Farm-to-table dining is a buzzy way of saying a simple, down-to-earth concept: prioritizing where food is grown, usually by pointing to local farms. It’s the concept animating Farm to People Kitchen & Bar, which opens this weekend at 1100 Flushing Avenue – at the site of the former Brooklyn Cider House, which left Bushwick early in the pandemic. Opening weekend takes place this Friday, June 10 through Sunday, June 12. RSVP for a spot.

Michael Robinov and Anina von Haeften, co-founders behind the concept, told Bushwick Daily they are going for a casual and relaxed opening, with emphasis on a simple menu they’ve put together with an ear for customer feedback. 

“We want to have our staple items – like a really great sumac grass-fed burger – items that people can really rely on,” said von Haeften, who works as Farm to People’s creative director. “We’re doing a lot of developing in the kitchen so it’s a really great opportunity to constantly be changing [the menu], whatever the season, and then also trying out dishes and seeing how people like them.” 

Robinov focused on the ingredients. 

“We’re trying to upcycle as much as possible for items that we have left over at the end of the week,” says Anina von Haeften, who works as Farm to People’s creative director. Their Flushing Avenue warehouse will serve as a kitchen and bar on the weekend and already features as a compost drop-off site and is home to a community fridge, which is continually re-stocked. (top image taken by Duncan Ballantine, bottom images courtesy of Farm to People.)

“The burger on our menu is the same kind of quality like some of the finest restaurants in New York and you’re often paying a very hefty price for,” he said. “It’s got a celery leaf dijonnaise and Happy Valley grass-fed, grain-finished local beef and an organic brioche bun…these are really exceptional ingredients, and we’re trying to make that more accessible to New Yorkers wherever they may live, but obviously with a very big focus in Bushwick.”

Putting together the menu is Matthew Yee, a chef who comes from the world of fine dining (One White Street, Mena) and has worked on farms. The menus will change regularly depending on available seasonal ingredients, as well as pulling from whatever surplus produce Farm to People already has on hand.

“We’re trying to upcycle as much as possible for items that we have left over at the end of the week,” said von Haeften. “Our food waste is already very low compared to a grocery store, because we’re ordering to what customers have ordered previously.”

“So a lot of our bread we’re using, it’s crude croutons crumbles on the salad, and broken pieces of rhubarb we’re pickling and putting in the burrata, using what we have and upcycling a bit.”

Farm to People started in 2013 as a locally-sourced online grocery service and was always operated out of Brooklyn – Robinov and von Haeften have lived in Bushwick for the last 8 years. The business moved locations six times, going from Brooklyn Navy Yard to Greenpoint and then to Williamsburg before finally landing a five year lease in Bushwick last year. During the week, the 12,000 square-foot space serves as a bustling warehouse for the company’s online operations. On weekends it will transform into what they call a kitchen & bar concept. 

Robinov grew up on the Upper West Side and said he’s seen city neighborhoods change a lot over the years, sometimes for good and other times in less positive ways. He talked about witnessing mom and pop shops, cafes, restaurants and other local institutions going out of business during the pandemic and watching them get replaced with chain stores and rival “dark store” grocery delivery services. 

“Since the pandemic, there’s this proliferation of online convenient delivery services, whether it’s Amazon or 15-minute grocery delivery services just popping up,” said Robinov. “When you walk down the street as a New Yorker, you see these dark stores, but you don’t see inviting storefronts or community spaces.” This animated him. 

“How do we make sure that people are still connected to their food and their farmer? For us, [the kitchen & bar] is really an embodiment of trying to create a warehouse by day and community space in off-hours that’s inviting and educational and transparent.”

The Flushing Avenue location also serves as a compost drop-off site and is home to a community fridge, which is continually re-stocked. The company also says they donate multiple pallets of produce to mutual aid groups every week.

The latest concept was in development for a while, but was setback by a fire at one of their exterior shed spaces, at the intersection of Flushing Avenue and Melrose Street. COVID-19 surges in the fall caused further delays. Things finally fell into place last month, once they rebuilt the Cider House’s outdoor seating and landed a restaurant wine license from the city.

“For me, it’s just exciting. The ability for us as an online business for eight years to have this kind of home where friends, new folks, and folks that we’ve been delivering to for years, but never met physically, can come hang out and say ‘hi, and have a drink,” Robinov said. “It feels new, it feels fresh, and I think it’s exciting for the team as a whole because it’s kind of like we’re opening our home.”

Here’s a partial list of some of what’s going to be on the opening weekend menu:

  • Sumac Smashed Burger with caramelized and fresh onions plus house-made pickles.
  • Little Gem Salad made with biodynamic buttermilk ranch and sourdough crumble from She Wolf bakery
  • Yuzu Tarragon Potato Salad made with spring peas dressed in a fresh yuzu-kosho mayo
  • House-made Hummus made with soom tahini, topped with chickpeas, chopped herbs, smoked pimenton paprika, and seasonal crudite
  • Narragansett Burrata that utilizes upcycled rhubarb pickles, seasonal sprouts, Square Roots basil oil, toasted almonds, & grilled She Wolf sourdough
  • Sides include hand-cut french fries and grilled sourdough, also from She Wolf.
  • On draft, local beers from KCBC, Greenpoint Beer & Ale Co., and Hudson Valley Brewery. And wine aficionados, take note: they also plan to host wine tastings on the first Thursday of each month.

Opening weekend, is first come, first served, with RSVP. The hours are Friday, 5pm to 12am; 12pm to 12 am on Saturday and 3pm to 10pm on Sunday. Regular hours at the Farm to People Kitchen & Bar are 5pm to 12am on Fridays, 12pm to 12am on Saturdays and 2pm to 10pm on Sundays.

Top image taken by Duncan Ballantine.

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