Dish of the Month: Bocas Blended

My mother always warned me never to take candy from strangers and to never get into a stranger’s car, even if they offered me a new bicycle or a cute little puppy dog. Luckily, the Batido Bus isn’t a car, Jess is no stranger and the sweets she promises come in the form of wraps and smoothies; which I can proudly tell my mom about. Don’t be confused now. Just sit down and read about “Bocas Blended”, Bocas’ most innovative eatery.

Jess left the bustling urban life of New York City in search of a more relaxed life style. She moved to Bocas in 2009 with the desire to learn how to surf and speak Spanish. Three years later, she can proudly say she achieved both goals…and some.  She also turned an old rotting bus into a beautiful wrap and smoothie sanctuary.

“The bus was across the street from my first apartment in ‘Las Cabañas’. My friend told me I should buy it. I told her she was crazy. Clearly I’m crazy too because I ended up buying it,” recalls Jess.

What is now a wrap and smoothie spot, in the 1960’s was a school bus in the US. You can actually find a lot of old American school buses in Central America. You can tell by the instructions written in English directing you to “stay seated, be quiet and listen to your bus driver”. After it was a school bus and before it was an eatery, it seems the Batido Bus was used for tours, as it had “Bocas Trips” painted on the front at the time that Jess bought it.

Jess refurbished the bus and had it towed to the lot next to Mondo Taitu, where she opened in January of 2010. She started out selling exclusively smoothies; hence the name Bocas Blended “The Batido (Spanish for “smoothie”) Bus,” but then soon added wraps to the menu. She is now located on 1st street, next to the El Reloj/Tropical Markets building. Her old location was good but as the business was growing, she needed more space. While it’s not the reason she switched locations, here’s a saucy little anecdote for you: according to the night watchman, inebriated Mondo guests have been known to take part in the occasional late-night hanky panky session on the roof of the bus. So far this has yet to be reported at her new location.

Jess opened her establishment with the mission to provide healthy alternatives with only the freshest of ingredients at an affordable price with quick service. Her menu boasts a variety of wraps, smoothies, salads, ceviche, natural juices and much more.  Jess and her girls are proud to say that every sauce is made from scratch. Each wrap can be made vegetarian or with chicken or fish.  Also available is the locally famous Breakfast Burrito, which is made with eggs, onions, peppers, pico de gallo, hash browns, bacon and cheddar cheese.  My personal favorite is the spicy Buffalo wrap with blue cheese sauce.

The signature recipe smoothies are made with frozen fruit because using ice tends to water them down. Try the “Hangover Elixir” after that long night of partying that is inevitable in this town. This reporter was a bit under the weather at the time of the interview, but luckily Jess’ girls were there to serve me up a nice “Vitamin C Craze” to boost my immune system and give me the strength to write this article. If you’re really into the health thing, you might want to consider adding a spinach boost to your batido.

Find a friend and each save a dollar if you order your wrap during “wrappy hour”, which is Monday  through Sunday from 4pm to 5pm. Eat the wraps sitting on the high stools right there at the bus, the tables in front, the lounge area in back or the climb the ladder and eat your meal up top.  Just don’t get any funny ideas like those crazy drunken Mondo guests while you’re up there.

Nicholas Corea is the editor of the Bocas Breeze. He wasn't born in Bocas, but he got there as fast as he could. He is just one of the many foreigners who became enamored with the islands and his mission is to share the magic of Bocas del Toro with the world. Mr. Corea likes to extend his gratitude to everyone who makes the Bocas Breeze happen- starting with YOU (the reader).