“We built the Salaam restaurant with steel and concrete; that’s why we could close it for 12 years and come back and find it still here! Because brothers and sisters: For you, there is nothing too good!” Nobody can open a restaurant like a trained preacher, and those were the words of Nation of Islam head Louis Farrakhan when he reopened Salaam, the church’s restaurant, at 706 W. 79th street, last month. (No relation to the north side middle-eastern restaurant of the same name.) Salaam closed 12 years ago for reasons that are not very clear, but after a reported $5 million restoration, the restaurant following the church’s dietary restrictions (no pork and no liquor, for starters) has reopened with a 300-seat banquet hall and a cafe and bakery, under general manager Calvin Hollis, who was one of the co-owners of the E2 nightclub which suffered a controversial fire in 2003.
The Nation of Islam, which was supported at times in its history by food businesses such as baking bean pies, emphasizes its own view of healthy eating for African-Americans, stressing freshly made foods and avoiding or repurposing foods associated with slavery. In Farrakhan’s words, Salaam will offer a bounty that also includes a lot of traditional soul food: “From our Bakery, we intend to put out Your Daily Bread: Fresh-baked bread made of the finest ingredients. The Salaam Restaurant also has a wonderful vegetarian cuisine. But for those who just gotta have a tenderloin steak, or lamb, come on here to The Salaam!” [Examiner]