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Veggies, Smoothies whet appetite at Liquid

Let's say that, after almost getting run over by a speeding SUV, sitting through a smoldering class at Cabell Hall, and violently wrenching your shirt free from the back of a wooden desk, you are finally on your lunch break. You promised your friends you'd meet them at the Corner, but don't feel like you can stand the swarming, noisy atmosphere of littlejohn's or Café Europa. The Liquid Smoothie & Juice Bar, off of 14th Street and beside Subway, is in the heart of the Corner, and offers a different kind of dining experience.

The restaurant, founded by 1992 University graduate Grier Runyon in 1997, has a clientele that "consists mostly of health-conscious college types," employee Joe Marsille said.

College graduate student Shawn Aaron, a frequent customer, described the restaurant as a "cross between a healthy place and a coffee shop."

The restaurant is a mecca for vegetarians because all items on the menu are meat-free.

"If you're somewhat inclined to be a vegetarian, there's no other place on the Corner for you," Aaron said.

The restaurant offers vegetarian sandwiches, with ingredients like tofu, sprouts, hummus, goat cheese and cucumbers, served with corn chips. Liquid also has a self-serve salad bar.

Making a good choice for lunch, however, can be a problem because of the unique names of the foods offered.

The Buffalo Bill sandwich ($4.85), stacked with lettuce, tomato, mozzarella and pesto sauce, lacked flavor. But the well-blended Maya Papaya smoothie ($3.25-$3.95) was sweet and offered satisfying relief from the heat.

The smoothies are the primary attraction: Liquid has a selection twice as large as the Pav's, including smoothies with supplements, nearly every strawberry combination imaginable, and the popular "Tangled up in Blue" - a berry, juice and frozen yogurt combination

The bar also offers fresh-squeezed juices, from staples like lemon and orange to such oddities as cucumber and (believe it or not) broccoli.

Besides the unusual juice drinks, the restaurant offers a Bohemian atmosphere.

"It's in a good location, and [it's] nice to sit at the outside tables," third-year College student Libby Yates said.

The restaurant's décor, which consists of numerous exotic potted plants complemented by vivid paintings, has a relaxed, new age quality - an ideal environment for studying or having a relaxed conversation with friends.

Although the waiters at Liquid were both helpful and hard-working, the restaurant seemed understaffed - a potential problem on particularly hectic days. And you may be disappointed if you stop by on Saturday night - they close at 8 p.m.

Despite these problems, Liquid offers both vegetarians and Smoothie sippers a valid alternative to the dining halls.