Photos by Cassandra Giraldo
Part 1 of a 2-part series
Consumers know: just because a restaurant uses buzzwords like “healthy”, “organic” and “local” doesn’t mean the business is passionate about nutritious food. Ellary’s Greens, however, is one exception that’s making its mark on the health-conscious New York City scene. Since opening in April 2013, this West Village restaurant has gone beyond health food fads to find success in their mission of offering “nourishment you can trust, quality you can depend on, integrity you can rely on, and care in everything we do.”
Following a philosophy that healthy food can still be delicious and beautiful, Ellary’s Greens owner Leith Hill and her team are dedicated to providing excellent, memorable meals for vegetarians, vegans and carnivores alike, while being conscious of their environment and community. A longtime vegetarian and clean-eating advocate, Hill had the idea to open Ellary’s Greens while driving around suburbia, unable to find quick healthy choices at restaurants for herself and her young son. So she stepped down from her job running a Long Island school to pursue her passion: “Nourishing people with really healthy, beautiful and delicious food.”
Hill strongly believes that what you eat greatly affects how you feel about yourself in addition to your health. “I actually think it’s better to eat really clean food that your body can process and use the nutrients from and live a normal lifestyle, than to go running and eat a whole pizza,” Hill explained. “I couldn’t sleep at night if I fed people ‘junk.’ [Some] potato chips are vegan, but that doesn’t mean they’re good for you. A lot of gluten-free food is also made with white sugar, low-quality oils and butter… I wouldn’t want to put that in my body or feed it to my kids or my husband.” – Or her customers.
Understanding the New York market is also an important part of the Ellary’s Greens philosophy. Many New Yorkers don’t cook at home because they’ve converted their tiny apartment’s kitchen into storage. A big city like New York can also be very lonely. So when they need to eat, many New Yorkers are looking to make human connection at restaurants, which makes customer service even more valuable. “I don’t pay our team, our guests pay them. That’s something really important for our team to remember,” said Hill. “People will forgive bad food but they will not forgive bad service.”
Even though Ellary’s Greens has only been in business for over a year, they’ve already grown a loyal customer base (including actors, models and athletes) who flock to the restaurant knowing their food will be high quality and nutritious. “Our customers are incredibly educated and care about how they look and how they feel,” Hill explained. “Every calorie matters, but they want to eat something delicious. They get to feel good about what they’re eating.”
At 51 years old, Hill feels in her prime as a restaurant owner getting to do things her way by nourishing customers with healthy and delicious food choices. She lives a healthy and green life every day, so it’s not difficult to incorporate that into her restaurant. Although she enjoys her job every day, there are two moments at the restaurant that make Hill extremely happy: “When I’m interacting with customers and when I’m at a spot on the stairs between the kitchen and dining room and I can hear the laughter in [both places]. I say ‘That’s the dream’ because I love our work environment… That matters and I think that kind of love shows through in our food.”
Many restaurateurs agree in concept but may feel overwhelmed by the idea of focusing on healthy choices at restaurants. See how Hill operates her restaurant while keeping quality and customer satisfaction as a priority.