Sourcing Hyper-Locally: Just In Time For The Summer Produce Season, A Spotlight On Restaurants With On-Site Gardens

Noble's rooftop garden is literally right above you when you dine in their airy dining room on the restaurant's second floor.
(Photos courtesy Noble)

Philadelphia’s local food scene is more robust than ever. Our sibling site Philly Homegrown has all the details on local farmers, brewers, bakers, fishmongers and cheesemakers, plus Philadelphia’s locally sourced restaurants, the farmers’ markets frequented by both amateur and professional chefs and what’s in season and where you can pick it.

While there are no official state-by-state comparisons, anecdotal evidence indicates that Philadelphia has the second largest number of community gardens — a whopping 500 — in the entire country. Of those, an estimated 226 are food-producing gardens. So in addition to area farms, there’s fresh food being cultivated right inside the city itself.

And when it comes to Philadelphia, chefs here are increasingly seeking not only local farm-to-table sourcingJose Garces, Mitch Prensky of Supper, and Marathon Restaurants all have farms they own or co-own — but even garden-to-table sourcing, where restaurants are placing gardens on site to get the freshest produce possible.

Read on to learn about restaurants in Philadelphia that boast on-site gardens, the fruits (and vegetables) of which you, the diner, get to reap.

Osteria: This Marc Vetri venture, the kitchen of which is helmed by Chef Jeff Michaud, serves outstanding, gourmet cuisine in an unpretentious, warm and cozy home environment. That familiar atmosphere is bolstered by the presence of an adjacent garden, situated in the gravel alley between the Old Zion church and the glassed-in extension of Osteria’s dining room. Not only can diners see and smell the food they’re anticipating, thanks to Osteria’s open kitchen and wood brick oven, but they can also enjoy incredible proximity to some of the ingredients on their plate. Recent vegetables grown and served fresh include radicchio and ramps, for an improvised salad topped with parmigiano.

Noble: You can dine right beneath the restaurant’s verdant rooftop garden, and see it in full view through bright and sunny skylights. Grace Wicks from Graceful Gardens helped design the garden, which currently is growing basil and marjoram, lemon verbena, alpine strawberries and nasturtiums, and will soon contain tomatoes and peppers, cucumbers, blueberries and lemongrass. Noble offers a summertime “Roof-to-Table” prix fixe dinner, each course infused with rooftop veggies and herbs.

Talula’s Garden: Take it from Aimee Olexy herself: “We have lots of lavender growing, cherry tomatoes, mizuna greens, nasturtiums and basil galore!” A true garden-to-table concept, this joint venture between Stephen Starr and the Talula’s Table proprietress includes a garden that provides vegetables and herbs used by the restaurant. The garden concept extends to the overall ambience of the place, with a wrought-iron gate and garden path paved to lead towards the serene Washington Square the restaurant sits on the lip of.

Check out a few more below, including two rooftop gardens, one on East Passyunk and another on top of one of Philadelphia’s best hotels.

Paradiso: Last week three hives of nectar collectors were planted on the top of this elegant South Philly restaurant. The bees are part of this summer’s transformation of Paradiso’s roof into a rooftop garden complete with heirloom tomato plants, microgreens, herbs, berries and a fig tree. Lynn Rinaldi and Corey Baver are working with apiarist and farmer Trey Fleming of Two Gander Farm in Berks County and Ian Brendle of Green Meadow Farm on the project.

Le Virtu: Hung on the wall at this East Passyunk mainstay’s outdoor “Campo” courtyard, a giant “herb wall” is draped in parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, basil and mint. A nearby fig tree also bears fresh fruit which is used in dishes served.

Fountain at the Four Seasons: The Four Seasons Philadelphia Hotel upped its already robust green factor in November 2009 by adding a rooftop vegetable garden as a source for hyper-local ingredients. The garden grows herbs and vegetables for dishes to be served in its restaurants, including the estimable Fountain Restaurant, Swann Lounge and Swann Cafe. The hotel’s Gardening Consultant, Grace Wicks of Graceful Gardens, assists in overseeing the plot. The rooftop garden consists of 9 individual beds, each 5′ x 7′, totaling 315 square feet of growing space. Fun fact: each bed is filled with soil made from compost from the hotel itself.

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