After Aptos native Jeff Hickey spent several years working construction in Texas, he returned to Santa Cruz County. He realized his dream of opening a restaurant that served the food he and his wife enjoy: fresh, organic salads with high-quality ingredients. So, in February 2021, they opened Soul Salad in Aptos.
Everything is scratch-made, including the dressings—they also roast their own corn, beets, nuts and seeds. Hickey’s favorite menu item is the Café Salad, a honey Dijon dressing drizzled over the “Soul Salad greens mix” and feta, pecans, mango and croutons. Another popular option is the Surfer Salad: greens and kale, steak and a Sriracha ranch dressing. The house-brewed teas, like hibiscus and lemon cucumber mint, are excellent. Soul Salad is open Tuesday-Saturday, 11:30am-5pm. Hickey recently described his concept and revealed his inspiration.
When did you have that aha moment?
JEFF HICKEY: At night, when my wife and I were off work, she would make her salad for the next day. She would prepare the lettuce, grate the carrots and beets and cut the cucumber, which would take her at least an hour. She often lamented how she missed her hometown salad shop in New York. We felt like Santa Cruz needed a place like that, so we created Soul Salad as a place for people to stop by and get something quickly that’s both fresh and healthy.
How do you define Soul Salad?
For me, it’s less of a restaurant and more of a prep service. We combine the freshest and highest quality organic ingredients that we can find. The only oil we have in the restaurant is olive oil, and 100% of the produce that comes through the door is organic. That’s how my wife and I eat at home, and that’s how our restaurant is too.
Soul Salad, 7957 Soquel Drive, Aptos. 831-708-2106; soulsalad.com