Update 8/29/09: We are sorry to report that this restaurant has now closed.
Last week, Wiliamsburg topped off its brimming selection of eateries with the opening of Green Canteen. The spacious, über-green restaurant is silver LEED certified thanks to its commitment to use 100% wind power for energy, a solar tank system to heat its water, and savvy design (skylights!), which makes the most of natural light. To further reduce its ecological footprint, even the communal table was fashioned out of a ceiling beam from the building itself.
But eco-friendliness aside, it’s the Mediterranean menu, starring the likes of antipasti, pizza-like flatbreads, and hummus bowls, which will determine whether curious passersby will become repeat customers. It is a restaurant, after all, so I stopped by to taste the goods and bask in the sun-filled space where chief operating officer and general manager, Mike Hewitt, was on hand to share his take on Green Canteen’s place on New York City’s culinary stage.
oM: Green Canteen is the latest from Brad Blum who used to head major chains like Olive Garden and Burger King. Are there similar plans to expand on this new restaurant concept?
MH: We want to be able to transfer what you see here onto the road and create more Green Canteens throughout the country. Of course, we want to be careful to walk before we run by making sure we have the model correct. But we feel that America wants to eat this way. More than the architecture, it’s all about the food. You can savor great tasting food and feel good afterward.
oM: It feels very communal.
MH: A lot of our food and seating is shareable. We’re trying to create this community where diners can hang out, enjoy their meal and meet new people, like at the communal tables.
oM: Given Green Canteen’s commitment to using fresh ingredients, does this mean the menu will be seasonal?
MH: We might have a couple of seasonal items here and there when possible. We also want to make sure we keep staples so that people know what they’re getting when they get here. If they come for a certain hummus bowl, then we don’t want to be switching things up too much on them.
oM: So what sets Green Canteen apart from other restaurants that offer healthy and organic alternatives to, say, fast food?
MH: Green Canteen’s concept has been nationally tested and it’s done really well. We don’t even use the words “health” or “organic.” It’s really all about “Eat Well. Feel Well.” Some of it might be organic; some might not. But it’s about how you feel after you eat here. It’s about offering food with low glycemic indexes, low sodium, low carbs. The food really tastes good but it doesn’t weigh you down.
oM: Sounds like a lifestyle.
MH: It’s a lifestyle—exactly. A lot of people seem to want to eat this way and live this way.
oM: How did you decide to start in Williamsburg?
MH: Williamsburg’s a very progressive neighborhood. We feel that we’re a progressive brand so it fits hand-in-hand. There’s a savvy clientele here. We wanted to cater to them and see what they think of it. It’s a demographic test. People know what they’re purchasing here and they’re willing to pay a little more for a top quality product that’s sourced in a better way.
oM: Does this mean you use local farmers?
MH: Yes, we use some local farmers and sustainable products. It’s also about what we do with the food once we get it. The preparation is very simple and honest. There are no fryers in the house. There are no processed foods. Just clean, honest food.
How to get there: Take the L train to Bedford Ave. (Green Canteen, 106 North 6th St., Brooklyn, 718.387.5900, mygreencanteen.com) No reservations taken at this time.