In honor of our nation’s new frontier , I’m doing my part to change the country the best way I know how…by dining out…green! Okay, I know the words “green,” “sustainable,” and “local” are thrown around as frequently as Rachel Ray’s “Yum-o!” these days, but this list promises to inform and correct any misconceptions about our beloved city’s culinary conscientiousness. We’re not quite San Fran just yet, but we’re closing the gap…
Better still, testing out my picks tastes great! From French fries, to ice cream, to the fancy dining destinations Celest makes me put on heels and a dress for, my personal green criterion varies from the standard guidelines of all “certified organic” all the time. I may not be as much of a slave to slow food as Kimberly, but taking baby steps in the direction of responsible dining is an easy place to start, and it DOES NOT mean a lack of options or taste. ‘Cause for even the pickiest eaters, like me, there are plenty of ways to Go Green in NYC! But just like a proud Mamma, I couldn’t possibly choose between my babies. So here are a few favorites…alphabetically listed, to play fair.
Top 20 Green Go-To Grub-Hubs
1. Best Simple and Sexy:Back Forty
Peter Hoffman’s less fancy Savoy, a place that really helped launch the whole “seasonal menu” idea in NYC in the first place. Chef Hoffman can be seen daily at the greenmarket, buying what’s fresh. The bar and all the tables in the restaurant are made out of recycled wood. But there’s nothing bland about beet and bleu cheese risotto balls and apple cider doughnuts.
Location: 190 Ave B (East Village)
Kitchen Hours: Mon-Thu 6pm-12am; Fri 6pm-12am; Sat 12pm-12am; Sun 12pm-3:30 pm
Standard Order: Risotto balls $6, Apple Cider Doughnuts $7
2. Best Effort: Birdbath Bakery
This “neighborhood green bakery” is brought to you by City Bakery and it is SERIOUS about being green. All the cups here are made of corn (which is biodegradable) and the walls of wheat. Weird sounding, yes, but really good ‘n green! The counter is made of recycled paper and the floors are reclaimed wood. The place is wind-powered. The paint is non-toxic, the light fixtures are vintage…EVERYTHING strives to be green in this village bakery. Oversized cookies, distinctive raspberry muffins, and chocolate croissants will delight you.
Location: 223 1st Ave nr. 14th St. (East Village) and 145 7th Ave South (West Village)
Kitchen Hours: Sunrise to 10pm (or last cookie standing …), 7 days a week
Standard Order: “Green Energy” Cookies $1.00
3. Best Farm to Table: Blue Hill Stone Barns
My wallet shudders at the thought that the tasting menu is now the only option available, but when Kimberly had a meal prepared especially for her by Chef Dan Barber, she raved. Everyone gets a meal based on their preferences (a real draw for picky eaters like me!) and can have wines paired with each course. The best time to go is late summer/early fall because it’s prime time for local produce. Be sure and take a tour of the farm; you’ll literally see it, smell it and then eat it moments later. This is New York’s legit farm-to-table experience.
Location: (Tarrytown, NY)
Kitchen Hours: Sun, Wed, Thurs 5-10pm; Fri, Sat 5-11pm; Sun 11:30am-2pm
Standard Order: Seasonal and made to order for each individual! Tasting Menu ~ 5 course $95, Farmer’s Feast $125, 4-course lunch $68
4. Best Brooklyn: Blue Marble Ice Cream
I’m so lucky because this place is SO close to my house! In the summer, I’m tempted to make daily visits. They serve AMAZING ice cream, made of all-natural, fresh, and local ingredients. And, they’re cool (sorry for the pun) because they turned to local businesses and architects to design their shop; now they use wind and water energy to power their business! The strawberry ice cream is by far the BEST EVER. For those more adventurous, try the purest damn vanilla you’ve ever had, with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. The shakes are made with old fashioned soda shop machines, giving the maximum vibe of authenticity. Kimberly goes gaga for their brownies and Celest has given their coffee her seal of approval. Shhh… I’ve been known to double-fist a shake and a cone!
Location: 420 Atlantic Ave (Boerum Hill, Brooklyn)
Kitchen Hours: Mon-Thu 8am-10pm; Fri-Sat 9am-11pm; Sun 9am-10pm
Standard Order: 3 scoops for $4.50
5. Best Secret: Brown Café
Along with their two, sister businesses Orange (an event space) and Green (catering), they “focus on organically grown local produce, free range meats, and fish from conscientious purveyors.” Desserts are to die for – apple crisp with honey, powdered sugar, mascarpone, chestnuts and house made peanut butter gelato. All wines are small batch, organic and/or biodynamic.
Location: 61 Hester Street (Lower East Side)
Kitchen Hours: breakfast/brunch 9am-5:30pm, 7 days a week; dinner 6:30pm-11pm, Tues.-Sat.
Standard Order: brown breakfast platter $11, grass fed flank steak $20
6. Best Communal Table: Bussaco
There’s plenty of Brooklyn buzz at this Park Slope newcomer, and Kimberly’s brother’s best friend is cooking on the line. Committed to sustainable, local food and décor, there’s a wine bar and a large wooden communal table; you can’t get more rustic and natural than this.
Location: 833 Union St. (Park Slope, Brooklyn)
Kitchen Hours: Bar Menu: Sun-Thurs 5-11; Fri-Sat 5-12am; Dinner Menu: Sun-Thurs 6pm-11pm; Fri-Sat 6pm-11:30pm, Brunch: Sat-Sun 11am-3pm
Standard Order: Braised Short Ribs $12
7. Best Green Amongst Greenery: Central Park Boat House
This classic New York spot is undeniably pretty and offers the only lake-view dining in the city. You can row boats on the river as part of your romantic evening. Doing their part to be responsibly green, the menu here features seasonal ingredients. Nearby atmosphere includes housing for over 26 butterfly species and a bird observational that deems qualifications from the Park and Wildlife association (all outside the restaurant of course…)
Location: 72nd St. and Park Dr. N. – (Central Park)
Kitchen hours: (subject to change with season, April-Nov) Lunch: 12pm-4pm, Dinner 5:30pm-9:30pm (last reservation) Brunch: 9:30am-4pm
Standard Order: adding to the cliché, go with the Filet of Beef $31
8. Best Italian: Del Posto
The inspiration behind this place comes from some of the best Italian food minds of our time: Lidia Bastianich and Mario Batali. Its menu, service, and ambiance reflect all things Italian, while in an American style. It’s the greatest attempt to put “Italian cooking on the same level as high French cuisine” in a green way. The in-house water program doesn’t hurt either.
Location: 85 10th Ave nr 16th St. (Meatpacking)
Kitchen Hours: Mon-Tues 5:30-11pm; Wed-Fri 12pm-2pm, 5:30pm-11pm; Sat 4:30pm-11pm; Sun 4:30pm-10pm
Standard Order: If you have the budget, go for the Roman Tasting Menu $120 which offers 7 plates
9. Best all Veggie: Dirt Candy
From its name, you might correctly imagine that the menu here includes many, many vegetables. On her blog, Chef Amanda Cohen boldly declares, “I don’t care about your health. And I don’t care about your politics either.” What she does care about are your taste buds. This new place is as passionate about making perfect vegetable dishes as Peter Lugar is with his steaks. It makes my list, in part, because a lot of what’ll be on your plate here will literally be green.
Location: 430 E. 9th St. (East Village)
Kitchen Hours: Tues-Sat 5:30pm-11pm
Standard Order: try the Jalapeno Hush Puppies served with Maple Butter $6
10. Best Foreign Fusion Spin on Green: Elettaria
Another in-house water system, but here Chef Akhtar Nawab serves up food that combines French, African, and Indian flavors in a restaurant that looks as trendy and romantic as it sounds. Nawab has run several kitchens around town, but this is by far the most refined and greenest. Favorites include deep-fried quail, sweetbreads, and tasty crepinettes of pig’s trotter (Ha…just kidding! I won’t eat any of those things, but if you’re a little more adventurous than the average bear, you will, and you’ll love them here).
Location: 33 W. 8th St. (East Village)
Kitchen Hours: daily 5:30pm-11:30pm
Standard Order: Duck $25