How they do it: From the beginning, chef/owner Amanda Cohen wanted Dirt Candy to do for vegetables what Peter Luger’s does for steak. “I want vegetables to stand on their own. They belong in the kitchen cabinet, not the medicine cabinet. I’ve carved this category out of nowhere, and it has been tough.” Cohen is constantly reinventing and using new techniques to cook vegetables right. It requires an entirely different mindset, she says.
Steal it: Learn to tell a story with the restaurant and the food. People want a dialogue with you, not a monologue.
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Owner: Linda Derschang
Chef: Russell Goehle
How they do it: Tallulah’s reframes globally inspired plant-driven cuisine in its own landscape. This allows the team to create unexpected seasonal menu combinations and to establish strong relationships with local farmers. Local farmers, like Evergreen, let the restaurant pick the creme of the crop right off their truck, keeping the menu vibrant, seasonal, and unique.
Steal it: Let the plants lead the way.
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Asheville, North Carolina
Owner: Jason Sellers
Chef: Jason Sellers
Pastry chef: Leah Edwards
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Owner: Lenny and Sara Martinelli; Three Leaf Concepts
Chef: Lenny Martinelli
How they do it: The fully vegetarian menu at Leaf is focused on satisfaction, says co-owner Sara Martinelli. “Our goal is to show that meatless cuisine can be delicious and can rise to the highest culinary standards by using the freshest ingredients. We use as much produce from our own farm as we can, which allows us to create dishes that highlight season harvests and local bounty.”
Steal it: Let each vegetable’s unique flavor shine; don’t try to mimic the flavors of meat-based dishes.
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Michael Spain Smith
Owners: Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby
Chef: Executive Chef Rich Landau
Pastry chef: Kate Jacoby
How they do it: Vedge takes pride in its menu and doesn’t apologize for its plant-forwardness. Instead, it celebrates vegetables and focuses on them. “Rather than relegate anything to side-dish-status, we elevate carrots, eggplant, and rutabaga with both classic approaches and new techniques, coaxing out gorgeous textures and addictive flavors from the humblest of veggies,” says co-owner and chef Kate Jacoby.
Steal it: Love the food and love the industry; don’t do it just for the sake of doing it.
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Owners: Josh Loeb, Zoe Nathan, Colby Goff, Jeremy Fox
Chef: Jeremy Fox
How they do it: At Rustic Canyon, chef/partner Jeremy Fox weaves sustainability with culinary creativity. The kitchen doesn’t throw away pea pods or parsley stems. “Beet trimmings? Let’s cook them into a beet gazpacho,” Fox says.
Steal it: Look at the plant as a whole, from top to bottom.
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New York City
Owners: Jean Georges Vongerichten, Paulette Cole, Phil Suarez
Chef: Neal Harden
Pastry chef: Rebecca Flamino
How they do it: abcV is the vegetable-focused restaurant extension of ABC Carpet & Home, a sustainably sourced furniture marketplace. Like its parent company, the restaurant focuses on sustainability and craftsmanship. The menu is ingredient-driven with thoughtful composition.
Steal it: Strive to create a shift in the restaurant paradigm.
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Casey David Muir-Taylor
Owner: Matt Clayton
Chef: Sara Gobely
How they do it: At J. Selby’s, plant-based isn’t about exclusivity, it’s about inclusion—including even the folks who choose to eat a plant-based diet, while exposing as many folks to plant-based cuisine as possible. The menu is fully plant-based, from burgers to falafel bowls.
Steal it: Bank on favorites as a gateway to something new and different.
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Owners: José Andrés, Rob Wilder and ThinkFoodGroup partners
Chef: Michael Costa
How they do it: Zaytinya’s culturally influenced small plates feel exotic to guests and comforting to the chefs behind them. The creative culinary team works collaboratively with tradition and innovation to twist traditions. The small plates format encourages guests to try a lot of different things without having to bet on just one or two choices.
Steal it: Focus on distinctive seasonings and sauces that enhance the natural character of the vegetable. Every restaurant serves grilled asparagus—not every restaurant serves it with za'atar, smoked labneh and preserved lemon.
Sally’s Middle Name
Owner: Sam and Aphra Adkins
Chefs: Sam Adkins, Miranda Rosenfelt
How they do it: Sally’s builds its menu seasonally for flavor-driven menus that pull inspiration from all cuisines. Dishes are presented as shareable plates and hit the table as they’re ready.