The terms local/seasonal and farm-to-table have been used, reused and overused when it comes to describing Brooklyn’s restaurants. Because honestly, there are very few places worth their salt nowadays that would deign to serve asparagus in the winter, rutabaga in the summer, and an egg or chicken of any sort that wasn’t hormone and antibiotic-free. However, more and more eateries are going the extra mile to ensure the quality of the produce on their customer’s plates, growing kale for salads and tomatoes for sauces right on premises. But what’s a restaurant to do if they want to stay just as local, but don’t have a single square of land (or even a sunny, south-facing window) to call their own? They turn to one of the borough’s best rooftop gardens and green spaces, from Feedback Farms’ diminutive lot in Boerum Hill to Brooklyn Grange’s sprawling, 2.5-acre rooftop in the Brooklyn Navy Yard!
One of the borough’s first and best known restaurant gardens, Roberta’s greenhouse (built on top of their shipping container-enclosed radio station), supplies the kitchen with almost 20% of its produce, plus honey from their onsite hives and fruit from their string of apple, fig and peach trees. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that they help run Brooklyn Grange, which — between its Brooklyn Navy Yard and Long Island City locations — boasts over 100,000 feet of flourishing farm space.
261 Moore St., (718) 417-1118
You’ll forget you’re in Park Slope when you visit the three-tiered roof garden atop Palo Salo, where chef/owner Jacques Gautier grows greens, tomatoes, and hard-to-find herbs like papalo out of old Styrofoam fish crates. He even keeps hutches full of floppy-eared rabbits, but don’t get too attached — even though they’ll never make the regular restaurant menu, Gautier uses them for family dinners and special events held throughout the year.
652 Union St., (718) 636-6311
This South African restaurant serves as an homage to Nelson (nickname, Madiba) Mandela. And after learning that the civil rights leader grew vegetables for guards and other inmates atop his prison building, former Madiba server Zachery Picken (yes, really) began work on his own elevated 300-square-foot patch, which provides the Fort Greene eatery with organic produce for seasonal salads, menu specials, and drinks.
195 Dekalb Ave., (718) 855-9190
Forget about the canned sauce and jars of stale dried oregano found at your average pizza parlor. Besides supplying customers with shakers of Cheesy-Spicy-Herby-Goodness (ground red chilies, jalapenos, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Cheez-Its), PeteZaaz’s slices are topped with the Thai basil, marjoram, mint, rosemary, thyme and sun-warmed tomatoes gathered from their Crown Heights backyard.
766 Classon Ave., (718) 230-9229
Literally the largest rooftop farm in the U.S, this Brooklyn Navy Yard garden extends over 2.5 acres and produces more than 20,000 pounds of organically cultivated produce a year. And we’re not just talking herbs and tomatoes — the Grange keeps restaurants like Roberta’s, Parish Hall, Northeast Kingdom and Marlow and Sons in radishes, peas, strawberries, beans, turnips, chicory, pumpkin and so much more.
63 Flushing Ave., (718) 404-2023
Eagle Street Rooftop Farm
This 6,000 square foot organic vegetable farm is located on a warehouse rooftop in Greenpoint, and — when they’re not running their weekly market or bicycling produce to restaurants throughout the borough —also hosts a variety of farm-based educational programs. Have a free day and a green thumb? Volunteers are more than welcome to help seed, plant, water, harvest, feed the animals and tend to the compost pile.
44 Eagle St.
Formed in 2011, Feedback’s mission is to make temporary farms on vacant Brooklyn lots, transforming stalled construction sites into lush, green vegetable gardens. In addition to making productive use of urban blights, Feedback argues that these produce “pop-ups” are an especially convenient alternative to rooftop gardens, with potentially lower costs, less exposure to sun and wind, and easier access.
348 Bergen St.
Whole Foods Gowanus
Designed, built and operated by Greenpoint’s Gotham Greens, the upcoming 20,000 square foot farm above the soon-to-open Whole Foods in Gowanus is being billed as “the nation’s first commercial scale greenhouse integrated within a retail grocery space.” It will operate year-round and supply fresh produce to both the Gowanus store and other Whole Foods’ throughout NYC. Sure beats trolling the aisles at the local C-Town.
Third Street at Third Ave.