Sure, New York has more concrete than crops. But when it comes to sourcing produce, locally-grown just keeps getting more local.
Like up on the roof of the restaurant where the greens and red peppers on your plate were just picked.
Some of the city's hottest chefs and restaurants are at the forefront of this roof-to-table boom. The rosemary at Rosemary's (duh) is grown on the roof, and the East Village's Exchange Alley harvests five different kinds of peppers, plus ancient Aztec herbs.
"It doesn't get any fresher. The food is 50 feet away and it’s not even farm-to-table; it’s straight-to-the-plate," says Exchange Alley chef Paul Gerard.
Want to get a taste of this super-fresh food before the fall frost destroys it? Check out these eight of-the-moment New York City restaurants with amazing on-site gardens. —Lisa Elaine Held
Photo: The LCL
Star chef Dan Kluger is known for his love of the Union Square Greenmarket, but he also sources peppers, tomatoes, and herbs from a garden ten stories above the Broadway restaurant, where Jean Georges himself planted the first seeds. www.abckitchennyc.com
Okay, it's not technically a restaurant, but Heather Tierney's Chinatown hotspot operates a 500-square-foot rooftop garden that allows bartenders to spike their haute cocktails with herbs like cilantro and mint, and even heavier ingredients like figs and peppers. www.apothekenyc.com
Bell, Book, and Candle
This West Village destination thought way outside of the box when dreaming up its soil-free rooftop Aeroponic tower garden. (Yes, Aeroponic.) It consists of 60 5- to 6-foot towers that produce organic greens like arugula, plus okra, herbs, strawberries, and melons. And you can experience the produce on your plate or in a glass—with, say, a Rooftop Mixed Greens salad and a Rooftop Mint Mojito. www.bbandcnyc.com
Chef Paul Gerard weaves New Orleans influences into his East Village menu, and the more than 140 cayenne, habanero, hot cherry, and bell pepper plants in his back garden help add that southern spice. He also grows Mexican herbs like epazote and papalo, greens, and tomatoes, and garden produce is included in almost every dish on the menu. Also, who knew the neighborhood's wild critters liked such wholesome food? "I can’t let the beef steak tomatoes ripen, because squirrels will eat them," Gerard says. "I put the fried green tomatoes on the menu because of this." www.exchangealleynyc.com
Almost 400 feet above 42nd Street, on the 41st floor of The Westin New York Grand Central, The LCL's chef Brian Wieler tends to a 1,300-square-foot rooftop garden himself, planting and watering 11 vegetable beds and nine whiskey barrels full of herbs. This time of year, Wieler harvests lots of herbs, arugula, mesclun, and, of course, pounds of heirloom tomatoes you can taste in the gazpacho. www.thelclnyc.com
Battery Park residents rejoiced when this seafood temple opened, with famed chef Floyd Cardoz at its helm. When Cardoz isn't in the kitchen, you may find him 16 stories up, picking radishes, peas, and greens for lunch and dinner service. Cardoz even hired urban farming expert Kristen Shafenacker to train the North End Grill staff to plant and tend to the produce. www.northendgrillnyc.com
Bushwick pizza palace Roberta's is the purveyor of healthier hipster fare, known for its focus on all things local and seasonal. Its backyard garden includes an orchard of fig, apple, and peach trees and more than 60 plant varieties, from squashes and beans to raspberries and wildflowers, some growing in elevated greenhouses. The restaurant team is able to source 15 percent of the produce they use on their own turf—the rest they get from their friends at the nearby Brooklyn Grange. www.robertaspizza.com
Herbs—basil, mint, thyme, sage, and, yes, rosemary—are the most prolific crops in the 1,000-square-foot rooftop garden of this beloved West Village restaurant. "During the summer, we can get 100 percent of the basil that we need for the restaurant from the roof," says executive chef Wade Moises. "But if we wanted to only use rooftop rosemary, then that's all that we would be able to grow because we use so much in the kitchen." Try the Garganelle Primavera, which is garnished with a roof-only herb salad, and other items on your plate, like radishes, lettuces, and long beans, will have also come from above. www.rosemarysnyc.com
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