There are many reasons to visit the environmentally conscious furniture and housewares store ABC Carpet & Home, as the selection in furnishings is diverse, interesting and fun, but many are also drawn here for the restaurants. ABC Kitchen, which can be accessed either through the store or directly on 18th Street was the first of celebrity chef and Alsatian native Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s endeavors in this building – adding yet another new restaurant to his empire of critically acclaimed eateries. He reached out to his friend Paulette Cole, the CEO of the store, with his ideas for a new eatery several years back, and they both say that neither of them could have anticipated the overwhelming success of their collaboration, ABC Kitchen.
Since 2010, ABC Kitchen has been churning out quality farm-to-table meals and continually receives rave reviews. When I asked their public relations director, Shari Garb, how ABC Kitchen enticed diners to return, without hesitation she replied “by being consistently excellent.” Using only the best local ingredients cooked by chefs with “feverish expertise,” ABC Kitchen serves high-end New American fare that is accessible and comforting without sacrificing artistry. The range of dishes spans from bow tie pasta with veal meatballs to Maine lobster and crispy pork confit.
I happen to be a huge fan and have eaten in almost all of Jean-Georges’ restaurants in Manhattan, and have never had a disappointing meal. For me, the term flawless comes to mind. I celebrated a special occasion with friends at ABC one afternoon where we shared several courses – an absolute feast – but what continues to stand out in my mind was the fact that I tried my first bite of roasted brussel sprouts at one of Jean Georges’ restaurants. I have been ordering them ever since, but none have equaled that first bite. Other members of the Manhattan Sideways team have also eaten here and are incredibly enthusiastic about the crab toast with lemon aioli, raw diver scallops with sea beans, green chiles and spring herbs, and the house made ricotta ravioli. They have also loved and salivated over the roast carrot and avocado salad and the whole wheat mushroom pizza.
I was particularly impressed when Shari spoke of the restaurant’s humility in their daily drive for self-improvement, despite being one of the founders of the farm-to-table movement that has gained popularity nationwide. Shari relayed an anecdote to me about how in order to be environmentally responsible in the ornamentation of the dining room, designers chose to use only vegetable-based dyes in the furniture. However, this lead to the over-harvesting of plants in upstate New York, and upset vegetable production. Not shying from the blame, ABC Kitchen noted their liability and took action to seek a solution, rather than walking away and leaving the problem with the farmers. The restaurant’s guiding principles are sustainability and locality, and the eco-friendly themes permeates all levels of the dining experience: many of the plates used to serve guests are vintage, the wooden tables are made from salvaged wood, and the menus are printed on 100% post-consumer fiber.
While we chatted about the trendiness of the restaurant, Shari admitted she is continually gratified by ABC Kitchen’s achievements, being that it all started “before farm-to-table was a hashtag” and has therefore helped pave the way for the concept to become a tangible reality. Shari noted that the “cultural shift” pushing diners to become “conscious consumers” is really something to be excited about, as it can potentially have a great positive effect on the future of our planet.