Luckily for Sonny Bari, his diet consists of very healthy foods. It wasn't always that way.
Bari, a Bensonhurst native who comes from a restaurant-owning family, realized he was unhappy with his eating habits sometime in the 1990's. But when he looked around for a food store for healthy alternatives, he discovered none existed in his neighborhood.
“I said you know what, I need to eat healthy,” Bari recalled thinking. But “there weren't any health food stores in Bensonhurst at the time.”
While other people might have called it quits and settled for supermarket salads, Bari decided to take matters into his own hands.
He converted a luncheonette on 18th Avenue into a health food store and the business, located next to a popular gym, took off. Within a few years Bari and partner had opened several more locations across southern Brooklyn.
After the partnership dissolved, Bari moved to California and honed up on his cooking chops at a culinary school in San Francisco. When he returned in 1999, Bari opened Energy Fuel, a new and improved health food restaurant on 4th Avenue in Bay Ridge.
Bari opened a second location on 7th Avenue in Park Slope in 2003. He is currently finishing work on his first Queens location, on Fresh Pond Road in Ridgewood.
His food spots offer tables, counter service and takeout. The menu consists of items like low-carb pizzas, pitas, wraps and “Energy Plates.” Examples are the BBQ Chicken Avocado Plate and the Chicken Portobello Teriyaki Plate.
That's a far cry from his childhood diet of fried foods - his family is in the fried chicken business. “I realized that's not a healthy diet and it's not for me,” Bari said of his early food choices.
Now Bari prefers the kind of food that can be found on his own menu; one of his favorites is the Bison Burger, which he says is much healthier than beef or chicken.
And he said he's always looking for the next fresh find. “I'm always looking at Health Magazine and watching cooking shows to see what's out there,” he said.