Manhattan Avenue is set to get a lot greener next week with the opening of Jungle Café.
The all-vegetarian restaurant, the creation of Greenpoint residents Daniel Dean, Kyra Rogowski, and Manuel Rufino, will offer buffet-style meals in cuisines as diverse as Mexican, Indian, Polish, and Chinese. Think pierogis, burritos, dal and rice, and Chinese stir-fry vegetables all under the same roof.
Rufino, whose vision was central to the creation of the place, has over 40 years of experience working in the restaurant industry, having helped put together several health-conscious restaurants in the ‘80s and ‘90s in New York and Los Angeles, where his patrons included Michael Jackson and Diana Ross.
“The main idea was to add a good quality, health-oriented restaurant to this neighborhood,” said Rufino. “The food is being prepared considering people’s needs for lower cholesterol, and less salt, but also ensuring that it is tasty. We want to be a center to inform people about diet and nutrition.”
Floors painted with colorful chakras, hand-crafted wooden tables, built by the owners themselves, and wall murals created by Greenpoint-based artists depicting Native American themes greet customers as they walk into the shop.
Large, floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the sidewalk, drenching the establishment in sunlight.
“We all personally love nature,” said Rufino. “We love the rainforest, we are into animal protection, creating harmony with nature, we are going to advocate for all these things here, and that’s how we came up with the name Jungle Café.”
Dean, Rogowski, and Rufino had collaborated on several musical and artistic products before, practice yoga together, and have traveled to places like Peru, Mexico, and India together. Jungle Café is a manifestation of their shared experiences that they now want to introduce to the Greenpoint community.
“The place fits in perfectly with Greenpoint because it caters to the cultural diversity of the neighborhood,” said Rufino. “Greenpoint has become trendy. There are a lot of artists moving in. People are looking for better ways of living.”
Apart from the food, Jungle Café will also serve organic juices, smoothies, coffee, and house made cereal. The group works almost entirely with local farmers to produce their food.
In addition, the café will also serve as a place for lectures and workshops on healthy living, and the owners said they’d like to invite artists over the course of the year to continue adding artwork to the space.
While the meals will be buffet-style at first, an a la carte dinner and breakfast menu are soon in the offing.
The place is yet to open, but it is already creating quite a buzz.
“We thought we might not receive a warm welcome,” said Rufino. “But I’m so happy to see so many people passing by and stopping to inquire when it will open. To see our vision is now concrete after months of hard work is amazing.”
Jungle Café, 996 Manhattan Avenue, 347-987-4981, Opens Next Week, for exact opening details visit http://www.junglecafenyc.com/.
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