Drive through southeast Queens looking for a meal and you are likely to find every fast food restaurant under the sun — everything from fried chicken and pizza to Chinese food and tacos, but no traditional sit-down restaurants where you can nibble on a leafy green salad or some broiled chicken while reading the newspaper.
But all that may change as the Farmers Boulevard Community Development Corp., a nonprofit charged with revitalizing the underdeveloped business corridor, is in the process of purchasing an empty lot in St. Albans where it hopes to build a healthy traditional-style eatery with some unique amenities.
“Our purpose is to bring vitality back to the neighborhood,” said Isa Abdur-Rahman, president of the Farmers CDC. “We have recognized through neighborhood studies conducted by the Queens Economic Development Corp. that there is a growing need for a dine-in restaurant with healthier food options.”
The eatery will be called Earth Tones & Side Dishes and will offer an urban music-themed casual dine-in experience suitable for a lunch meeting or an evening out, serving American-Caribbean fusion cuisine.
The CDC began the contract to purchase land at 113-50 Farmers Blvd. last month and is seeking to raise the $95,000 it needs for the sale from sources such as grants, private contributions and conventional financing.
The one-story building will be 4,200 square feet with a 3,000-square-foot dining area, 500-square-foot kitchen, 700-square-foot adjoining fresh produce market and a rooftop garden where fruits and vegetables will be grown.
“So far the feedback from the community has been positive,” Abdur-Rahman said. “We conducted some surveys to determine what kind of features residents would want.”
Construction is expected to take nine to 12 months with the opening slated for sometime in 2013. Those in support of the plan, according to Abdur-Rahman are: City Councilman Comrie (D-St. Albans), the Queens EDC, Borough President Helen Marshall, the Pratt Center for Community Development and the NYC Economic Development Corp.
The Farmers CDC plans to hire area residents to work in the establishment. They will offer culinary classes once a week to help educate aspiring chefs and well as home cooking instruction to teach community members how to prepare healthier meals in their own kitchens.
Initially the restaurant will offer lunch and dinner only, but the CDC will consider expanding to include a breakfast and brunch menu if there is demand for it.
Each word in the eatery’s name represents a different aspect of the business’ philosophy. Earth denotes the freshness aspect and minimalization of its industrial footprint. Tones signifies its ties to the jazz, funk and hip-hop heritage of southeast Queens and side dishes summarizes its philosophy that “when health is the main course, everything is a side dish.”
Assemblyman Bill Scarborough (D-Jamaica), who represents the area where the restaurant would be located, also praised the plan and its unique features, stating that it is an attractive proposition because it would provide jobs and fill a void in the community.
“I support the plan, and I hope it comes to fruition,” Scarborough said Thursday. “The concept of a sit-down restaurant where people and families can get a meal is wonderful.”
The lawmaker also said he remains trim by exercising regularly and eating healthy — not an easy proposition considering the array of fatty-food take-out joints that plague the district.
Comrie, whose district office is across the street from where the new restaurant would be located, expressed similar sentiments and added that it would be a place he could see patronizing with his family.
“I hope it works,” he said. “It’s a unique concept, and I hope they will do everything possible to ensure that the restaurant is successful. We definitely need a sit-down restaurant in our community, and we need to teach better nutritional cooking habits.”