Four months ago, brothers Benjamin and Robert Bynum opened up Green Soul cafe at 7169 Ogontz Avenue. Rather than serving the Southern comfort food cooked up at their restaurant Relish, just across the street, Green Soul caters to those who want healthy options on the go.
"Today, the trends towards healthier eating are certainly important," Robert Bynum said. "In this community in particular, there weren't a lot of places with food geared towards this."
"We're not serving bland food or soy cheese. We really just want to expose folks to other options that are both enjoyable and good for you," Bynum said. "If you've gone to health food places and you try their food, it can be like a rice cake, like chewing styrofoam. In lieu of that, we try to offer options that people will want to come back for."
The menu lists an array of soups, salads, sandwiches and agave-sweetened sodas. The most popular item on the menu is Green Soul's Cajun Salmon BLT, featuring their spiced salmon, turkey bacon and Cajun mayonnaise.
Repeat customer Troy White ordered a Mango Jerk Salmon Salad for the second time. He said it's the best salad he has ever eaten.
The Bynum brothers designed the menu with a lean focus in mind. Turkey replaces the traditional fatty meats like beef and pork found on most takeout menus, agave syrup is used in exchange for sugar, and the mayonnaise is constructed from an oil-base.
"I enjoyed the food so much last time, and the prices are good," said customer Leslie Fletcher who ordered the Cajun Salmon BLT because she wanted a protein-centered lunch. "The ambiance is nice, and it's just a good overall experience."
All of the food served is free of antibiotics and pesticides. The majority of it sourced from local farmers. "We need to think about sustainability. We need to think about the environment," Bynum said.
While the restaurant serves primarily takeout customers, the renovated interior provides seven tables that are frequently occupied. The tables are made from reclaimed wood. The wooden menu signs hanging on the back wall are made from wood recycled from imported coffee bean boxes.
With so many other fast food options in the area, Bynum said healthier options like Green Soul are important. "Obesity is extreme in our community right now, and we're starting to see a situation where people are graduating towards better food."
Hattie Cheek and Grace Dickinson are Temple University students. Philadelphia Neighborhoods, a NewsWorks content partner, is an initiative of the Temple Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab.