Jury Duty Eats: Downtown Natural Market

I’m not very familiar with the Downtown Brooklyn area, so when I reported for jury duty earlier this month I arrived early in order to do a little recon in preparation for lunch. Right away I was a little disappointed — I saw tons of fast food chains, but not much else. Then I noticed a sign over a place called Downtown Natural Market, which read “Vegetarian Salad Bar.” I wasn’t sure what a vegetarian salad bar was, exactly, but I made a mental note of the location and headed off to jury duty.

Jury duty is something that many people dread; I have always been curious about how the process actually works. Although I was not picked for a jury this time (and now am exempt for 8 years), it was a relatively interesting experience. They started by showing us a video about juries and the history of jury duty, starring Diane Sawyer and the late Ed Bradley. The highlight of the movie was the period re-enactment of “trial by ordeal,” in which actors dressed in medieval peasant garb threw a tied-up man into a lake to see if he would float (I won’t spoil the ending for you).

We got an extended lunch break, so I headed out to see what the deal was. Downtown Natural Market is a Caribbean-run health food and vitamin store with a juice bar at the back. I looked around in vain for the salad bar, before spotting the small steam table in the corner. There were a few entrees, as well as some collard greens, pasta, and brown rice. The sign next to the table reminds patrons that everything is, despite appearances, vegetarian. I got some curry “chicken” and some “beef” as well as some brown rice and some of the collard greens. You pay by the pound; I don’t remember the exact price but it’s around $8 per pound. I took my carton over to the tiny counter (seats maybe two and a half) to eat.

The collard greens were a big disappointment, they were not seasoned at all. The fake meats were much better. The curry chicken was “curry” in the Caribbean sense of the word, which is to say spicy but not sauced the way an Indian or Thai curry would be, much drier. The texture reminded me of layers of bean curd skin. The beef was chewy and dense; the sauce a pleasant mix of sweet, spicy, and tangy.

I returned to jury duty quite happy and full. In the end I was not selected to serve, but thanks to Downtown Natural Market the trip wasn’t a complete waste of time.

Downtown Natural Market — 51 Willoughby St, Brooklyn

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