These days, farm-to-table dining is certainly trending, but rarely are such eateries that claim this characteristic fast and casual, which is in part what drew me to Darrow’s Farm Fresh. On the airy second floor dining room, full of light from the grand French windows lining the wall, I met up with the restaurant founder, New York native, Peter Darrow.
Delighted to show off the fruit of his labor, Peter took me on a tour of his establishment. First stop, the juice bar. Thanks to a rigged kegerator, Darrow’s has inaugurated cold pressed juices on tap for New York City. While Peter pulled samples of some of the day’s bright selections for me to try -- a tart pomegranate, sweet pineapple, and fragrant cucumber — he told me of how Darrow’s has a Juicer on staff whose sole job is to “juice” all day.
After the fruity treats, we stopped in the market, a nook at the back of the main floor where Darrow’s curates a collection of their favorite local and organic snacks and merchandise for guests to purchase. Lip balm, organic dried fruit, and Rwandan coffee beans are a few of the items I noticed on the shelves.
Next, we headed back upstairs to the main dining floor, where Darrow’s full bar is located. Cari Nogas, part of the Darrow’s PR team, noted that much of the alcohol served at the bar is local and organic, and many of the cocktails -- like the Cucumber Spritz and Darrow’s Smash -- incorporate Darrow’s cold-pressed juices from downstairs into the mix. With a background in wine, a few nights each week, Cari can be found behind the bar herself, shaking up health-conscious drinks for customers.
After the whirlwind introduction, we sat back in the dining room, and Peter showed me how to operate the customized iPads that serve as menus for lunchtime visitors, allowing them to “eat with their eyes” before receiving their actual meal. The iPads don’t remove the need for the server, claimed Peter; they just help streamline the dining process, blending nourishment with technology, “the future of dining.” With a background in marketing and advertising, technology is certainly something Peter knows a great deal about, but admittedly, his expertise about restaurants is more limited. When I asked how long he had been in the food industry, he replied six weeks — just how long Darrow’s Farm Fresh has been open.
For lunch, Peter and Cari excitedly selected one of the Darrow’s Functional Plates for me to try, the popular Stress Relief Plate, consisting of a loaded avocado toast, rainbow chard salad with roasted grapes, and smashed, grill-charred sweet potatoes infused with chamomile, and topped with candied pecans. When the colorful meal arrived at my table, I felt whatever anxiety I was harboring melt away before even taking a bite. Chatting with Cari while enjoying every flavor-packed spoonful of my feast, she captured my sentiments exactly, saying, “You don’t feel like you’re eating healthy;” it’s just that good. Other Functional Plates include selections created to produce energy, provide protein, and boost immunity. Should diners be feeling too adventurous for a pre-designed plate, they also have the option of creating their own three or four item arrangement, choosing from an assortment of dishes such as wild salmon, roasted Brussels sprouts, curried lentils, buckwheat, and wild yam soba.
When both of his parents were diagnosed with cancer within three months of each other, Peter began looking at life differently. He became a vegan and decided to make a career change, venturing into entrepreneurship. Peter recalled how his father would always tell him that the only way he would be successful was if he got involved in something he was passionate about. When his father passed away, Peter, interested in helping others and food, decided to honor his dad by opening a restaurant that served hearty fare with wellness benefits.
From what I observed and tasted, Darrow’s definitely stands by its mission, serving only clean, unprocessed, whole foods. Nearly ninety percent of the seasonal menu is plant-based, and no fryers can be found in the kitchen. Chefs have the added challenge of cooking without butter, but the bonus of proximity to the Union Square Greenmarket, where many of Darrow’s ingredients are sourced — a huge draw when it came to selecting the restaurant’s location. The in-house nutritionist designs balanced plates with specialized health perks and can even be contacted by guests with inquiries via the Darrow’s nutrition, fitness, and health blog. With the second floor dining room easily transformable to an event space, talks are in the works of opening to the public for morning yoga or running clubs. A wholesome community is surely being constructed within these walls.
Another thing that was clear during my trip to Darrow’s is how genuinely thankful Peter is to his team and the regular cliental for helping him launch such a risky endeavor. However, the one thing he finds perplexing is the ninety-eight percent female patronage — though Jimmy Fallon has been spotted in the restaurant. Peter fears the “societal mores” associated with clean eating are isolating the male portion of the population. He claims that as a “mainstream, non-hippie guy,” if he can dine healthfully, anyone can. At Darrow’s healthy eating is not about titles: vegan, vegetarian, macrobiotic, etc. In fact, Peter has banned such words from the kitchen. It is simply about a better way to live, a better way of life for everyone.
A city landmark and a slice of Old New York, Pete's Tavern has been serving food and draft beer uninterrupted since 1864. It does not take much to envision Pete's as it was a century and a half ago. The scarred, carved bar, the high-backed booths, tin ceiling and functional 1950's register are reminders that this was once the favorite haunt of writer O. Henry, a speakeasy, and a pre-Civil War "grocery & grog. " Walking through the rooms, one can also discover hundreds of photos of people from our past - James Cagney, Mickey Mantle, and celebrities of today, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, and Adam Sandler. To drink here is to drink half in the past and half in the present.
New York has more than its fair share of yakitori houses and sushi bars, but this Japanese transplant is concerned with presenting its American diners with Teishoku, or home-style cooking. This chain, which opened in Japan in 1958, features nourishing, traditional fare, where a "healthy body and mind" are top priority. Throughout Asia there are over three hundred restaurants, and as of 2012, New Yorkers can dine in the light, airy interior of their elegant US flagship restaurant.
Ken Giddon likes to say that he went “from riches to rags” by leaving a career as a bond trader to reopen his grandfather’s men’s clothing store. Harry Rothman used to peddle his wares from a pushcart on Delancey Street in the 1920s before moving into a retail space. “He kind of created the concept of a discount clothing store, ” Ken remarked. Rothman's closed for a time after Harry’s death in 1985, but Ken revived the business a year later in a stunning, 11, 000-square-foot storefront on the corner of 18th Street in Union Square. “I love being on a side street. It gives us the ability to afford a bigger space while watching the movable feast that is New York walk by every day. ” Five years after the shop’s reopening, Ken invited his brother, Jim, to join him. “This is one of the true family businesses in Manhattan. ” The store, which carries both casual and formal attire from top designers, aims to make the shopping experience for men “as efficient and rewarding as possible. ” To this end, Ken and Jim scour the market, travel abroad, and attend numerous trade shows to find the best brands. “We try to provide our customers with that personal, small-town feel in the middle of the city, ” Jim said. Despite Rothman's more modern look and merchandise, the brothers strive to keep some core elements of their grandfather’s business alive, particularly by preserving his humble approach to owning a men’s retail store. As Harry used to say, “It’s not so serious what we do. We just sell pants for a living. ”