While many restaurants in New York City have close relationships with farmers, and boast unimpeachable farm-to-table ethics, far fewer have actual gardens wherein they grow the produce that’s used on their plates. Six great restaurants with their very own gardens follow. Call them “roof to table.” By Jessica Allen.
Bell, Book & Candle
Atop a 100-year-old building in the West Village grow lettuces, bicolor squash, fennel, dill, parsley, poblano peppers, Japanese eggplant, and tomatoes, among other things, using soil-less, solar-powered hydroponic technology. Bell, Book & Candle incorporates these and other vegetables and herbs into its New American food. Being so close to the source means the chefs don’t refrigerate the produce. In fact, they call the freshly grown produce “dormant, not dead,” since the roots are kept attached until the very last second before cooking.
Roberta’s might look like a bunker from the outside, but inside the message is all about love—love of good food, love of food to create change, love of the community that comes together around good food. Behind its scruffy exterior lie terrific pizza and pasta, a radio station, a greenhouse, and a very big garden. You can see what’s growing via the garden’s blog, with its photos of violets, edible weeds, raspberries, basil, strawberries, watermelon, peaches, chard, and blackberries, or you can take a seat in the wooden-paneled dining room, beneath a pizza party Barbie and board games, and order whatever’s just been harvested.
The LCL: Bar & Kitchen
Like most Westin properties around the world, the newest one in New York City features luxurious amenities like the Heavenly Bed® (definitely worth its copyright in plushness), in-room Starbucks coffee, and special velour robes. But this hotel also has its very own organic garden, 384 feet above 42nd Street, supplying veggies and herbs to The LCL: Bar & Kitchen on site. This means fresh mint for mojitos and other cocktails, heirloom tomatoes for gazpacho and other dishes, mesclun lettuce for salads, grilled squash and zucchini as seasonal sides, and everything and anything else Executive Chef Brian Wieler (pictured) can cook up.
Modeled on a shebeen, an informal dining hall, and named for Nelson Mandela, Madiba claims to be the first South African restaurant of its kind in the United States. It opened in Fort Greene in 1999. Its rooftop garden is the source of at least some of the produce on the bushman’s vegetable platter (pictured), including yellow squash, asparagus, string beans, baby bok choy, corn on the cob, spinach, and fat triangles of garlic. This dish serves as a counterpart to meatastic South African braai, or barbecue, a specialty of the restaurant.
The people behind Brooklyn Grange, the world’s largest rooftop soil farms, helped construct a much smaller one atop Rosemary’s, an Italian enoteca and trattoria in the West Village. Here, on 1,700 square feet, grow peppers, radishes, arugula, basil, broccoli rabe, and all kinds of organic goodness. Picked produce arrives in the kitchen in a basket using a block and tackle. An actual basket! Not content with herbs and veggies, restaurateur Carlos Suarez has expanded the garden to include a chicken coop and beehive. Diners are sometimes allowed up for a peek.
When chef/restaurateur Jean-Georges Vongerichten and his partners decided to build a rooftop garden 10 stories above Broadway to supply ABC Kitchen with microgreens, herbs, and other produce, they sought out seeds from farmers at the Union Square Greenmarket. In addition to what gets harvested upstairs, the seasonal, oft-changing menu at this James Beard award-winning restaurant includes sustainable, locally sourced (when possible) meat, dairy, seafood, and produce, free of antibiotics and pesticides, along with beverages whose ingredients come from fair-trade cooperatives.