Dreaming of al fresco dining this summer but the weather’s not quite there? No matter — vertical gardens in restaurants bring the outdoors in, and in some restaurants’ cases, offer up verdant edibles that are just at tasty as they are eye-catching. Here are some eateries where it’s easy seeing green.
Sassafraz, Toronto, Ontario
It’s hard to believe that the cascading verdant tower of lush plant life and soothing trickle of accompanying waterfall aren’t part of some landscape in a tropical Hawaiian paradise, but Sassafraz is smack-dab in the middle of the village-like Yorkville neighborhood of Ontario. The 20-foot biowall is one of the province’s first, and includes clean-air technology that cleanses the palate for divine dishes such as tikka masala meatballs with fennel, venison osso bucco, and tuna steak with sriracha emulsion and soy glaze. Make a reservation at Sassafraz.
Juvia, Miami, Florida
Internationally acclaimed French botanist Patrick Blanc helps evoke a rainforest-like atmosphere in the center of Miami at Juvia, where chic plant landscapes span from the entrance through the terrace and into the dining room, overflowing with 220 types of indigenous greenery. The 22-foot-tall vertical garden gives the unobstructed panoramic view of Magic City a run for its money but also filters out the metropolis’ toxins and muffles city noise. The kitchen keeps it clean and lean, too, with a menu that’s heavy on seafood like sashimi-grade tuna steak, scallops, and grouper. Make a reservation at Juvia.
Otium, Los Angeles, California
Otium owner and chef Timothy Hollingsworth has an impressive pedigree coming from the French Laundry, but, for him, the most impressive part of growing his resume was the opportunity to work from a garden right outside of that restaurant. Now, Los Angeles-based Otium’s vertical garden brings more than a bit of green to the concrete jungle, and Hollingsworth and crew use herbs and flowers from it for their dishes. They even grow herbs like Za’atar that they can’t source from local purveyors to use on grilled steaks with onions and sumac. Besides the fresh flavors and funky aesthetic, restaurant goers get to enjoy an outdoor mezzanine that overlooks downtown LA and the contemporary art Broad Museum. Make a reservation at Otium.
Colonie, Brooklyn, New York
Tree-lined Atlantic Avenue is the setting for Colonie, where a walk inside quickly acquaints guests with the 20 different species of plants that comprise living artwork (made entirely out of recycled materials). New executive chef Jared Braithwaite maintains relationships with small, local farmers to focus on an Italian-inspired menu that spotlights fresh herbs and seasonal produce. This spring, This spring, check out bitter greens with bagna cauda and bread crumbs, spaghetti with squid ink, ‘nduja, rock shrimp, and green onion, and Bavette steak with Bloomsdale spinach, pine nuts, and au poivre. Make a reservation at Colonie.
Homestead on the Roof, Chicago, Illinois
An oasis in the middle of the Windy City, Homestead on the Roof has just 85 seats nestled in a 3,000-square foot organic rooftop garden, which is filled with two massive vertical hanging gardens, and dozens of planter boxes all filled with vegetables, fruits, and herbs. Executive Chef Scott Shulman says he and his team set out to not just tell but show guests about their four-plantings-per-year concept and menus designed with at least one ingredient that comes from their own garden. At least one item from the garden is incorporated into every dish that comes out of the oven, which rotates seasonally. Look for the Wednesday chef pop-up dinner series until Homestead expands for its summer harvest hours. Make a reservation at Homestead on the Roof.
Terra Bistro, San Diego, California
For executive chef and owner Jeff Rossman, there’s no greater labor of love than the ability to keep something alive. “We’re a farm-to-table restaurant. It’s expensive and an effort but it totally fit into who we are and our culture — you see a living wall, you see life,” he said. What else to expect besides this “welcome wall” at the entrance? Sustainable, local, and organic cuisine from Rossman and a bar with seasonable fruit- and herb-infused vodkas with a wine list that pays homage to the San Diego bistro’s home state of California. Diners celebrate American dishes like oven-roasted local fish and quinoa bowls at a chef’s communal table and chef’s farm-to-table dinners. Make a reservation at Terra Bistro.
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Carley Thornell is a travel writer whose experiences eating street food in Japan, English peas in the UK, free-range steak in Argentina, and Brussels sprouts at Estragon tapas in her hometown of Boston have provided unforgettable culinary inspiration. Shout out at email@example.com.