After weeks of cheese platters and spirited celebrations, the New Year demands a clean plate and clear palate. Fortunately, the country’s best new restaurants, tasting menus and culinary collaborations make it easy to turn over a new leaf(y green). Here are the American chefs that are focusing on garden-variety greens that are far from ordinary.
San Francisco, CA
An early adopter of the chef-forager hyphenate, Daniel Patterson’s two-Michelin-starred tasting room highlights local, seasonal fare, some of which he personally liberates from the California coast, as in black trumpet-sunchoke ravioli served with mushroom dashi. Both carnivores and veggie lovers pre-book “tickets” to Coi’s 12-course seatings, which start at $155 per person, and may include one or two meat dishes. A purely vegetarian menu is also available – y’know, for traditionalists. And the dining room is fresh off a recent remodel, adding a sexy organic minimalism in the form of rough-hewn wooden tables and fur pillows in plush banquettes.
Garden menu at Oxheart
The Lone Star State is better known for red meat than roast beets, but this industrial chic spot in the Warehouse District defies expectations. Bathroom walls are covered in (commissioned) graffiti, and a vintage vinyl collection provides an eclectic soundtrack; still, dining at Oxheart is about as fine as it gets. Houston native Justin Yu trained at Ubuntu in San Francisco and staged across northern Europe, and his six-course menus here demonstrate a fittingly nuanced approach to seasonal produce. Expect razor-thin slices of Zephyr squash in the summer, and persimmons with pickled pumpkin in the fall.
Dinner at Take Root
New York is full of restaurants with finicky reservations systems, but booking a table this tiny tasting room is understandably tricky. Since its January 2013 debut, the 12-seat boite has served just one meal per night, three nights per week. Run by married couple Elise Kornack and Anna Hieronimus, the intimate seatings have the feel of a dinner party – if your hostess friends trained at the Spotted Pig, pour impeccable wine pairings and turn out plant-centric showstoppers like a cucumber and macadamia nuts starter finished with rich macadamia cream. Dinner is served promptly at 8:00 p.m., Thursday through Friday, and is guaranteed to be the best meal you’ll have in a converted yoga studio beneath a highway all year long.
Dinner at Birdie
Big things are coming to south Minneapolis. Behind Nighthawks, a forthcoming modern diner/deli hybrid with 20 craft beers and wines on tap, local restaurateur Landon Schoenefeld will host a pop-up chef’s table Tuesday through Thursday nights. The restaurant-within-a-restaurant will serve 8-10-course tasting menus that focus on market-fresh fare, with seasonal vegetables highlighted by proteins like local lamb’s belly. Details are still being determined, but this little Birdie is likely to land before spring.
Vegetable dishes at Commissary
Los Angeles, CA
A restaurant within a working greenhouse may elicit groans of “That’s so L.A.,” but Commissary is no c’mon-get-happy hippie joint. Easy rider Roy Choi opened his fourth operation at Koreatown’s chic The Line Hotel in August 2014. Choi, who made his name on the unabashedly meat-heavy Mexican-Korean fare of his Kogi BBQ trucks, has decided to take on food’s greener side. His inventive vegetable plates at Commissary will make a convert of the most dedicated carnivores. Try the slow-roasted purple carrots with yogurt and radish sprouts, or juicy nectarines beneath agro dolce tomato reduction. Wash it down with a gin and fresh-pressed beet juice for a righteous taste of the left coast.
Herbivore menu at Aldine
In October, local restaurant couple George and Jennifer Sabatino opened this sleek little number less than a mile from Vedge, Richard Landau’s groundbreaking vegan restaurant in Washington Square West. Located on a second-floor walkup in Rittenhouse Square, Aldine serves a la carte dishes as well as five-course omnivore and herbivore tasting menus. The latter is where George, who heads the kitchen, is at his most creative. Seasonal dishes include delicate fennel custard topped with burnt honey, and a positively meaty cauliflower roasted with hazelnut, black truffle and orange rind. Jennifer’s thoughtful drinks and wine pairings include winter warmers like a surprisingly balanced take on an Irish coffee, made with rye, spiced butter and cream.
Vegetable dishes at Gardner
To say it was a surprise when friends Ben Edgerton and Andrew Wiseman informed the crowd at the 2014 Austin Food & Wine Festival that their next restaurant would be plant-centric is an exercise in understatement. The duo’s preceding spot, Contigo, specializes in carnivorous fare of the beef tongue sliders variety. Yet Gardner, which opened in East Austin in November, is already filling hearts, minds and seats. Its creative plates are divided amongst snacks, two courses, cheese and dessert. All celebrate seasonal vegetables as well as the occasional, unexpected protein like monkfish or beef heart. Even desserts get the green treatment: a milk chocolate tart with pear, anise and sunchoke is surprisingly successful, as is the seasonal Japanese pumpkin sweetened with birch beer.
Chipotle-style veggie lunch at Beefsteak
If you’ve seen one celebrity chef’s fast-casual chain, you’ve seen them all, right? Wrong. James Beard Award-winner José Andrés shakes things up with Beefsteak, a new quick service brand peddling plant-centric fast food to the masses. Menu items are still being finalized, but Andrés shies away from the term “vegetarian,” preferring words like “tasty, fun, sexy, good-looking” to describe Beefsteak’s culinary outlook. The first outpost opens later this month on the George Washington University campus, where Andrés is an advisor. Color us surprised.
All plant everything at Dirt Candy
New York, NY
Amanda Cohen's vegetable-centric restaurant developed a cult following despite its tight space; now that she's moved to roomier digs on the Lower East Side, expect the same creative, often whimsical vegetarian fare, like Brussels sprout tacos and cabbage hot pot.
Vegan food and electronic music at Little Pine
Los Angeles, CA
Electronic dance music star and longtime animal advocate Moby is adding a new title to his resume. His new temple to vegan cuisine Little Pine, in Silver Lake, is headed by Anne Thornton, the Food Network host of Dessert First, and will have a retail component that peddles veggie-focused cookbooks and local products. What to expect? Seasonal dishes like aioli-topped fried cauliflower and wild mushroom bruschetta.