Moorestown, Voorhees cafe may come to Collingswood
In Collingswood, most restaurants that open their doors these days seem to stick around.
There are some notable exceptions, of course, but walk the length of Haddon Avenue and you will find a long line of restaurants with deep and deepening roots, and others that have expanded.
Healthy Garden & Gourmet Pizza hopes to join their ranks.
The fresh food and gourmet pizza restaurant, with locations in Voorhees, Moorestown and Piscataway, is the subject of a hearing on a site plan waiver Monday evening at 7 p.m. before the borough’s planning board. Owners hope to open at 747 Haddon Ave., which formerly housed Sushi World.
Len Michnik of Voorhees owns and operates the eateries with his wife Larisa Michnik and son Michael Michnik. The couple also has a younger daughter, Anna.
After graduating college in his native Ukraine, Michnik worked in the restaurant business before emigrating to the U.S. in 1990.
He worked as a computer programmer in a consulting company for many years, but always thought about owning his own restaurant, he recalled Thursday, while seated in Healthy Garden’s Moorestown café on Main Street.
Chef Shigeru Fukuyoshi prepares for dinner service at his restaurant Sagami Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019 in Collingswood, N.J. Cherry Hill Courier-Post
“The reason I opened was because I couldn’t find any good food around then,’’ Michnik said. “Everything was frozen and cheesesteaks. I said, how come people don’t have something acceptable to eat that’s good for their health? I travel around and try different countries’ foods … And I said, it’s time to open my own next to my home that people will like and enjoy.’’
It took years of building up savings while educating himself about the local restaurant landscape and laws that regulate restaurants before he was ready to take the leap.
Healthy Garden Café offers a lot of the types of foods that Michnik says he and his family prefer.
The menu is eight pages long and overwhelming at first glance, but it’s broken up into categories, all of them with myriad choices as well as options for those with food restrictions or special diet preferences.
The menu kicks off with a fresh juice menu with 21 flavors incorporating nearly every fruit and veggie. You can try a Carrot Fusion (strawberry, carrots and orange), King Kale (kale) or the Body Cleanser (carrots, cucumbers, beets and apples). Juices range in price from $5.99 for small to $12.99 for a large.
Healthy Garden patrons also can select from 21 kinds of freshly made smoothies, which include everything from mango and papaya to spinach and kale.
For breakfast, customers can kick off the day with a Tofu Scramble, Breakfast Burrito, Avocado Egg Sandwich or a Power Breakfast bowl of organic oatmeal, fruit, walnuts and cinnamon, among other options. There are organic egg omelets, pancakes, waffles, muffins and other items, too, ranging from $3.99 to $15.99.
Not everything on the menu is entirely virtuous, although dishes are filled with fresh and often organic ingredients. Sharing the apps menu ($4.99-$12.99) with hummus, guac and lettuce wraps are cheese fries, mozzarella sticks and onion rings.
The hot and cold sandwich and wrap sections of the menu are exhaustive and come with gluten-free choices, as well. Ingredients such as turkey and chicken breast are roasted and sliced in house, Michnick said. There are 18 wraps choices (think grilled salmon, falafel, Buffalo chicken … ranging in price from $9.99 to $14.99). The sandwich menu encompasses handcrafted burgers, club sandwiches, hoagies and cheesesteaks, most priced between $9.99 and $12.99.
“Mostly, it’s American food,’’ said Michnik. “We use natural, fresh ingredients, and we do not use any frozen products at all. It’s all fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and what is good for your health. You can have (housemade) French fries, but you can also have brown rice, you can have quinoa, you can have a nice, fresh salad. You can put some grilled chicken or salmon on there, so you are not tired all the time. You will feel so much better.’’
Healthy Garden Café also offers salads, wings, quesadillas, veggie stir-frys, dessert crepes and a kid’s menu.
We haven’t even gotten to the pizza. Customers can choose from a dozen specialty pie options, as well as more traditional toppings. Those avoiding gluten can order pizzas or specialty flatbreads. Tired of pizza? Healthy Garden also makes calzones and stromboli.
And then there are main courses – Chicken Schnitzel, Penne Vodka with Chicken, Lamb Kabobs and several other dishes, for $15.99-$16.99.
The Michniks opened their first Healthy Garden Café in Voorhees in 2007. The Moorestown restaurant opened in 2010, followed by the Piscataway location.
The menu has grown over time, Michnik said but is essentially the same concept that proved successful in Voorhees. He never intended to make pizza, but the original location was a former pizzeria, so they gave it a try, using Grande mozzarella and fresh toppings. “I’m using the most expensive cheese,’’ he said, “low-fat, so it tastes great but is less calories. And we have a diet cheese, a soy-based cheese, because a lot of people are vegan or are vegetarian but don’t eat cheese. We have everything for everyone.’’
Asked why he hopes to open in Collingswood, which, after all, is an extremely crowded restaurant field (with at least five places that make pizza, for instance, in 1.9 miles), Michnik said he is thinks he’s bringing something different to Haddon Avenue.
“My food is unique,’’ he said. “There are a lot of good restaurants there. But nobody makes food the way I do it ... People will taste my food and make a decision who is best.’’
The existing Healthy Garden Cafes serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. They are BYOB, and offer on-site dining as well as take-out and free delivery within a 5-mile radius. Those who like enjoy juice can join the restaurants juice program, which offers discounts for regular customers. “And that sort of forces them to drink more fresh juices, which is very good for their health,’’ Michnik said.
The restaurants also do a lot of catering, Michnik said, especially corporate catering.
Michnik clearly believes in the food he is selling, often skipping the coffee in favor of a freshly made juice.
“When I drink juice, I feel more energetic. It is the best medicine … it tastes good and I feel good afterwards. If you feel sick, drink juice twice a day for three days, and you’ll be fine!’’
His favorite items on the Healthy Garden menu is the Chicken Pesto Passion Stromboli ($14.99/$17.99) and the Health Tonic (apples, orange, kiwi, lemon and ginger) juice.
But when it comes to satisfying his customer, it’s not pizza or even juice that comes to mind first off that eight-page menu.
“My soups are all homemade and we make them daily,’’ he said. “We sell them a lot. The biggest compliment for me is when people really enjoy our soups, and they tell their friends and then they all come back.’’
Sushi World occupied a smaller space than Michnik has at other locations, but if he gets approvals to move forward, he is confident it is the spot for Healthy Garden. “I am going to make it a nice place,’’ he said. “I want to make sure that people will enjoy the environment there, too. It is going to be brand new equipment.’’
If all goes well, he anticipates an early summer opening. “It is always a lottery, but I’m confident.’’
“I am happy we are growing, and looking forward to new challenges,’’ Michnik said. “I hope to make some friends there, and I am sure they will be happy with my food.’’
If you go
If you go
Healthy Garden & Gourmet Pizza: 73 E. Main St., Moorestown; 200 County Rte 561, Voorhees; 1372 Centennial Ave, Piscataway. Visit https://www.healthygardencafe.com/