Salad bar gets warm welcome in historic Harlem

Wed Dec 23, 2009 2:02pm EST
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By Edith Honan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The historic neighborhood of Harlem has been left behind in New York City's war on obesity, but one entrepreneur is trying to reverse the trend -- and fight a stereotype.

The area that gave rise to some of the great achievements in African-American culture and commerce is now inundated with fast-food restaurants and suffers from high rates of obesity and diabetes.

The unhealthy turn has occurred despite the city's ban on artery-clogging trans fats, expansion of bike lanes and launch of attack ads on sugary drinks, which are blamed by some health activists for the country's obesity epidemic.

Into this seemingly fruit- and vegetable-free zone stepped Milo Meed, who earlier this month opened Island Salad, a Caribbean-inspired Harlem eatery that offers customers a made-to-order salad bar.

"Everyone said to me, people (in Harlem), they want fried food, they want soul food, they don't want salad. But living in Harlem and talking to people in the community, I knew what the needs were," Meed said.

He is pushing promotions such as "Diabetes Mondays," which offers a free salad to those who bring along a customer with diabetes.

Island Salad received a loan from the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corp., a publicly-funded entity that aims to revitalize distressed communities.

Combining tradition with nutrition, the shop offers "jerk chicken salad" along with an "Asian Rasta" salad with grilled teriyaki chicken, crispy chow mein noodles and sesame ginger dressing.   Continued...

<p>A customer orders food at the newly opened Island Salad restaurant in Harlem in New York December 16, 2009. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly</p>