Ellary’s Greens owner Leith Hill. Photos: Susan Marque
Ellary’s Greens is a refreshing organic eatery tucked away between Bleecker and Seventh Avenue, on Carmine Street, a short walk from the West Fourth Street subway stop. The location is charming, but it is the care that goes into the food here that is magical.
Leith Hill is a vivacious mom who created Ellary’s Greens from a lifelong love of good food. She grew up in New Orleans; her father was into healthy living long before it was trendy, so she was raised knowing more than the basic four food groups, eating whole grains, lots of vegetables and desserts that were often sweetened with fruit.
“I’ve been cooking since I was little,” says Hill. “I know if you start with amazing ingredients, you don’t have to do much with the food. It will stand on its own.”
The idea for the restaurant got ripe over time. After college at Harvard, Hill worked in public relations and development in Boston for the Girl Scouts. Her favorite moments of the job were when she got to interact with the kids. She went back to school at Boston College for a masters in social work and was enjoying helping teens when she became pregnant with her first son. Ellary’s Greens — derived from Ella, the name of both her grandmother and great-grandmother — started taking root soon after her son was born. Hill was then living in Stony Brook, Long Island when she was driving with her newborn in the back seat.
“He was happily hopped up on breast milk and I was starving,” Hill recalls. “There was nowhere that I could eat.” She only saw fast-food restaurants, not anywhere she could be comfortable getting the quality ingredients that made her feel good. Hill thought there should be a place to get organic food that would fit all types of diets. She went to work researching what people ate around the world and what she could find locally.
Now Hill uses her social skills and love for humanity by making wholesome ingredients tasty and available. Her menu is coded for vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, and except for a small amount of tofu, the menu is also soy-free. It does have meat and fish. “I knew that having a restaurant with flexibility, that had healthy sexy food, opening up options for everyone, was what Ellary’s Greens was all about.”
The meats are carefully sourced from local farmers that the restaurant knows personally. The bacon, cured and smoked in-house, is from a heritage breed of pig that is over a hundred years old and much leaner and more moist than more modern breeds. Ellary’s Green’s cures the pork belly for six days with celery juice that has juniper berries and spices mixed into it, and smokes it in-house.
Everything Hill uses is organic and fresh, which adds to the flavors. The smoked deviled eggs melt in your mouth and are both delicate and filling. The hummus is light and doesn’t leave any garlic aftertaste; in the garden wrap, it is served with a side salad dressed in a slightly sweet raspberry vinaigrette dressing.
Ellary’s Greens serves organic beer and wine that Hill says doesn’t cause hangovers the way other alcoholic beverages can. She has had customers call the next day wondering about the secret since they knew they were being indulgent and couldn’t quite believe how well they felt after drinking and dining at Ellary’s Greens. The place also serves a variety of juices and smoothies so that kids, and those who want something fun without alcohol, are covered too.
Care and thoughtfulness go into everything at this downtown eatery, from the recycled cardboard light fixtures to the live plants. Planning began in 2010 and the restaurant opened in April 2013. Hill worked with the architect Shawn Sullivan to create details that make the space warm. She wanted diners to feel like they were in a garden, no matter what the weather outside.
The restaurant is so interested in recycling that instead of getting plastic menu holders, they took the prettiest part of the cardboard boxes that deliveries came in and cut out pieces to glue their menus onto. It shows off the artwork of the suppliers, while providing a service.
Ellary’s Greens has a second location at the John McEnroe Tennis Academy on Randall’s Island that is an organic café counter with a different menu.
With so much to choose from, this is a place to go back to again and again — or get delivery when you can’t make it in.