A new restaurant has opened on Fulton Street, Island Salad, becoming the neighborhood’s first and only fresh food salad bar, with a Caribbean twist.
“It’s the best thing to happen to the 'hood,” shouted Anwar Safir, 29, who had just ordered one of his favorite salads. “The way you eat is how you think, how you move, the way you conduct yourself. So I try to eat healthy so I can conduct myself in a healthy manner.”
Located at 1365 Fulton Street, where Blu York Cafe used to be, Island Salad offers a wide menu of signature salads, pressed wraps, burritos, as well as create-your-own salad options at prices that back slap its Manhattan competitors.
“It’s a labor of love,” said Rayon, the store's co-owner. Founded by Milo Meed, Island Salad is the third store to open since 2009, with two other locations in Harlem.
“I buy fresh produce every morning, and I look at everything, hand-pick it before I buy it," said Rayon, who was born and raised in the countryside of Clarendon, Jamaica, where his family grew everything they ate right in their backyard. Rayon said, fresh fruits and vegetables and fish were the foundation for his current healthy eating habits.
"What I’m trying to do right here is take care of the community. I want more people to see that eating fresh foods really tastes a lot better than all of these fried foods that they’ve gotten used to."
The salad bar includes a choice of romaine lettuce, mixed greens or spinach. Sides vary and are plentiful, including tomatoes, cucumbers, kidney beans, bell peppers, hot peppers, corn, carrots, cranberries, walnuts, sunflower seeds, artichokes and plenty more.
But as tempting as it may be to design your own salad, every single one of their 20 different Caribbean signature salads sound so good, you may be tempted to order more than one: Their Island Jerk Salad is made of the spring mix, roasted chicken, kidney beans, red onions, mixed peppers, corn, cranberries, walnuts, cheddar cheese and Jerk vinaigrette dressing, $7.49. The Island Mo-Bay Salad is made with romaine lettuce, island rice, black beans, sweet corn, jalapeno peppers, chili powder, mixed peppers and cilantro dressing, $5.49.
They also have six amazing “Deep Blue Fishing” salads, including the Crunch Island Salad made of the spring mix, jerk tilapia, sweet corn, tomatoes, onions, mango salsa, blended cheese and tortilla chips with Caribbean mango vinaigrette dressing, $7.25; and the Venus de Shrimp Salad made of baby spinach, sweet and spicy shrimp, feta cheese, onions, black olives, cucumbers and tomatoes with Cilantro dressing, $7.99.
Many of these same salads also come as ginormous wraps and burritos the size of a large shoe, ranging from $5.95 to $8.99. And the store’s beverage bar also offers a range of fun and interestingly named fruit punch drinks including the Bahama Berry, the Island Tropical Lemonade, the Robert Nesta aka Bob Marley and the Jamaica Me Crazy for $1.99 and $2.49.
The only drawback to their beverage bar is that the drinks are not made from real fruit, but instead heavy, fruit-flavored syrups mixed with ice— a rather strange choice, considering everything else is so fresh and healthy.
“This brings a whole different dynamic to the neighborhood,” said Marcus Green, 38, who is from Memphis and moved to Bed-Stuy four years ago. “People for some reason believe that we don’t prefer healthy choices, which is unfortunate because when you look around, what’s marketed to us are all of these unhealthy grease spots.”
“But I’m already a repeat customer here because of the product. It’s really good and it’s consistent and the customer service is great.”
Island Salad is open Monday through Saturdays, from 11:00am until 9:00pm. It also caters and delivers. For more information about the Fulton Street location, call 347-915-1222 or visit the store's website.
Rayon said he wants people walking outside of Island Salad to be able to look in and see his customers eating and enjoying salads. “I want to break that stereotype that all we like to eat is fried chicken and fried foods.
“That’s the theme of this Island Salad: Enjoy!” Then he shakes his head, “No, the theme is ‘Welcome…’ No, it’s ‘Eat healthy and smile!”
“Yes, that’s it. Eat healthy and smile.”