Counter was one of Manhattan’s first next-generation locavore, vegetarian restaurants; the owners were harvesting herbs from their rooftop garden years before it became chic. Their success, along with a few other early-starters on the sustainable scene has ushered in the current focus on healthful, good-for-the-Earth dining that’s becoming more and more common at even mainstream eateries.
Counter proves that planet-friendly means having a great time from the beginning of the meal to the end (one of the reasons this kind of eating has become so popular). I started with the Tie Me to the Bedpost cocktail (drink names all have sexy names) which was lavender-rosemary infused vodka and cranberry nectar concoction, not too sweet but full of herbal and cran flavor. After mixing my drink, the bartender lit a sprig of rosemary and wafted it over the drink, explaining that it was a sensory complement to the drink. The smoky scent enhanced the flavor of the cocktai and made it extra special. There are plenty of other cocktails to choose from, including the Slap & Tickle (fresh gin, jalepeno, lime, and cucumber), the Married in a Fever (red wine poached pear nectar and pear infused vodka) and others with equally fun names.
If you’d rather quaff vino than spirits, you’ll find something to love on Counter’s wine list, which is extensive and comprised entirely of vegan, organic, and biodynamic wines (all of which are designated on the menu).
One of my favorite aspects of Counter is their extensive menu of small plates, which you can either consider as appetizers, or group together to make a meal. Being able to mix and match dishes means you always get what you want, and there’s lots to choose from: grilled artichokes with parsley and garlic (with rosemary aioli), minted egglplant with garlic chives and lemon vinaigrette, roasted beet and endive salad, pommes frites, red quinoa and fava beans, roasted new potatoes with spicy red pepper sauce, and about a dozen more make up the first part of the menu. I enjoyed the dishes tapas-style, one per round of cocktails, which is a fun way to enjoy a long meal with friends.
But there are more than just small plates if you’re down for a serious meal. There’s a menu of Raw Plates like beet ravioli with pinenut ‘cheese’ and raw veggies and tarragon nut cheese. Grilled flatbread pizzas (both vegan and non) with seasonal veggies are perfect for traditionalists who haven’t experiemented with vegetarian food before, and Large Plates round out the menu with larger portions of pan roasted seitan, farmhouse panini, and edemame and ricotta cannelloni with oyster mushrooms, breadcrumbs and sage.
Desserts, if you can manage, are worth saving room for (or stopping by for on their own; I noticed several couples sitting at the bar enjoying cocktails and dessert only). There are specials that change daily, but regulars include a raw vanilla bean cheesecake with blueberry-lemon thyme, and peach ice cream sandwich with raspberry gelee, or cherry semolina cake with porto caramel and oatmeal struesel.
Counter has earned four out of a possible four leaves from Greenopia for their commitment to sustainability and the planet’s health.
105 First Ave., NYC
Cross Street: 6th St.
Bus Line: M15
Train/Subway Line: F,V to 2nd Ave.