A Family Affair: The Bynum brothers introduce comfort food with a healthy twist

story byg.w. miller iiiPatrons of green soul might not realize that the West Oak Lane restaurant is dedicated to healthy living and sustainable efforts. Succotash shrimp salad, Cajun salmon and peach cobbler are on the menu—standard fare for a Southern-style restaurant akin to the Bynum brothers’ other establishments, Relish and Warmdaddy’s.

“When you read the menu, you don’t say, ‘I’m reading a healthy menu,’” says Benjamin Bynum, co-owner with his brother Robert and Robert’s brother-in-law Akil Collins. “I think you look at the menu and you say, ‘Everything looks really good!’”

But Green Soul, which opened over the summer, is a restaurant with a mission: food that’s tasty and good for you.

“We thought it was just high time that we provide a product to our guests that gives them the best of both worlds,” says Bynum.

Much of what Green Soul serves is locally-produced and farmed without pesticides and antibiotics or genetically engineered. Nearly everything about the seven-table spot is green—recycled Okoume wood countertops, bamboo-covered walls, compostable takeout containers, and every salad and sandwich comes with a Granny Smith apple.

Primarily a takeout eatery, the menu created by chef Al Paris is intended to be a healthy alternative to fast food chains. No beef or pork is served. The meatloaf is made with turkey, as is the bacon. They make their own veggie burgers with wild rice and black beans. Most of the desserts are sugar-free, including the peach cobbler, which is sweetened with agave syrup. Even the soft drinks use agave rather than sugar.

“There are no other healthy options for people around this neighborhood,” says Collins, who notes that the nearby Weavers Way Co-op on 72nd Street closed in August after three years.

“Prepared foods might be perfect for the neighborhood,” says Glenn Bergman, Weavers Way Co-op’s general manager.

The concept is a bit of a departure for the Bynum brothers, whose other restaurants feature live music and nap-inducing comfort foods.

“All these years, we’ve been serving Southern food,” says Bynum. “But we do understand that it’s not the kind of food you can consume day in and day out without having adverse affects.”

He says the idea has been brewing for a while. Bynum became conscious about his own eating practices nearly 15 years ago after quitting his 10-year smoking habit. He began frequenting health food stores, and altered his diet.    

“I was surprised by how good I felt,” he says now.

The other, more subtle mission of Green Soul, which is located across the street from another Bynum restaurant, Relish, is to bring families back together.

“In our community, we see so many families that no longer sit to dine with one another,” says Bynum. “Meals are consumed outside of the home.”

He wants people to swing by the restaurant on their way home so the family can have a wholesome meal together.

“We truly look at this as a healthy option for a home replacement meal,” he says.

On occasional Saturdays, the restaurant hosts “kids’ day,” with face-painting and games for children.

There are cooking demonstrations for the adults, teaching parents how to cook healthfully.

“We’re going to have a long-lasting impact that goes beyond satiating your appetite,” says Bynum.

Green Soul, 7169 Ogontz Ave., 215.924.4200, GreenSoulLiving.com