Local Leaf

J enna Gladfelter

Vegetables. You either love them or you hate them. I mean, is there anything as polarizing as a brussels sprout? Anything that tears loved ones apart as does peas? I say no. I may eat my vegetables but I’m internally kicking and screaming every time.
Growing up, I avoided them at all costs. I vividly remember bringing a 3 foot stuffed animal alligator to the table with me to aid in my avoidance strategy. When my parents weren't looking, I would sneakily shoving my intolerable broccoli into its mouth (note: this in no way speaks to my beautiful mother's cooking; I was convinced that broccoli was terrible no matter how you slice it). Once we were finished at the table, my gator and I sauntered over to the trash can. For a five year old, it was a killer strategy, and to be honest, it sounds appealing even today. 
Which is why when our founder, Alexandra, told me we were going to try a new restaurant called Local Leaf that was centered around lettuce, I was a little hesitant. Contrarily, our fearless founder was beyond excited (this is a woman who thinks a "fun" snack is a hulking platter of cauliflower.). Local Leaf's mission is to serve fresh, locally sourced foods in a fast-casual environment (click here for full mission). They achieve this by offering a variety of combinations.
First, you would choose your base:
Swiss chard lettuce wrap (aka honking leaf)
Platter (aka four lettuce cups)
Chopped leafy greens (aka your salad)
Crepe! (served before 11am)
Next, you fill it with:
Grains (either short-grain rice or warm grain mix)
Toppings (pick three from a long list of options from roasted carrots to dried cranberries)
Add-ons (the premium options, this is anything from meat to eggs, to avocado to beans)
Dressing (my favorite part)
They also have four Signature options for which they've already done all the work of pairing ingredients together, and you just pick your base! If you're like me, you might get overwhelmed with all the options and choose to go with one of these. I tried the Upstater, which includes pork belly, maple-roasted brussels sprouts, sauteed mushrooms, apples, and a caramelized onion dressing. For my base, I chose that giant leaf, and I must say, as a vegetable-hater, I definitely did not hate it. Dare I say- it was actually delicious!
Truly, the dichotomy between Alexandra's excitement and my uncertainty was just too good. While I waffled around my dish, slowly poking at the food before convincing myself to take a bite, Alexandra couldn't stop smiling and screaming, "It's lettuce! Jenna, It's lettuce!" I thought she was insane and kept reminding myself that at the end of the day, vegetables aren't everyone's cup of tea (to which Alexandra so eloquently rebutted "I would swim in that pool of tea"). If your idea of pigging out on a Saturday night is a tray of broccoli and carrots, I encourage you to visit Local Leaf. If you hate vegetables as much as I do, I encourage you to visit Local Leaf (no one has ever served me a lettuce dish and had me wanting more until now). Their commitment to providing fresh ingredients is admirable and they've created an atmosphere that's chic and inviting. So make your way down to Kips Bay and give Local Leaf a try! 
Local Leaf: 440 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10016 (between East 31st and 30th St); opened on August 14, 2017.

Jenna was born and raised in farm-country Pennsylvania. After attending college in Virginia and grad school in Maryland, she worked her way back up the East Coast to New York City. Her first job out of school was working with adults with developmental disabilities which she found to be incredibly rewarding.. Now she finds herself advocating for the rights of senior citizens in NYC.

Inspired by books penned by strong, comedic women such as Tina Fey, Carrie Fisher, and Jenny Lawson, she hopes to one day write a book herself. Among her family and friends, she's known for her Julie Andrews obsession, leaving umbrellas everywhere, and knowing useless pieces of trivia. In her spare time, she loves to try new restaurants, binge-watch Netflix, wander through botanical gardens, and eat insane amounts of popcorn.