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Root & Bone’s (200 East 3rd Street; 646-682-7076) Southern-food aesthetic sits somewhere between upscale-restaurant and down-home cooking. James Beard–nominated chefs and co-owners Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth sprinkle their menu at Root & Bone with comfort food classics — think waffles, grits, meatloaf, and fried chicken — but the chefs have put a twist on your typical Southern comfort foods.
Vegetables are important to the restaurant’s ethos — the duo’s menu showcases the cultural roots of their cuisine through vegetable dishes. Though their menu includes typical items like green beans, they take it up a notch by pairing them with a fire-roasted tomato purée and crunchy peanuts.
McInnis is from the Florida Panhandle, right on the border of Alabama, and started cooking when he was fifteen. Although Booth is Australian, time spent cooking in southern Florida inspired her passion for Southern food. The chefs have a rich history in cooking and traveling around the world learning new cuisines, but eventually they returned to the foods McInnis grew up eating and cooking.
Adding more vegetable dishes to their repertoire “feels more natural,” says McInnis. “It’s easy and it’s fun and all my cooks — they love it. They’re not stagnant. When you keep the same menu forever, they get bored and they’re not really challenged. It’s motivating to change the menu.”
Rainbow ribbon salad ($12) is not your typical salad. Dried, crisp strips of summer squash and zucchini — actually looking quite bacon-like — are wrapped around summer squash and paired with a creamy vidalia onion dressing and a pesto made with carrot tops. The pesto has that familiar garlic bite at the finish, along with the crunch of pine nuts. Underneath the ribbons of summer squash and zucchini are roasted purple carrots, sweet and tender with a little zip. The mashed summer squash within the salad has a more resoundingly sugary taste than the carrots.
A spoon bread with cheddar cheese and sweet corn ($9) is certainly not your traditional cornbread. Not too sweet, the bread is softly rich — a spoon is absolutely required to eat it. Dill, thyme and chives are a potent herbal accent. The dish is topped with a dollop of crème fraîche, which provides a thick, milky texture and tastes more akin to sour cream.
Because the chefs work with a local supplier to use what’s seasonal and available, the menu changes frequently. After we dined at Root & Bone last week, four new vegetable-based dishes were added to the menu, including grilled corn ($10), grilled peach caprese salad ($15), spring pea and artichoke risotto ($21), and charred asparagus ($8).