Wandering Times Square tourists and busy midtown office workers might not always see eye-to-eye on proper sidewalk etiquette, but they agree on one thing: they just can’t get enough of The Little Beet, the veggie-centric, fast-casual restaurant on 50th Street where organic salads, sides, and juices offer a welcome reprieve from greasy pizza, hot dogs, and other grab-and-go staples. People like it so much that the Beet crew has decided to stay awhile: The Little Beet Table is the original spot’s new sit-down sister restaurant. Further downtown, on Park Avenue South just past 25th, chef Franklin Becker welcomes the hungry masses to huddle a while in a cozy, relaxed setting for full veggie plates and fresh entrees. Chilled-out service and soothing ambiance now pair with his carefully selected produce, bringing the zen of the chef’s healthy body/healthy mind concept full circle.
Unfinished wooden slats lead you up a ramp to the narrow, cream-colored dining room along an extended, sparkling bar. Hang a left and snag the cozy six-seater right in front – the best table at the Table – for prime Manhattanite-watching on an early weeknight evening. Paneled graffiti street art inside and bustling businessmen outside (wait a minute…) are your only urban reminders. The Beet’s thatched chairs and brick walls appear borrowed from a guesthouse on grandfather’s farm.
With a quick glance down the menu, it’s evident that Becker is a gluten-free and organic obsessive – he’s penned two books on clean eating for diabetics, and a Little Beet nutritional pamphlet reads like a dissertation. There are plenty of tasty-sounding options on the adult beverage menu (including the wonderfully fruity, gluten-free Celia saison from Ipswitch Ale Brewery), but it’s the natural, juicy drinks that catch your eye. You’re in the mood for feelin’ green: kale, spinach, celery, green apple, parsley, mint, and agave.
A few sips in, and you’re already feeling more complete. Now, order a few veggie dishes for the table. You can’t go wrong with the spot’s namesake – earthy grilled beets tricked-out with Greek yogurt and pumpkin-seed almond granola. Then, spoon up some rich, buttery roasted acorn squash. And be sure not to turn up your nose at the “s” word (in this case, “salad”). The awesome farmer’s market salad is rustled up from ingredients from the Union Square Greenmarket and billed thusly: If it’s there, it’s here. You can just picture Becker mulling over bright green snap peas, humongous carrots, and fluffy kale down the block. It doesn’t get any fresher.
Carnivores, have no fear: Slow-cooked salmon – complete with colorful pistachio pesto – organic chicken, and even burgers are here for you to chow down on while everyone else vegges out. After a few bites, you’ll be obsessed with the meat’s tasteful, tender distinction from any burger slapped together on the street. And that’s The Little Beet Table’s true craft — making clean eating a state of mind. Between your last scoops of pot roasted apples (even the desserts are guilt-free), you’re finally accustomed to Becker’s pace. And it’s a refreshing, relaxing one: the kind worth sitting down for.