. “We have a musical group named, “Valter,” which does capoeira and plays music every other Sunday,” Ron says, “there are other types of live music, like the Ace Band 3 piece, as occasion will allow.”
If you are one of the last people on earth to try an acai berry or have not had the pleasure of going to Samba Rock Acai Café before, stop by today for a tasting sample. Asked what’s in store for the future, Ron says, “We definitely have plans for more Samba Rock Acai Cafes, and are scouting investors at the moment.”
Samba Rock Acai Café is located at 291 Water Street and is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends.