Be sure to read Part 1 in the series, the philosophy behind offering choices at restaurants.
As a restaurateur dedicated to serving affordably-priced, nutritious food for all diners regardless of dietary needs, Ellary’s Greens owner Leith Hill knows it takes more than tossing around words like “natural” and “organic” for restaurants to focus on healthy choices and going green. Although many restaurant owners are wary of using local and organic ingredients due to higher cost, Hill knows that the rewards in the long term are worth the price. “[Restaurant owners] need to be financially ready and you have to be committed to that,” Hill advised. “It’s got to be part of your mission because otherwise you’re going to stray.”
A major part of Ellary’s Greens’ mission is to offer delicious dishes while being transparent and conscious of diners’ dietary needs. “You don’t have to explain your lifestyle to us at Ellary’s Greens,” said Hill. “You can see it on the menu.” She proves it doesn’t have to be difficult for customers to make healthy choices at restaurants. With easily-decipherable symbols on the menu, diners can tell whether something is vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free or dairy-free. The menu also indicates whether a dish includes onions and garlic, something not often noted on menus but important for diners with digestive issues. A sign on their POS at the counter even specifies which currently-used ingredients aren’t organic due to lack of availability, so customers can decide whether or not to order those items.
Whenever possible, Ellary’s Greens uses organic, local and natural ingredients or at least the highest-quality products when availability is low. Their integrity, though, goes beyond their ingredients. There are no microwaves and out of eight total burners in the kitchen, two by the salad station are for prepping chickpea burgers completely separate from the bacon, shrimp and other meats to prevent any cross-contamination. Gluten-free panini are made in a pan rather than the panini press for the same reason. The kitchen has two large walk-in refrigerators and a double-door fridge, but there’s only one small freezer. This is because only the organic fruit is frozen, then used as a nutrient-dense ice source in their smoothies, but all other food is fresh. They also try using every scrap of an ingredient, like curing bacon using celery’s naturally-occurring nitrates and experimenting with hazelnut skins to make milk. This not only helps to reduce costs, but also their waste and their footprint.
As the winner of Ecocult’s Best Green Restaurant award and Slow Food NYC’s Snail of Approval award nominee, Ellary’s Greens takes green innovations beyond the kitchen, too. The restaurant is very active in the city’s recycling program. They also refill glass bottles with filtered water, maintain an herb garden and use only LED lights and bio-friendly cleaners. “We’re very careful and conscious about how much paper we use,” said Hill. “We use paper that is recycled and biodegradable.” –Including their menus.
Another vital part of Ellary’s Greens’ operations is the connection between their staff and their vendors. Hill stressed that the connection between her suppliers and staff is crucial to developing consumers’ trust in the restaurant. “People don’t have time to do the research themselves,” explained Hill. “Because I get to know [the vendors], I can talk to our team about them and they know that I trust them.” Whenever Hill visits a vendor, she always brings a member of her team with her to see how the product is grown or made and to take photos to share with the rest of the staff and on social media. Everyone on the staff also participates in tasting new products at the restaurant to give their feedback. “From the ground to the customer’s mouth it’s a chain and there are many people who touch that chain,” said Hill. “So the more connections we can make with those people, the better.”
Hill is a proud example of how following your passions can result in great success. She works hard to bring the best product to her customers while enriching her community.
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