Sustainable America Blog

3 New York Restaurants that Grow Their Own Food

Riverpark Farm urban garden

Riverpark restaurant in New York grows its produce in milk crates.

One of my favorite parts of my internship with Sustainable America this summer was that I was encouraged to explore new opportunities and ideas I was interested in. While I was researching the green roofing trend, I stumbled upon a rooftop farm in New York City called Brooklyn Grange, signed up for a tour, and blogged about it.

Learning about Brooklyn Grange’s thriving business and the environmental, social, and economic benefits generated by urban farms inspired me to visit some restaurants that are growing their own food in the city. Here are a few interesting eateries I found:

The first restaurant I visited was chef Tom Colicchio’s Riverpark in Kips Bay, which operates a milk crate farm (pictured at top) outside their restaurant overlooking the East River. The restaurant started the farm in 2011 at a stalled construction site across the street. Their ingenuity in planting everything in milk crates came in handy when building resumed and they were able to simply pick up the farm and move it to a plaza outside their front doors. Now a community asset, the farm hosts free tours, school visits and weekend planting workshops. It also allows the chefs to grow any unconventional type of vegetable or herb they want. When I visited, they were growing 11 types of basil, six kinds of tomatoes, and a flowering vegetable called ice plant that I’d never seen before. They also compost 90 percent of their produce waste right on site in a forced-air compost system.

Bell Book and Candle Aeroponic garden

Bell, Book & Candle
Bell, Book & Candle in the West Village has elected for a more alternative method of farming by installing 60 aeroponics systems on their rooftop to grow many different kinds of vegetables and herbs. Seeing the soil-free technology successfully at work in such an urban environment paints a picture of what the future of restaurants could look like. The chefs at BB&C grow 60 percent of their produce needs on the rooftop — squash, tomatoes, basil, bibb lettuce, and much more.

Rosemary's rooftop garden

Also in the West Village, Rosemary’s is another urban restaurant that chose to utilize roof space to grow fresh vegetables and herbs – this time with a soil garden. The Italian restaurant’s garden is easily accessible to customers and allows diners to see the very row their greens were grown. You can even keep tabs on what’s growing with Rosemary’s rooftop webcam.

I loved having the opportunity to witness firsthand some progressive restaurateurs who that are taking it upon themselves to delight diners and cut their harmful environmental impact by growing produce themselves. It even inspired me to start growing my own plants back home. I’m starting small for now but I hope to start grow more herbs and veggies someday soon!

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By the Numbers

Currently 50 million households suffer from food insecurity, meaning that family members cannot always meet their basic food needs.

10 million people a year could be fed through the recovery of just one-fifth of food waste.

Only 2% of food waste is composted or otherwise recycled—62% of paper is recycled.

Consumers throw out about 40% of the fresh and frozen fish they buy.

The U.S. produced 208 pounds of meat per person in 2009—60% more than Europe.

Low income commuters spend a much higher proportion of their wages on gas—8.6% versus 2.1% at $4 per gallon.

Food prices rose 35-40 percentage points between 2002–2008.

Americans consume 25% of the world’s produced oil, but our nation holds less than 3% of the world’s proven oil reserves.

The International Energy Agency says greenhouse gas emissions rose 3.2% last year, with a 9.3% increase in China offsetting declines in the US and EU.

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