As you walk along 29th Street between First Avenue and the East River, and pass between NYU Langone Medical Center and the historic Bellevue Hospital Center, you look up to see two gleaming glass towers. The Alexandria Center, packed with the latest biotech companies, is also home on its ground level to Riverpark Restaurant. But as you walk toward the door, something else catches your eye—something a little odd by New York City standards. It’s Riverpark Farm, one of the largest urban farms in Manhattan.
In this cheery, picturesque setting you won’t be able to immediately count the more than 3,000 milk crates growing hundreds of vegetables and herbs. Even if you don’t you have a green thumb, you may want to take the farm tour offered weekly in summer, or get your hands dirty at a planting workshop on Saturdays. Though, to fully appreciate Riverpark Farm’s efforts is to eat its fresh produce at the restaurant, just a few dozen feet away. This portable container garden, created by Tom Colicchio’s group, is in its fourth season and supplies anywhere from 10 to 100 percent of the restaurant’s produce year-round, depending on the season.
The sun is shining, so you request a table with a view of the river and the farm. The menu includes things, like fairy tale eggplant or lemon verbena. You see the rewards of the harvest when you order Riverpark’s spring salad: a cornucopia of farm goodness, with pea shoots, radish sprouts, micro scallions, bronze fennel, and mustard green flowers—items that are not often found in one place. The cocktail menu is full of delicious-sounding drinks with farmed mint, jalapenos, and strawberries. You order a drink that incorporates lavender-infused vodka, as you enjoy the view. It does not get much better than this—in NYC or elsewhere.
If you’re looking for another spot with locally sourced ingredients and beautiful outdoor seating, a good choice is Tavern on the Green in Central Park.