At this point, the farm-to-table-buzzword craze has largely subsided, and restaurateurs and chefs finding ways to thoroughly integrate the locavore ethic into their kitchens is not so much an exception as it is a rule. Still, there’s a difference between adding a few token Greenmarket ingredients to the menu and pushing the envelop when it comes to local sourcing, and some restaurants are working faster and going further to get produce from area farmers and give diners the freshest possible experience. Here are the 10 best real farm-to-table restaurants in NYC.
10. Union Square Café, 21 East 16th Street
While most restaurants send a cook to the closest grocery store, bodega, or produce stand when they run out of an ingredient mid-service, Union Square Café benefits from being spitting distance from Union Square Greenmarket. The vegetable sides alone are enough to justify a visit: potato-gruyere gratin, roasted carrots, and broccoli rabe. Fresh produce takes an active role in pasta dishes, too, where executive chef Carmen Quagliata incorporates mustard greens, pea shoots, chanterelles, and more, layering locally produced flavor into every bite. As a bonus, Gramercy Tavern and eateries at MoMA and the Whitney operate under a similar ethic: Danny Meyer’s is another empire doing its part to keep family farms alive while selling some of the finest, freshest produce around.
9. Roman’s, 243 Dekalb Avenue
Andrew Tarlow’s Italian outpost in Fort Greene keeps a strict no-reservations policy, but since opening in 2009, eager diners have been more than happy to wait for a table any night of the week. Chef Dave Gould’s menu changes nightly so there’s endless variety, but expect crisp, fresh vegetables in summer and winter-cellar produce in cooler months: in short, food perfectly suited to the seasonal palate. Sister eateries Marlow & Sons, Reynard, and most recently opened Achilles Heel are good bets as well.
8. Rosemary’s, 18 Greenwich Avenue
After leaving Eataly, chef Wade Moises teamed up with Carlos Suarez and opened this West Village hangout last May. Beyond the super-mod outdoor façade, an airy rustic space awaits; exposed brick, wood floors, and wicker chairs create country charm in the heart of the West Village. And while there’s no way a 1,000-square-foot rooftop farm can viably feed more than 200 people every night, you can bet you’ll receive something from the garden on your plate, whether it’s fresh basil, shaved fennel, tomatoes, carrots, snap peas, or something else pulled from the dirt that day.
7. Roberta’s, 261 Moore Street, Brooklyn
Although we don’t exactly think it’s cool that Roberta’s seeks unpaid interns to do their farm work for them, no one can deny the power of fresh, ripe tomatoes and spicy backyard basil to make a killer pizza or fresh peas or–you name it, whatever’s in season. Salads are not too shabby, either, whether they be of crisp garden cucumbers or market broccoli. Roberta’s scores extra points for personality: Located in a nondescript former industrial space near the Morgan L, this pizza joint has been known to employ naked waitresses and other questionable, if hilarious, stunts. Diners looking for a decidedly more highbrow experience can attempt to score seats at Blanca for the $195 tasting menu, available Thursday through Sunday by reservation only.
6. The Farm on Adderley, 1108 Cortelyou Road, Brooklyn
Ditmas Park may well be the Brooklyn’s most underrated culinary nabe: It doesn’t get much press, but it sparkles with gems if you look closely. The Farm on Adderley–opened in 2006 by Gary Jonas, Allison McDowell, and chef Tom Kearney–is not an actual farm, but it sources produce, meat, dairy, and other ingredients almost exclusively from area growers. With a wide variety of produce-centric summer dishes featuring locally grown heirloom cucumbers, zucchini flowers, shelling beans, celery root, and more, the Farm on Adderley is a perfect place to enjoy the summer bounty. Bonus, they carry local sodas: GUS Sodas (Grown-Up Sodas) is based on 57th Street.
5. Prospect, 773 Fulton Street, Brooklyn
The constantly changing menu at this spot offers fresh takes on classics like dry-aged sirloin, seared scallops, and rack of lamb. The daily market vegetable gives produce a chance to shine while gooseberries add intrigue to an heirloom tomato salad. Sit at the chef’s table overlooking the kitchen or grab a table in the Prospect’s intimate dining room.
4. Northeast Kingdom, 18 Wyckoff Avenue, Brooklyn
Aside from the fact that the owners are native Vermonters, freshness is perhaps the strongest thread that connects this restaurant to its namesake county in northern Vermont, where many residents grow kitchen vegetable gardens, eggs come from a farm stand down the road, and meat is procured from a pig-raising neighbor or beef farmer. Owners Paris Smeraldo and Meg Lipke have imported this ethic to Brooklyn, sourcing produce from Brooklyn Grange (which I wrote about last week) and farm-raised meats from upstate while adding foraged ingredients whenever possible. Seasonal menus shine a spotlight on what’s fresh right now. This summer, try the roasted tomato gazpacho and Brooklyn Grange greens.
3. ABC Kitchen, 35 East 18th Street
At this airy, open-format, celebrity-studded Flatiron restaurant, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Greenmarket-obsessed Dan Kluger have created a space that celebrates locally produced organic ingredients with an ever-changing seasonal menu. Current offerings include sweet pea soup with carrots and mint, sautéed morels and fava beans, roasted asparagus and spring onions, and a variety of fish, meats, pastas, and pizzas. Bonus points for keeping a rooftop garden where they grow herbs and micro-greens.
2. The Fat Radish, 17 Orchard Street
Since it first opened a few years back, the Fat Radish has been both a neighborhood restaurant and a dining destination. Chef Ben Towill sources produce, meat, honey, and dairy almost exclusively from tri-state area farms for a menu that’s both comforting and challenging. There is a kale caesar to convert the skeptics, heirloom carrots and tomatoes in various preparations, spring pea pot pie, and a host of inspired specials that rotate with the seasons. On Wednesday, August 7, sit down for a farmer’s dinner from 8 p.m. to midnight and enjoy a five-course whole-pig menu.
1. Blue Hill, 75 Washington Place
Dan Barber’s West Village outpost serves up classic New American cuisine in a formal setting. Meat and produce come from Barber’s Westchester culinary wonderland Stone Barns. Expect creative presentations: Vegetables on a Fence is simply baby farm vegetables presented on a board atop metal spike, prime for the plucking. For the full farm-to-table experience, head to Westchester for a meal at Blue Hill at Stone Barns and see for yourself exactly where the food comes from.