Grub Guide

Eight L.A. Restaurants That Grow Their Own

Govind Armstrong in the garden at Post & Beam
Govind Armstrong in the garden at Post & Beam Photo: Vanessa Stump

These days, it’s more than expected that every emerging restaurant is going to tout its farm-to-table credentials and the frequent trips to the farmer’s market made by its chef. This commitment to high-grade, fresh product is of course still to be applauded, even if once solid terms like “market-driven” and “sustainable, local” are being buzzed around town so much they’re starting to pack the same weight as a G.O.P. campaign pledge. Within the realm of these locals-only restaurants, there are a few passionate chefs and owners worth cheering on and checking out for their attempts to tackle their own on-site or home gardens, helping bring just-plucked produce and hard-to-find fruit and vegetables to our plates and glasses. Here now, a look at eight such restaurants that currently maintain and nurture their very own supply of fresh greens, herbs, roots, flowers, and fruit.

Playa: In June, chef John Rivera Sedlar unveiled Cielo Verde, one of the most ambitious urban garden programs L.A. has ever laid eyes on, using soil-less planters that help raise the restaurant’s own micro-greens, vegetables, and lettuces from seed before they are transferred to a spread of 35 aeroponic towers that self-water the produce with fertilized H2O. The massive show of ingredients grown here find their way into the cocktails of Julian Cox and the dishes of Sedlar, Playa chef Kevin Luzande, and Rivera chef de cuisine Joseph Panarello, including Cielo Verde’s purple bok choy, black Tuscan kale, epazote, ghost peppers, scorpion and padron chilies, hoja santa, shiso, Mexican and finger limes, eggplant, red Romaine and golden purslane, sage and tarragon, tomatilloes, and a whole grip of different tomatoes, among the many. 7360 Beverly Blvd. West Hollywood; 323-933-5300.

Post & Beam: Chef Govind Armstrong and restaurateur Brad Johnson’s team, with help from Home Grown Edibles’ Geri Miller, maintain an impressively sized on-site garden at their Baldwin Hills restaurant, and even hold weekly gardening classes to spread their knowledge. Over the summer, the restaurant was growing Rosa Blanca eggplant, Trombetta di albenga squash, Sun Gold cherry tomatoes, Padrón peppers, Burgundy okra, and Greek columnar basil for their menu, which includes a garden market pizza that changes its ingredients almost weekly according to what’s being grown out back. Heaping more good upon a great thing, the garden also attracts and nurtures a massive population of bees. 3767 Santa Rosalia Dr. Baldwin Hills; 323-299-5599.

Niki Nakayama’s

N/Naka: As if the bewitchingly beautiful dishes chef Niki Nakayama makes at her Palms kaiseki restaurant weren’t impressive enough, the chef also maintains an organic Japanese garden at her Arcadia home, with the help of Farmscape. Nakayama’s garden blooms with kodojoluku, a type of Japanese long bean, as well as carrots, shiso, Japanese eggplant, and kabocha squash, in addition to the nasturtium gracing her Jidori egg and King crab with dashi, the houba magnolia leaf that cradles her Australian wagyu with red miso, and the cucumbers that are sliced for her takosu octopus vinegar with sesame aioli, pictured above. 3455 Overland Ave. Palms; 310-836-6252.

Ray’s and Stark Bar: Kris Morningstar’s continually morphing menu hinges on the seasons, as well as the herbs grown in an on-site garden located in back of the LACMA-adjacent restaurant. You may find the opal basil and borage adorning one of his pasta dishes or as garnish on a seafood dish, while pastry chef Josh Graves and bartender Paul Sanguinetti share the geranium supply for cocktails and ice cream, and all three talents employ the garden’s sorrel, sage, lavender, and thyme wherever possible. 5905 Wilshire Blvd. Mid-City; 323-857-6180.

The rooftop garden at The Ritz Carlton Downtown

WP24: Downtown’s towering Ritz-Carlton hotel has a garden of Southern California-friendly fruits, herbs, and flowers ringing its 26th floor pool deck, its bounty changing with the seasons. The garden is used widely in the cocktail program under Klaus Puck, brimming over with verbena, chervil, basil, fennel, lemon, oranges, lime, mint, pansy, and chives in drinks like a verbena lemonade with Kalamansi lemons and a pineapple mojito using the rooftop’s mint. 900 W Olympic Blvd. 24th Floor, Downtown; 213-743-8824.

Cube: This beloved Italian market and restaurant on La Brea taps a Downtown garden growing on the rooftop of owner Alexander Palermo’s production house, not only offering herbs, lettuces, bulbs, vegetables, and fruit for the restaurant’s dishes, but also used to teach local L.A. families about urban gardening and home-cooking through The Cube Foundation. The garden’s grower, Lora Hall, oversees a spread of parsley, arugula, black kale, Romanesco cauliflower, French sorrel, nasturtium, and Swiss chard, among the plants, and occasionally checks in online with the wisdom gained through her labors. 615 N La Brea Ave. Hollywood; 323-939-1148.

BLVD 16: This sustainable Westwood restaurant inside of the Hotel Palomar was among the very first to mine a hydroponic, organic herb garden on its roof for its dishes and cocktails. Currently, the kitchen is under chef Richard Hodge, who has the sky-high strawberries, tomatoes, chilies, and beans on his brunch and dinner menus, while the drink selection makes the best use of fresh herbs like mint, thyme, and basil. 10740 Wilshire Blvd. Westwood; 310-474-7765.

The Jonathan Club: As LAist reported in January, the members of this ancient Downtown order benefit from a rooftop garden graced with organic greens, veggies, and fruit set up in raised beds with help from Farmscape. Executive chef Jason McClain is passionate to put produce from his citrus and fig trees on the plate, composing a seasonal list of ingredients to grow with the changing weather, which has included a past collection of roughage like mesclun, spinach, Romaine, bok choy, and Swiss chard, as well baby carrots and red and yellow beets. 545 S Figueroa St. Downtown; 213-624-0881.

Eight L.A. Restaurants That Grow Their Own