Sunday, October 31, 2010

Review: Henry’s - One Restaurant's Challenges With Serving Local and Sustainable Food

Henry's - Broadway & 105th Street
Contributed by Josh Kigel, Upper West Sider, Chubby Bunny CSA Member, Advocacy Committee.

My wife and I are concerned about eating responsibly, but we don’t want to give up eating out or eating meat.

We were originally drawn to Henry’s by the discovery that they serve a grass-fed burger. I wondered what else Henry’s might offer of interest to Chubby Bunny members.

Owner Henry Rinehart was gracious enough to sit down for an interview for the Chubby Bunny newsletter. Over the course of an hour, Henry and I discussed the broken food system. Rinehart’s passion was clear for health and the impact of food choice.

Restaurant owners who want to serve meals prepared with natural plant and animal ingredients are restricted by the market. A proprietor may want to serve grass-fed beef or line caught fish–and people may say they want it—but how much are they willing to pay for it is a real barrier. Restaurants, even those with the best of intentions, can only serve what people will pay for.

In addition to taking whatever steps towards sustainable food his clientele will allow, Rinehart makes sure that Henry’s is active in the local community. They are involved with the New York Coalition of Healthy School Food (NYCHSF) and Wellness in the Schools (WITS). NYCHFS advocates for a plant-based diet for healthy children and WITS helps place cooking professionals in school kitchens. In October, Rinehart and Chef Mark Barrett will team up with Bill Telepan, Chef/Owner of Telepan near Lincoln Center, and WITS for a program called Cook for New York to bring healthy food into NYC Public schools.

Henry thinks the state of the American food industry is a serious issue. Skyrocketing health care costs, a high obesity rate, and the frequent recalls of contaminated food support his case.
But while activism is noble, going out to eat is about the dining experience—people pay for good food and drink and an appealing environment. The best intentions won’t keep customers coming back without good food. Served on a whole wheat roll and available with caramelized onions, cheese and bacon the grass-fed burger alone has kept me coming back.

But Henry’s is about much more than a hamburger. Henry’s serves a wild line-caught arctic char, which is on the menu instead of salmon because Rinehart found there was no viable option for wild salmon.

Most of the fish served at Henry’s is wild and line caught. When they buy farmed fish, it is from land-based and sustainable farms and not fed fish meal to reduce ocean pollution. Rinehart estimates that about 80% of the Henry's menus is made up of food that is grown and raised locally: meat from Lancaster County, PA., flour from New York State, local and greenmarket produce. Sometimes Reinhart has to make trade offs. For example, the beef for the grass-fed burger, which is ground on premises, is from Australia, where the price is much lower.
The wine list is 100% American. There’s a wide selection from New York. If (like me) you enjoy a beer on tap with a burger try the Long Island lager.

We have never had anything but exemplary service at Henry’s. The staff is attentive and friendly.
Overall, Henry’s is a delicious meal of predominantly local and sustainable ingredients in a comfortable environment. If you live on the Upper West Side and are looking for a grass-fed burger you have your spot. And if you are lucky enough to sit outside at Henry’s when the weather permits the jazz club halfway up the block to keep its doors open you may be treated to live music with your meal.

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