Nothing makes us happier than traipsing through a Greenmarket in full swing (we’ve been known to skip as well) checking out the rhubarb, fresh lettuces, asparagus, and, of course, ramps peppering vendors’ tented tables. And while our frolicking inevitably leads to some great purchases, we’d much prefer to leave it to the professionals when it comes to fully expressing the flavors of a fiddlehead fern. Here are the 10 best Greenmarket restaurants in NYC, our favorite restaurants for celebrating the bounty of a fruitful harvest.
10. Back Forty West, 70 Prince Street, 212-219-8570
In 2011, Greenmarket godfather Peter Hoffman closed Savoy, his downtown fine-dining destination for seasonal American cuisine, after an impressive 20-year run. Citing a dining culture that had moved toward championing a more casual experience, he chose to open a second branch of sibling restaurant Back Forty in its place (this one with a decked-out smoker). And while Hoffman underling Shanna Pacifico — who had been the chef since Back Forty West opened — departed recently, the restaurant continues the market-driven aesthetic with luscious smoked pumpkin hummus, lamb schnitzel, and Norwegian skrei cod served in a lemon broth.
9. Martha, 184 Dekalb Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-596-4147
Andres Valbuena and Melissa Gorman have created an Asian-inflected Fort Greene restaurant whose roots as a supper club lend the space a cozy, infinitely charming atmosphere. The kitchen’s use of herbs to brighten dishes is especially beguiling, as in a salad of shaved celery accented with sesame oil, pungent yuzu, and the rarely seen rice paddy herb, which tastes of spiced citrus.
8. Brucie, 234 Court Street, Brooklyn, 347-987-4961
Italian cuisine gets the greenmarket treatment at this Cobble Hill trattoria with a daily-changing menu from chef Zahra Tangorra. Brussels sprouts are thrown for a loop with chickpeas, bacon, tuna conserve, and marcona almonds, and a porchetta is anointed with luxardo cherries and duck sausage. Every Wednesday is “breakfast for dinner,” with weekly specials like cheddar waffles with chicken liver butter.
7. Northern Spy Food Co., 511 East 12th Street, 212-228-5100
Local, sustainable ingredients provide the foundation for chef Hadley Schmitt’s menu at this East Village nook, where whimsical twists abound in dishes like chewy beet jerky with grapes and yogurt or sticky rolls speckled with pulled pork and covered in sweet parsnip glaze. Show up for lunch and you’ll be treated to one of the best lamb burgers the city has to offer, covered in tangy and dense Landaff cheese and served with french fries cooked in duck fat.
6. Union Square Cafe, 21 East 16th Street, 212-243-4020
For 29 years, Danny Meyer’s flagship has championed the Union Square Greenmarket, helping to make it the gastronomic utopia that it is today. From the beginning, the restaurant’s California and Mediterranean-inspired cuisine has translated perfectly with the Greenmarket’s seasonal schedule. Now, a trip to the stalwart yields inspired plates like chef Carmen Quagliata’s sugar snap peas with guanciale, mint, and Pecorino Romano, and spring onion cornbread served alongside a hefty roasted veal chop.
5. Riverpark, 450 East 29th Street, 212-729-9790
Sisha Ortuzar runs the show at Tom Colicchio’s farm-to-table restaurant overlooking the East River. Hidden behind a deeply-recessed courtyard, the restaurant’s outdoor patios look onto a sizable garden that provides much of the produce used in the kitchen. The chef doesn’t shy away from spices and fruits — loosely rolled spaccatelli pasta is imbued with cocoa to offset a rich pork ragu with apples and sage, and lamb receives a flowery punch from hibiscus.
4. Tocqueville, 1 East 15th Street, 212-647-1515
Steps from the Union Square Greenmarket, this elegant, stoic French-inflected American restaurant — Marco Moreira and Jo-Ann Makovitzky’s flagship — has long held a close relationship to the incredible products available to them, having featured a prix fixe Greenmarket menu for years. If barnyards were used to host debutante balls, the chickens might produce the farm eggs topping Tocqueville’s luscious Parmesan grits covered in shaved truffles. A mainstay on the menu, the Cato Farm cheddar salad pairs the cheese with roasted bosc pears from market superstar Migliorelli Farms.
3. Joo Mak Gol, 3526 Farrington Street, Queens, 718-460-0042
This Korean tavern is beloved by locals for its above-average banchan, bubbling tofu soups and massive platters of sliced pork belly meant for wrapping with lettuce, kimchi, and oysters. But its most impressive feature may be the market-fresh produce it provides alongside to many of its dishes. The vegetables vary, but chances are you’ll find plenty of herbs, radishes, lettuce, and cabbage. Roasted fish seasoned with sesame makes a particularly good accompaniment to the verdant array.
2. Blue Hill, 75 Washington Place, 212-539-1776
Dan Barber’s subterranean soap box for sustainability doesn’t get muddled in its own message, instead excelling on an innately satisfying level. The lion’s share of the ingredients come from Barber’s Westchester farm that he runs with his brother, an idyllic culinary wonderland where Thanksgiving turkeys roam free on hilly pastures. Berkshire hogs donate their livers to a silky terrine that’s paired with pickled vegetables, cocoa nibs, and greens from the farm’s greenhouse. Whatever you do, don’t leave without sampling one of the restaurant’s “farm snacks,” including the now-signature vegetables on a fence, which is exactly what it sounds like.
1. Telepan Local, 329 Greenwich Street, 212-966-9255
Bill Telepan’s casual downtown follow-up to his eponymous Upper West Side classic puts a keen focus on vegetables. The food here is unabashedly fun, from a bundle of fried watercress tossed with cashews and chili oil to cheeky plates like Buffalo quail with celery root and the chef’s beloved ‘foie gras jammers’ — miniature apricot jam-glazed biscuit sandwiches holding rounds of duck liver torchon. In his off-time, the chef puts his considerable skills and vegetable knowledge to use for his charity Wellness in the Schools, which aims to educate children on the benefits of eating healthy.