1.) Pisticci: Pisticci may be city’s first 100% carbon neutral restaurant, but don’t expect any eco-sanctimony from this cheery Morningside Heights Italian. While a lot of thought has been put into the decor–the small, brick-walled space is decked out in full Victorian study regalia, with faux bookshelves, tufted leather couches, and twee floral wall paper–the focus here is clearly on the food. The balsamic vinegar on your insalata tre colori has been aged 15 years, the mozzarella di bufala on your grilled squash is flown in from Naples weekly, and the pastas–tossed with prosciutto and spinach here, wild mushrooms there–are all homemade. Throw in free jazz on Sundays, a charming, if cramped, patio, and rotating exhibitions by local artists, and you’ve got yourself a no-fail date night.
125 La Salle Street, 212.932.3500, pisticcinyc.com
2.) Gustorganics: Okay, so maybe “Changing the world, one meal at a time” is a slight overstatement, but the grub at this bustling West Village spot is entirely organic and, more importantly, delicious. The food is mostly Argentine and Italian, with farm-to-table and spa influences. Carnivores, vegetarians, and vegans can break bread at the same repurposed wood table, thanks to a Argentinian-Italian menu that includes a grass-fed beef and sweet corn risotto, a plump “hempanada” stuffed with mushrooms, zucchini, and generous amounts of mozzerella, and a detox-friendly Earth Plate Sampler, a mix of grilled and steamed vegetables, quinoa, tofu, and lentil stew. Offset all that healthy eating with a basil daiquiri or a pepino (vodka, cucumber, mint, orange juice, and agave), or ward off those nasty summer colds with an Immune Booster (spinach, celery, green apples, asparagus, peeled lemon, and ginger). There’s also a crepe-heavy breakfast menu, dulce-de-leche-filled alfajores and magdalenas, and, for Goop mommies, gourmet pureed baby meals.
519 Avenue of the Americas, 212.242.5800, gustorganics.com
3.) Dirt Candy: Sure, Dirt Candy is made from recycled and sustainable materials, and the food is organic and locally-sourced, but chef/owner Amanda Cohen just wants you to embrace the vegetable. At her minimalist aquarium-styled East Village joint, the award-winning chef assembles colorful and intensely flavored paens to this generally mistreated food group. Appetizers and entrees bely their one-word titles: “Mushroom” gives you a pot of portobello mousse, another of pear and fennel compote, and crisp toast points slathered in truffle butter; “Corn” mixes stone ground grits–the city’s best, as per the Village Voice–corn cream, pickled shiiitakes, and huitlacoche, topped with a tempura poached egg. There’s only one “Snack,” the jalepeno hush puppies, and they’re a must-order, chubby and crispy, their heat offset by a slather of maple butter. Top it off with a fennel funnel cake and a glass of Clos Du Chateau De Cadillac–and rethink that whole vegetarians “are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit” thing.
430 East 9th Street, 212.228.7732, dirtcandynyc.com
4.) Birdbath: There are three Birdbaths in Manhattan, but if you can, you should try to go to the one on Prince street in Soho, which occupies the old Vesuvio Bakery. Maury Rubin, the owner of Birdbath and City Bakery, has retained Vesuvio’s iconic bright green facade, gilt window lettering, and pressed tin ceilings; the rest of the space serves as a testament to green building. The entire operation is wind powered. with wheat walls, corn cups, and recycled paper countertops. The baked goods are mostly excellent–in the mornings, try a rice-milk-raisin scone with strong drip coffee, while a generously chunky vegan chocolate chip cookie makes for the perfect afternoon snack. Skateboarders and cyclists, take heed: your wheels entitle you to a 25% discount.
223 First Avenue, 145 Seventh Avenue, 160 Prince Street, 646.722.6565, buildagreenbakery.com
5.) Otarian: The words “fast food” and “low carbon” don’t seem like they’d occupy the same territory, but then again, Otarian (a mosh of “oxygen” and “vegetarian”) traffics in the ready-made, Whole Foods-style fast food, recycled cardboard containers with feel-good messaging and all. The chain was created by Radhika Oswal, the wife of Aussie ammonia king Pankaj Oswal, which might explain the sky-high prices. Less easy to explain are the menu categories–we’re still not sure what an “obsession” is or why bean and cheese tacos qualify as “hearties” while burgers do not. Everything but the Coke comes with a carbon footprint estimate and a comparison to its high-carbon equivalent, and some of it, like the tangy, silken tandoori “Mushroom O Paneer” (1.12kg CO2e) and the earthy “Pea O Spinach” soup (1.03kg CO2e), tastes pretty good. The rest, including an appealing-sounding “Indian Chutney burger” with the unfortunate consistency of dry clay, tends to be bland and stintingly portioned. Of course, when the first question the counterperson asks you is “How would you like to reduce carbon today?,” you can probably guess food is not Otarian’s primary concern.
154 Bleecker Street, 212.614.6834, 947 Eighth Avenue, 212.489.3270, otarian.com