Address: 659 Vanderbilt St., Brooklyn, NY 11238
Phone Number: (718) 552-2610
Hours Of Operation: Mon-Sun 5:00 – 10:30 pm
Type Of Cuisine: American
Greg Baxtrom, chef/owner of Olmsted, is one of the growing numbers of chefs taking the farm-to-table concept even further by growing his own food at the restaurant. His 52-seat neighborhood eatery has a 2,000 square foot garden that produces a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, including asparagus, sunchokes, tomatoes, berries, figs, and herbs. They also raise quail and crawfish.
Baxtrom spent time as the chef de cuisine at Dan Barber’s iconic Blue Hill restaurant. “Everything he does has such purpose,” he says. “It’s hard to ignore that and not have it permeate into my approach now.” The garden is his attempt to replicate Barber’s commitment to working with his own locally-grown food.
Since the garden is so small, very little of what’s served at the restaurant is grown onsite. They might garnish a dish with pickled radishes or nasturtiums grown onsite, or top a BLT with some lettuce or thin slices of tomatoes. “We sort of have to stretch the ingredients so they appear in as many dishes as possible,” says Baxtrom. All of the other produce on the menu is purchased at nearby farmers markets so the cooks can still use the freshest food available.
Guests can sit in the garden for dinner and drinks. They also can enjoy the greenery growing inside the restaurant. Along one 50-foot side of the restaurant is a living wall with nasturtiums, rosemary, thyme and several other plants. Baxtrom says they intended to install the wall as soon as they opened, but they feared it would look ragged as they trimmed the lemon balm for cocktails and peppers for dinners. They went with tropical and indoor plants instead but quickly reconsidered. After all, one of the principal goals of the establishment is to grow as much of their own food as possible.
“Now, when a customer orders a mint tea, the server’s got to reach out their hand and grab some mint from the wall,” says Baxtrom.
In launching Olmsted in May 2016, he and the staff – most of whom have worked at fine-dining restaurants in the past – wanted to have a neighborhood-focused restaurant that provided good food without the attitude of most upscale businesses. “I just wanted it to be more accessible,” he says. “Fine dining is pivoting. Diners want less theatrics but the same quality of food. We try to be a little playful and silly with the food sometimes.”
The menu changes seasonally, but dishes on a recent menu include “noodles” cut from rutabaga and topped with truffles and brown butter, trout with creamed Brussels sprouts and shaved chestnuts, tamarind-lacquered lamb with raita and mustard greens, and frozen yogurt made with lavender and honey. Cocktails get similarly creative treatment. Baxtrom describes one mixed drink that includes the juice of charred lemons, scotch infused with the discarded rinds, iced tea, and fresh-picked lemon balm.