The fish is a luscious-looking fuchsia at the edges. That’s the first thing that jumps out at me as I get ready to sample the salmon bagel at Grass Roots Kitchen, an American eatery that opened in Tarrytown just before Thanksgiving. “We cure the salmon with a layer of beets, along with a layer of fennel,” says owner David Starkey, explaining the delightful hue.
It tastes as good as it looks, and the other lovely surprise is the bagel itself. It’s not the bloated, tasteless version you get at so many corner shops. Instead it’s crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and flavorful throughout. “That’s homemade too,” Starkey says. And at $8, the sandwich is a bargain treat.
If this restaurant seems to have more polish than most newbies, it’s because there’s an experienced hand behind it: Starkey is also owner of the Sweet Grass Grill, an American staple in Tarrytown; popular Mexican eatery Tomatillo in Dobbs Ferry; and Red Zebra, a seasonal Italian restaurant in Sleepy Hollow.
In fact, Grass Roots Kitchen wasn’t so much a birth as an evolution. “Sweet Grass Grill has such a tiny kitchen. We were looking for a commissary-type place where we could prepare some of the food, do catering, and that kind of thing,” Starkey explains. But when he found the space that Grass Roots Kitchen now occupies, “we realized that this sort of needs to survive on its own,” he says.
Grass Roots Kitchen does service Sweet Grass Grill —“we bake our buns, do a lot of preparation, and make pasta here,” Starkey notes — but it’s its own animal, as well. The space is airy and open with an assortment of tables, a counter, and two large blackboards, one of which gives the menu’s basics. For breakfast, favorites include the aforementioned salmon bagel, bread pudding French toast, buckwheat pancakes, and a fried egg on avocado toast with refried beans and pico de gallo.
Starkey takes sourcing seriously, obtaining his eggs from a group of local farms, including Let it Bee, an apiary in Hastings-on-Hudson that also has chickens.
Smoothies are a big hit here, too, including the Berry Nice, a whirl of blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, apple, and coconut water, enlivened by a hint of basil. The concoction lives up to its name, fruity and acidic without the cloying sweetness so many smoothies have.
For lunch and dinner, vegetarians and vegans aren’t stuck with salads, though there are several appealing ones available. Among the heartier choices is the beet-based The Root Burger, topped with vegan Swiss cheese, watercress, pickled onion, beet ketchup, and a signature sauce. Other intriguing possibilities include a jackfruit “tuna” melt and The Ruby sandwich, containing celeriac pastrami, house kraut, and Russian dressing. “We’ve had people order it by accident thinking it’s pastrami, and actually really enjoy it,” Starkey says proudly.
As for why there are so many vegan and vegetarian selections on the menu, Starkey says he has the Earth’s health in mind. “I eat everything; I enjoy everything,” he says. “I just know that we are not on a sustainable track right now, and we need to eat a lot more vegetables. Also, I find creating dishes with vegetables so much more interesting. There’s so much work involved, so much more creativity than just putting a slab of protein on a plate with a couple of sides.” Not to malign meat, he adds: “My joke is that the grass-fed burger pays the bills.”
Grass Roots Kitchen
124 Wildey St
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