011520_SeaSalt

A sampling of dishes from Sea Salt Healthy Kitchen on St. Simons Island.

Sea Salt Healthy Kitchen’s menu board has about as many words as a front page.

First time diners wave the regulars past as they contemplate the potential taste of, among other offerings, the Happy Hippy, which has green apple slices, granola, hemp seed, amaranth mix and so on.

Chef Alan Ramirez, who shares ownership with Mayte Cruz, grew up in Mexico in Sonoma, and some of the small things on that menu board hark back to his heritage.

“Chia seeds are originally from Mexico,’’ he said. “The Aztecs used it. It helps with digestion, it’s good for the heart and it provides energy.”

There is more — spirulina, pepitas, matcha and aioli with a chipotle twist.

Spirulina is a concentrated protein that some assert combat allergies, asthma and infection.

Pepitas are the nutrient-loaded seeds found in some types of pumpkins.

Matcha is green tea leaves and aioli, obviously rich in vowels, is made of olive oil and garlic and is considered a healthy sauce.

As for hemp seeds, Ramirez says, “It has no THC. It’s really good for your health.”

He puts those health-boosting foods in salads, appetizers and protein bowls.

“We offer an opportunity for people who want to change their lifestyle,’’ he said.

There is apparently no shortage of those in the area because the restaurant was buzzing on a recent Friday with only a couple of tables open. Of the roughly 20 diners, only about three were men at one point, but a recipe mainstay, kale, is not known for attracting men.

Although it’s called Sea Salt, every table has mills filled with coarse pink Himalyan salt.

“It’s the purest salt you can find,’’ he said. “Salt is one of the only minerals human beings and animals need to survive.’’

Indeed, even plants on the table nestle in blocks of pink Himalayan salt.

Although there is nothing wrong with common table salt, sea salt and pink Himalayan salt are better, Ramirez said.

It also depends on the amount because excess consumption of sodium can cause a litany of ill health effects.

Unhealthy levels of salt are among the problems with the main contents of grocery shelves and freezers, processed foods.

And not just processed, Ramirez said, but, “Extra processed. Processed food is what’s killing you.”

Ramirez jumped from the desert to the Atlantic coast a couple of times before settling into his current venture.

Between 2011 and 2015, he worked for Sea Island, but he, his wife and newborn child moved back toward his native land, to Arizona, “just looking for something different,’’ he said.

He worked there for resort companies and in restaurant development.

Through it all, he and his wife were extremely health conscious, and he worked on dishes with ingredients that were local, fresh and loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

It was because of a wedding that he made a pivotal business connection. Back on St. Simons for the ceremony, he was visiting his wife’s family when someone suggested he meet Mayte Cruz, who had recently opened Chile Peppers.

“She wanted to open a restaurant, but she didn’t have the right person to do it,’’ Ramirez said.

He told her his ideas, and she helped finance Sea Salt which opened on Mother’s Day weekend two doors down from Chile Peppers.

“We’re doing a fast casual. The food is on the table within 15 minutes, and we’re doing it from scratch,’’ he said.

Linda Lokey had a Southwest salad and Katie Edwards had a Mediterranean Well Being Bowl with grilled sweet potato medallions.

“It’s good and fresh,’’ Lokey said.

Edwards called her lunch really good and said, “I like there are so many different ingredients.”

“We can tell people exactly what they’re putting in their mouths. Some people have nut allergies or gluten allergies,’’ he said.

He has ready sources for those nutrient-loaded ingredients such as the seeds that are small portions of recipes. In dishes with meat, his kitchen staff cooks grass-fed steak, local shrimp, chicken and tofu.

But 90 percent of the menu is vegetable and it isn’t easy to find local growers who don’t use chemicals. One of the staples is kale and he gets red Russian from Waycross, Siberian from Eulonia and blue kale from another nearby supplier.

He doesn’t do it by phone.

“I visit all the farms. I like to see how everything is grown,’’ he said.

Most restaurants don’t do that. A truck parks at a service entrance and the driver unloads boxes.

One of Sea Salt’s suppliers, Roger Westover, walked into the restaurant after lunch carrying bags of kale that he picked the previous night in western Brantley County.

“I grow on less than a quarter of an acre,’’ Westover said, “with no chemicals.”

Ramirez is used to visiting farms.

“My grandpa, since I was a little boy, took me to his ranch. He grew cactus and citrus,’’ he said.

Asked about any recommendations, such as a recipe, Ramirez demurred with a shrug.

“I start with onion, garlic and peppers. That’s because of my Mexican roots. Then throw whatever you have in the pot, sweet potatoes, squash, Brussels sprouts, salt and pepper,’’ he said.

Anything that’s fresh, unprocessed and hasn’t spent a lot of time in truck or on a shelf, he said.

Sea Salt charges island prices, but Ramirez said it can cost more to eat fresh and healthy but it pays off in the long run.

“Think about all the money you’d spend on medical bills,’’ he said.

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