By Kathryn Lees and Yamil A. Saade
One of the burgeoning health focused restaurants and shops Bushwick has been producing in abundance these days is Salad Wheel. Salad Wheel goes above and beyond the food to entice the customer with a unique style. Steps from the frenzy of Myrtle/Broadway is an oasis that will challenge your perception of what delicious food can be. A look into their beginnings, primarily the founders history, highlights the ideas that run synonymously with Salad Wheel’s mission, and promise to the community.
The experience of Kevin Reynolds, the founder and the creative force behind Salad Wheel, stems from hospitality to entertainment rooted in Chicago. He has worked for legendary luxury property The Drake Hotel and at one point he opened a nightclub that featured emerging hip-hop artists at the time, such as The Fugees and The Roots.
Upon relocating to NYC in 2003, he founded Modernluxe (branding, interior design, architecture, sublets/renovations/renting to professionals), and ultimately settled in Bushwick over six years ago because of its “similarity to urban Chicago.” Reynolds recently opened Salad Wheel, which was created based on the needs of young professionals who were among Modernluxe’s clients. At the time, there wasn’t much available in the area to satiate the appetite of an on-the-go Bushwick resident other than fast food. His vision was to create a “modernistic farmhouse” that promotes healthy living and provides fresh produce in plenitude, whether the customer is looking to grab a bite mid-commute or in a casual and relaxed environment.
All of the ingredients used by Salad Wheels are locally sourced (farmers, bakers, butchers) or, when not otherwis eavailable, from Whole Foods. They go to great lengths to ensure the quality of the food by using techniques and equipment that optimize inherent natural flavors. For example, they use filtered water and organic detergents to cleanse all of the produce utilized in the preparation of food and beverage. Reynolds goal is to veer the aversion to healthy eating (and living) by making it more appealing than the typical foods available, such as burgers, pizza, chinese food, and those of the fried variety.
Reynolds had two cold pressed juices prepared for us – the Cold Blooded (carrots, beets, celery, and lime) and the very popular Sunday Morning (carrots, orange, celery, ginger, and apple). On first sip, your mouth is overrun with stimuli. The Cold Blooded was exactly that. Very cool, refreshing, and its detoxifying ingredients were reminiscent of wine-tasting. The Sunday Morning had an opposite effect with warm, spicy, and citrus tang. Pretty amazing! And if you are feeling really adventurous, or are just juice savvy, you have an option to build your own.
Next we had a go at the food options. We started with the Chipotle Turkey Club (which according to Reynolds is the most popular menu item – and it is clear why). Organic bacon is accompanied by roasted turkey and covered with melted cheddar and spinach, all delicately smothered with chipotle mayo on multigrain bread and served with yellow corn chips (blue corn chips optional). It tastes like home.
Then, we dove into our salad. Specifically the Waldorf Kale, which consists of raw kale, walnuts, apple, raisins, celery, hemp seeds, and the chef’s (Milla Pascal, the culinary director) dairy-free creamy dressing (no preservatives/sugar-free). A delicate mix of variables that flow together ever so smoothly, like prose. Again, like most of their fare, simple yet incredible.
As a surprise treat, Reynolds packed us a to-go bag. Included in the package was the Black Bean Kale Burrito. Ingredients included black beans, sautéed kale, red onion, avocado, and crumbled feta on a whole wheat flour tortilla (vegan options available). They do a magnificent job of cooking the beans so that they taste fresh yet they are infused with the garlic. With cursive grace, this item would win over the most cynical of critics.
Additionally, Reynolds also included a bagel, made by a local baker who delivers daily and makes them with flour imported from France. This did justice to the concept of the “Brooklyn Bagel.” Delicious and unparalleled!
Walking up, you are immediately stopped by the murals directly on the wall outside. Reynolds curated five local artists to paint them, and will soon be doing the same with additional space available at the location. The metalwork on the bike rack and planters was also created by local artists.
Our initial reaction upon entry was simply “wow.” A seamless ebb and flow of design and decor that is rustic yet modern, is complemented by the ambient fragrance of fresh produce. Reynolds takes pride in crediting himself for the design, as it is tastefully thought out. The front has a farmhouse feel, as you proceed to order from a window, flanked by signage exhibiting menu items, which triggers a vision of rural graffiti. There is even a take-out/pick-up booth, which is one of the few things that remains from the original interior structure. You will find window bar seating that faces the street, and an area in the back for a more intimate dining experience, which features additional bar seating, cozy tables, and ambient lighting. The area may be closed off from the front for private events. Here you will also find a separate bar for baked good, pastries, and infused water. Eventually craft beer and wine will be served from here as well.
The transition from area to area is effortless, and the superb sound system and culinary staff help blur any lines that may remain. Reclaimed wood is a common theme in modern design as we seek sustainability. Often it works, but can be very kitsch, but not here. Reynolds went the distance, and unified all the wood comfortably into the overall design of the room. You will find it everywhere; yes, even in the bathroom (which must be seen, as it is admiral in form).
Providing healthy and attractive alternative food options to the neighborhood is paramount to Reynolds. But his passion for the community does not stop there. The five artists whose work is shown in the murals outside will have their personal work displayed and up for sale in the space by the end of April. As for the music enthusiasts, a large private patio space in the rear will feature a live music series starting in Spring. And for the collectors out there, 85% of the antiques and items in the store will be available for sale.
A synergistic overture of sights, sounds, smells and, of course taste, creates a gratuitous experience unparalleled by any “food spot.” And that’s just it. It’s not just a destination for food, but a communal agora.