MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Miami-based health-conscious restaurant chain, Carrot Express, is always busy at its ten locations. The healthy, but fast casual restaurant, was founded in 1993 by Mario Laufer.
"I used to sell women's clothing. I had 10 employees and I was down to one which was my mother, so I went and found a place on 14th and Flagler, a 275-foot greyhound office," Laufer said.
He "hung up" the clothing business and went from very humble beginnings selling healthy sandwiches in a gas station on South Beach, to eventually turning his love for quality food into quite the business.
Since then, he has gained two partners.
Alberto is here on this day at their small Miami Shores location. The newest and largest location is at Doral's City Place and there's more to come.
"It'll be 22 by the end of the year. We also signed a lease in Manhattan so we will be opening in New York as well," Laufer said.
"Is it a pinch yourself moment, to you know what you've created here?" asked CBS4's Lisa Petrillo.
"Yes, it really is because it was such a struggle for 18 years, day to day and I finally turned it around after 18 years," Laufer said.
The decor is fresh, green, and clean just like the concept of the food.
"It's healthy, clean, natural, fun and healthy food that taste good," said Laufer.
Mario and his team pride themselves on offering a creative and extensive menu based around natural, high quality ingredients including fresh juices and smoothies accompanied by seasonal, local and California based fresh produce.
Lisa begins her tasting with a healthy options favorite, The La Mexicana salad topped with pan seared salmon. It has roasted corn, tomatoes, black beans avocado and more. It's dressed with their homemade honey lime vinaigrette.
"So, the first thing that hits me is the smoothness of the dressing. It blends in perfectly. I was worried it was going to be too acidy and spicy and then the sweetness of the fish that's super fresh and really nice," said Petrillo.
Next, the chicken goddess sandwich which is pan seared panko-crusted chicken breast, topped with a cilantro lime coleslaw on a toasted multigrain bun.
"There's a crunch from panko on the chicken and then you get the smoothness and a little crunch for the salad and then that wonderful dressing," said Petrillo.
They have a host of delicious dressings. The homemade cilantro lime remains legendary.
"That's the vein of our restaurant," said Laufer.
We move onto the worldly and satisfying pan seared salmon buddha bowl which has a blend of quinoa, cabbage, scallions, edamame, corn, roasted eggplant and brussel sprouts.
Then Mario's favorite, the pan seared mahi-mahi wrap with avocado, cabbage, brown rice, cilantro, jalapeno and more.
"This is not for the faint of heart. There is gusto in the sandwich," said Petrillo.
"This is the kind of sandwich I like to eat when I go out always having a fish sandwich like this," Laufer said.
Carrot Express is where eating healthy and eating delicious go hand in hand.
Carrot Express is open seven days a week from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
For more info, go to www.EatCarrotExpress.com
If you'd like to try the La Mexicana Salad, here's the recipe.
- 3 oz. romaine
- 2 oz. roasted corn
- 2 oz. black beans
- 2 oz. pico de gallo
- 4 oz. dressing (recipe below)
- 2 oz. of shredded jack cheese
- 1/2 avocado chopped
- 2 oz. of crispy tortillas
- 2 tbsp. of freshly diced cilantro
- 5 oz. of grape tomatoes
- Combine the ingredients above in a salad bowl and toss with dressing (ingredients listed below).
- 2 shallots or scallions (finely diced)
- 1/3 cup finely chopped coriander/cilantro
- 2 tbsp. lime juice
- 3 tbsp. of olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Combine the following ingredients and mix thoroughly.
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