CANARSIE – In a community saturated with fast-food chains, two locally owned juice bars have opened within the last year with a matching mission: to promote healthier eating.
Twisted Rootz opened on August 5 at 7905 Flatlands Avenue, a spot formerly occupied by a nail salon. Located equidistant between two schools, surrounded by Wendy’s, Subway, a bakery and a Chinese takeout place, it offers a decidedly different option to the local residents.
The menu at Twisted Rootz is stacked with ready to order salads, fresh pressed juices combining ingredients like kale, spinach, parsley, and cucumber, and small bites like non-fat yogurt parfaits or acai bowls.
The benefits of fresh food are ample, particularly for a neighborhood afflicted by some of the highest rates of obesity and diabetes in NYC.
Canarsie sits on the fringes of Brooklyn’s development boom, largely unaffected by the sweeping changes ubiquitous in neighboring zip codes. Cliché symbols of gentrification such as trendy coffee shops, luxury condos, or organic farmers’ markets, are absent from the everyday affairs of residents.
To some locals, the lack of change is a concern. “I just feel like people don’t invest in our black community”, Kerlie Napoleon, Twisted Rootz’s owner said.
The lack of investment which has affected the Southeastern Brooklyn neighborhood means ongoing limited access to fresh food. “We have to eat all of the greasy and fatty foods” Napoleon added.
So far there is a rush of excitement about her business. On Yelp, it has 5 stars and a user commented: “Yes. Finally, a healthy restaurant in Canarsie that juices. I’ve waited a long time and here it is”.
A pressed juice diet can help improve cardiovascular health, promote weight loss, and also provide rich antioxidants that help fight diseases and reduce the risk of cancer according to a UCLA study.
One mile east at Hellshire Grill (9501 Flatlands Avenue), that opened last summer, one resident was less enthusiastic about the menu. “You don’t got no oxtail?” exclaimed an older man as he examined the menu of vegetable drinks and fish platters.
Kirk Morgan, Hellshire Grill’s owner, is accustomed to this kind of reluctance from patrons. “It’s a transition for a lot of people, they are used to eating the regular unhealthy stuff”, said Morgan, a hospitality graduate from the University of Cincinnati where he says he learned the inner workings of running a business.
Hellshire Grill offers a selection of fresh pressed juices and similar to Twisted Rootz, the customer base is diverse and the prices are intentionally affordable. A 24 ounce “Mean Green” juice consisting of apple, cucumber, celery, kale, lemon, and ginger costs $5.
For Regenia Perry, diabetes and high blood pressure diagnosis 30 years ago was her signal to eat more greens and less saturated fats, “I don’t like my options around here besides Hellshire because it’s fast-food so the moment I try those things, my cholesterol goes up, so I stay away”.
An immigrant from Jamaica, Morgan understands the eating habits of his customers, in a predominantly Caribbean neighborhood. “Now people are starting to realize they’ll stick around much longer if they starting eating healthy”, said Morgan.
Morgan is confident that in the future there will be plenty of options to eat healthy in Canarsie. “For now, I’m holding it down”.