America's 10 Best Roof-to-Table Restaurants
by Kristine Hansen
Photo credit: Courtesy of Rosemary’s
For years now, the farm-to-table movement has been sweeping across the nation, bringing chefs seeking locally sourced ingredients closer together with farmers. But farm-to-table is so passé—these days, chefs are starting to reap their own harvests by growing fresh fruits and vegetables on the roofs of their very own restaurants. From New York City to Dallas, cities across the country are seeing more and more restaurants where ingredients are being grown in-house. Here are 10 of the best of them.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Emily Clack Photography
Where: Washington D.C.
Open since March, Bidwell Restaurant touts a comfort-foods-inspired line-up, including crisp pork belly tossed with arugula, apples, sweet onions, and shaved fennel, and “gin and tonic” salmon with a side of caramelized cauliflower. Much of the lunch, dinner, and weekend-brunch vegetable ingredients are grown on the rooftop’s aeroponic garden, overseen by Chef John Mooney of New York City’s Bell Book & Candle.
Insider Tip: Bite into an heirloom melon created by the restaurant’s namesake, U.S. General John Bidwell, also a 19th-century agriculturist..
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Washington, D.C. Guide
LOCKWOOD IN THE PALMER HOUSE HILTON
Located just off the ornate lobby in Chicago’s Palmer House Hilton is the chic Lockwood Restaurant & Bar. On the 25th floor’s rooftop sits a low-key apiary and a vegetable garden flush with tomatoes, snap peas, herbs, and lettuces. All of this folds into the modern American menu, including a cheese plate featuring this richly flavored honey; octopus matched with romesco sauce; rooftop herbs alongside roasted Slagel Family Farm chicken; and spring lamb served with fava beans, knob onions, white asparagus, and mushrooms.
Insider Tip: The prix fixe lunch menu ($30) features two courses capped by the hotel’s famous Bertha’s Brownie, created on-site in 1893 for the World’s Fair.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Chicago Guide
Photo credit: Courtesy of Bastille Cafe & Bar
BASTILLE CAFE & BAR
Seattle’s rain hasn’t stopped Bastille Café & Bar, a French-themed brasserie complete with a buttress scored from a Paris church, from sowing its own seeds. On its rooftop, Executive Chef Jason Stoneburner manages a 4,500-square-foot raised bed of vegetables. The menu includes both small plates, such as the Hama Hama oysters with rhubarb mignonette sauce, and entrees—the roasted half chicken with shaved asparagus, spring onions, and arugula is a great choice. Stoneburner’s restaurant is open daily for dinner and for brunch on Sundays.
Insider Tip: Sunday brunch here is a local legend. Try a bowl of hazelnut granola drizzled with honey harvested on-site.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Seattle Guide
Photo credit: Courtesy of Bell Book and Candle
BELL BOOK & CANDLE
Where: New York City
West Village’s boho appeal extends to Bell Book & Candle, where Chef John Mooney fiddles with herbs and vegetables in the rooftop aeroponic tower garden, turning them into comfort-foods-driven dinner dishes that run the gamut. They include hearty Living Leaf salads featuring rooftop lettuces and Long Island duck breast served alongside mashed sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts. What’s not grown on the roof is sourced locally, everything from state-made cheeses and charcuterie to Montauk fluke sashimi.
Insider Tip: Don’t dismiss the water service: Bell Book & Candle filters and bottles both still and sparkling waters on-site.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s New York City Guide
Where: New York City
Celeb chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s venture into rooftop gardening at ABC Kitchen dovetails nicely with a devout commitment to serving only pesticide- and antibiotic-free cuisine that’s sourced locally as much as possible. Herbs and microgreens are grown on the roof, popping up in the pizza topped with goat cheese and herbs, and the fried organic chicken with Swiss chard and hot sauce butter.
Insider Tip: For a veritable tour of Jean-Georges’ genius nature, opt for the prix fixe lunch ($32): two courses (your choice) and a dessert (including the indulgent orange-creamsicle tart).
Where: Washington D.C.
Located in Penn Quarter, Cedar Restaurantputs out eclectic, artsy entrees designed by executive chef Aaron McCloud. Some of that ingenuity starts on the rooftop where many of the ingredients, including edible flowers to dress up a salad, are grown. Whether it’s a carrot-and-ginger puree and Burgundy pearl onions alongside grass-fed Angus beef or collards and a sweet potato tart with the Texas wild boar, there are plenty of options to dine with a green bent at Cedar.
Insider Tip: Go for the Chef’s Tasting: five courses paired with wines for $110, beginning with a choice of white-chocolate and lobster soup or apples five ways.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Braise
Well before opening Braise in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point neighborhood three years ago, chef-owner Dave Swanson pioneered the country’s first restaurant-supported agriculture program. His local foods empire now includes a rooftop garden, the aforementioned RSA program, a restaurant, and a culinary school, all under one roof. The inventive menu is written daily based on what’s available in the garden, and could include a pork loin with vanilla-turnip puree or a spiced squash cake for dessert.
Insider Tip: Book a seat at a Braise Culinary School class that covers everything from knife skills to raw foods.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Milwaukee Guide
Where: Miami Beach
A newcomer to South Beach’s already sizzling dining scene, Lorenzoopened last fall inside Redbury South Beach with popular chef and James Beard Award winner Tony Mantuano (of Chicago’s Spiaggia) at the helm. From antipasti to gelato, the entire menu oozes Italian, augmented by the wood-burning grill imported from Italy. Cocktails are inspired by fresh herbs from the roof. One of the best? Try the Tazza di Suolo, a cocktail developed by Michael Jack Pazdon of Napa Valley’s Goose & Gander that features Amaro Averna, mixed citrus juices, Pierre Ferrand dry curacao, rosemary (grown on-site), ginger beer, and bitters.
Insider Tip: Avoid South Beach’s steep dining prices with a visit during Happy Hour (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. daily) for half-priced antipasti and cocktails.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Miami Guide
PYRAMID RESTAURANT & BAR
Tucked into the Fairmont Dallas, Pyramid Restaurant & Bar puts on a culinary show with an elegant, farm-to-table mantra that includes a 3,000-square-foot rooftop garden. These 1,800 plants (herbs, fruits and vegetables, eucalyptus leaves, and heirloom tomatoes, to name a few) wind up on the breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner menus, offering tough-to-choose selections such as charred peach and sorrel salad with seared cobia, and ostrich crusted with kaffir lime and chili with peach coulis.
Insider Tip: Save room for dessert, as the rooftop supplies that section of the menu too, including the honey in the TX Bourbon Cake.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Dallas Guide
ROSEMARY’S ENOTECCA & TRATTORIA
Where: New York City
Tomato plants are just some of the garden goodies grown at Rosemary’s Enotecca & Trattoria in New York City’s West Village. Rosemary’s is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and the rooftop garden supplies much of the menu, including the radishes in the popular Italian breakfast and the tomatoes for the market fish ragu. Inspired by the owner’s mother (Rosemary, from Lucca, Italy), the tradition of cooking with what’s grown just outside the kitchen continues.
Insider Tip: In a rush or short on time? Grab breakfast at the to-go counter.
Kristine Hansen is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee where she reports on food, wine, and travel topics around the globe for Fodors.com, along with new hotel openings. She also writes for Wine Enthusiast, TIME, Whole Living and American Way. In 2006 she co-authored The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Coffee and Tea (Alpha Books/Penguin). You can follow her on Twitter @kristineahansen orthrough her web site.