The Elixir Eats – Washington Heights Gets Its Healthy On

BY Eileen Z. Fuentes (@theSPEACHgal)

Photography by Paul Lomax (@PaulLomaxPhoto)

For some time now, I’ve been saying that our neighborhood has been changing for the better. I recently visited Pick & Eat, which I had been stalking for months during its construction. I could just tell by the sign that proudly displayed its name that it was going to be something health nuts like myself would flock to. The day we went to visit, it was raining, cold and gray outside but inside, there were colors galore…and it wasn’t just from the beautiful décor. Health professionals have been telling us time and time again that the more colors we have on our plates, the better our chances at avoiding illnesses. I was happily surprised when I walked in and was greeted not only with prompt and courteous attention, but also with an array of different and naturally occurring hues from all the vegetables and fruits available.

At Pick & Eat you can create your own locally grown, seasonal, and organic salad, pair it with gluten-free, whole-wheat pastas and wash it all down with organic, sustainable wine, beer and other healthy beverages. And that’s not all, you could have wood oven pizza, sandwiches or hand-made hamburgers using angus hormone and antibiotic-free patties. You can also order an immune-boosting juice, wheatgrass shot or what they call a super smoothie! All foods are fresh and prepared on-site and are never canned or frozen. There are breakfast options, from made-to-order omelets, to organic griddlecakes, to hot cereal and organic coffee and teas! Really…are we in the Heights? If I’m dreaming, someone please wake me up!

This business is eco-friendly to the core. The furniture is made of reclaimed wood. The counter-top for example, dates back to 1901 and was originally part of a building that was demolished in New Jersey. The utensils are biodegradable and plastic bags are used only when it is raining. There is free Wi-Fi available to its customers throughout the restaurant and the energy saving LED lights peak at 4 watts each. If you think that’s interesting, you should have seen the basement where not only the garbage is kept refrigerated to avoid unpleasant odors but also the innovative induction oven was demonstrated to us. I even saw where the cleaning products were safely stored to keep them away from any of the food products. The main floor has large glass windows that open when the weather permits and keeps pet owners at ease as they could eat while watching their dog. The mezzanine is beautifully decorated and is equally inviting with its large flat screen TV.

Alex Peralta, the owner of the establishment, grew up on a farm in the Dominican Republic, had a career as a lawyer, and trained as a Chef all before moving to Washington Heights. Alex knew there was a need in the community for healthier food. He had the perfect recipe to welcome the new members of the community while not forgetting the existing ones.  The salad bar includes tropical items like baked sweet plantains, the juices are made with avocadoes, coconut milk and papaya, and the meats are marinated with Dominican herbs like garlic, oregano and parsley. It took him 3 years to conceive the idea with his a wife who happens to be a Physician, and a year and a half to build. He works alongside his sisters and nephew. While I was there Alex was busy managing the business, preparing the meals and even admitted he has made some of the deliveries himself. This is definitely both a family affair and a labor love.

Pick & Eat is still growing and evolving but is already off to a great start. It combines healthy food with a healthy environment. It’s a place where you can get fresh food fast, a great alternative to other not-so-healthy options in the neighborhood. Follow them on yelp for ongoing specials.

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