Barely open for two months, Thiiah's Juices and Organic Foods located on Belmont Road is fast creating a buzz among vegans and the calorie-watching lunchtime crowd in the city. According to proprietor Althea McPherson, business has been on the uptick in the restaurant's short history. "There has been consistent growth in my customer base... I get the full support of the people in the vicinity and people from as far as Ocho Rios come here, so I'm quite pleased," the vivacious McPherson told Thursday Food on our visit last Friday.
The new restaurant is the second Thiiah's outlet, with McPherson setting up the first eatery in Mandeville Plaza in Manchester four years earlier. A certified accountant who in a former professional life worked at Southern Parks and Markets, McPherson said the genesis of the restaurant came about when, after returning from studying nutrition and wellness at a health institution in New Jersey, she found her mother — a devout Seventh-Day Adventist — had become obese. "She [her mum] went into a coma and was taking all these medications that suppressed the diseases she was fighting, but the side effects were causing other problems with her liver because she's a diabetic. I started shopping for her and I realised there was too much processed food, too much sodium in the food and getting healthy food readily was quite difficult. So I decided a lot of people were out there with these challenges and I knew food could heal them," the enterprising restaurateur shared.
Another factor that steered her towards entering the vegan food market in Kingston's ever-expanding foodie landscape was the fact she felt underserved and unimpressed with what was available. "I went to all the vegetarian stores and raw food restaurants and I tried their meals and found they weren't as tasty as they should be. Most people think vegetarian food is tasteless, so I wanted to let people understand that it is a myth, so we incorporated an Asian-European twist to our menu," McPherson rationalised.
Thiiah's extensive menu is testament to its owner's purposeful mission to offer options galore. Soups, entrées (including tofu and bean dishes, and fish meals), wraps, pizza and sandwiches, all with a vegetarian slant, are available for take-out or to dine in (the restaurant comfortably seats 20 persons). All meals, she stressed, are under 900 calories. In a definitive effort to make good on Thiiah's mantra of tasty veggie meals, McPherson said the use of powdered seasoning is a strict no-no in preparing dishes. "We choose our seasoning carefully; we love our bay leaves, tumeric, cloves and also our fresh Jamaican seasoning like escallion, thyme, pimento and garlic," she explained.
While the restaurant has only been operational since October, customer favourites have already emerged. These include the Mongolian veggie steak, coconut curried tofu, and A Nation of Beans -- 13 different beans including lentils, broad beans, black eye beans and kidney peas that are made into a stew or baked.
Cooling down is also big business at Thiiah's. The eatery's juice bar is a runaway hit for those looking for healthy juice options or, dare we suggest, boost their virility. "The men love the Power Station drink," McPherson reports of the popular brew that consists of pumpkin seed, sunflower seed, flax seed, with an option to add an elixir made with bee pollen and ginseng to the beverage. Selling on average 50 Power Station drinks a day, she said the drink "is good for the prostate and keeping it healthy...it helps with good circulation and having brain power".
"The men say it does something to their back and the females say it energises them and makes them feel powerful... it's an excellent drink," the proprietor revealed. Other popular juices include the Verry Berry smoothie made with blueberries and strawberries, and the Snow White, a concoction made with coconut and almond.
McPherson, a self-professed health devotee who is also a 'gym rat', sees Thiiah's as a business in expansion mode. The eatery, which also houses a section that is well stocked with supplements from Nature's Plus and Only Natural brands, is one she identifies as franchise-ready. "My vision is to open more outlets," she adds.
Thiiah's Juices & Organic Foods
22 Belmont Road
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
You can also 'like' the eatery on Facebook at Thiiah's Organic Foods