Dr. Alon Seifan is trying to save lives, one honey-sweetened coffee and fresh-pressed juice at a time.
Seifan is a full-time neurologist, but he's also the medical mind behind the new NoLIta cafe Honeybrains -- where he's applying medicine to the menu.
"I have all this knowledge that I think can really make a difference in people's lives," Seifan said in a telephone interview. "What can I do with it?"
Seifan asked himself that question a few years ago, and eventually he found that the answer was a restaurant. He looked at evidence-based ways of eating, from the Mediterranean diet to the USDA's guidelines, and worked with the ingredients they had in common.
That broke down to five basic groups, Seifan said: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and healthy fats.
Here's a look at how those ingredients -- and the one that gives the cafe its name, honey -- are being used at the restaurant, which opens Tuesday.
There's a lot of honey
"Raw honeys seem to be gentler on our blood sugar, and if we just used raw honeys instead of sugars, we'd have this huge antioxidant component to our diet and maybe less diabetes," Seifan said.(Credit: Jillian Jorgensen)
There's even honey in the coffee
Once you drink a cup of coffee with raw honey melted into it, you'll never go back, Seifan (not pictured) assured.
"I can't drink coffee with sugar anymore," he said.(Credit: Jillian Jorgensen)
If coffee's not your thing, grab a juice
Honeybrains is also offering up fresh-pressed juices in every color of the rainbow. And the restaurant actually uses those colors to categorize its fruits and veggies.
"What we did was, let's prioritize ingredients within these groups," Seifan said, basing it on the plant pigment and color. "It's the color in fruits and vegetables that actually is good for us -- color and fiber."(Credit: Jillian Jorgensen)
There are plenty of snacks
You won't find much negativity at Honeybrains -- it's all about what you should eat, not what you should avoid.
"We feel pretty good about this kind of system that very easily explains something that's super hard to understand," he said, referring to the science of the brain. "We're doing it in a way that's only with positivity -- which is actually the way that nutrition advice works."(Credit: Jillian Jorgensen)
Bite into honey-roasted sandwiches
There's that ingredient again -- here in the honey-roasted organic chicken club, topped with pickled radishes, scallions, root veggies and fresh chiles. It embodies Seifan's philosophy of taking his five food groups and garnishing them with "herbs and spices and fermented food" before lightly sweetening them "with natural, colorful sweeteners." (Credit: Jillian Jorgensen)
There's lots of fish on the menu
Just as he picked the veggies with the healthiest pigments, Seifan chose to use the protein with the most Omega-3 -- meaning there's a lot of salmon and tuna on the menu. Pictured is the S.S. Salmon Sandwich, with organic salmon, marinated tomatoes and hummus. (Credit: Jillian Jorgensen)
You can't talk about healthy fats without talking about avocado. Here, it's smashed on some bread with alfalfa sprouts, black chile and pickled green papaya.(Credit: Jillian Jorgensen)
Sip on some matcha or kombucha
You can also choose from a selection of kombucha teas and sparkling matcha teas. (Credit: Jillian Jorgensen)
It's a one-stop wellness shop
Seifan is also incorporating his knowledge about things like meditation and supplements into the cafe -- offering up a curated list of items he's investigated.
"What you see, it may be small -- but that's because of all the sculpting that went into creating all these interesting and healthy combinations that we think will not only be good for you, but also fun," Seifan said.(Credit: Jillian Jorgensen)