It's only fitting that a nutritionist would open a seasonally-spirited, ingredient conscious cafe next door to an Equinox gym. One day about two years ago, Marissa Lippert finished up a workout at the Equinox on Greenwich Avenue near 12th Street, and as she was leaving the gym a "for rent" sign next door caught her eye. At the time she'd been looking to turn her ten year plus nutrition counseling practice into a brick and mortar eatery, and the former clothing boutique mere steps away from Equinox felt like the ultimate location for such a project. The rest is history. Lippert scored the 1,100-square foot space and, just over a year ago, threw open doors to her chic nugget of an eatery and to-go shop, Nourish Kitchen + Table.
Lippert is, by trade, a registered dietician. And after years of analyzing food, she realized Manhattan lacks restaurants that serve sensible, healthy, but delicious fare. Nourish is her contribution to fill that void, at least for West Village denizens and other Manhattan inhabitants who make the pilgrimage over, or chose to score delivery via Caviar.
For just over a year now, Lippert has been churning out an ever-changing menu of salads, whole grain-based sides, and lean proteins, along with an inspired assortment of desserts made from organic flours and sugar. She cites London-based Israeli veggie champ Yotam Ottolenghi as a source of overall inspiration, so it's no surprise to find bountiful, vibrant displays of seasonal savories and sweets lining Nourish's front counter. A spread that looks like it could have been arranged by a glossy magazine food stylist. While many customers drop by to customize protein and veggies dishes to-go, Nourish offers on site dining via 16 seats to the rear, plus a few more on the indoor bench up front. And by next spring Lippert hopes to secure permitting for al fresco tables, too. But, do keep in mind this isn't a full service restaurant. Patrons order at the front counter then take their plate to an open table.
One wouldn't be mistaken to categorize Nourish's menu as a seasonal American melange, but closer inspection reveals influences from the South, in addition to Persia and the Middle East. There are even some Jewish recipes sprinkled in, and Dominican hits as well. Executive chef Mindy Ramirez, who previously worked at Brooklyn's iconic River Cafe, is of Dominican descent, and makes a mean barbecue sauce that flavors Nourish's gluten-free pulled pork lettuce wraps. Lippert herself is from Virginia, and she's especially keen on revisiting her roots, which is where the South comes from. Many of Nourish's dishes are derived from old family recipes like the kuchen, a German tart on offer daily. The recipe is based on a version Lippert's grandmother used to serve, made with a coconut crust and filled with a seasonal pastry cream and fresh fruit. Right now Nourish's kuchen involves rose cream topped with peaches and plums.
In New York, until recently, there's been a disconnect between food that's deemed healthy and food that's crave-worthy. But in the last year or so a new wave of casual eateries — like Dimes, El Rey, and Feel Food — seek to bridge this gap. And Nourish is on the same mission to prove that nutritious and delicious can together play nice.
Which means no artificial anythings. Lippert says she doesn't like to vilify foods, but she'll never offer alternative, unnatural sugar substitutes or serve anything with hydrogenated fat. She's an advocate of nutrient-dense sweeteners like maple syrup and honey from Catskill Provisions, and even sorghum, a thick, molasses-eque syrup popular in the south made from reducing juice from the sorghum plant.
That being said, some desserts do call for organic cane sugar and organic white flour, but Lippert is also a proponent of whole grains like buckwheat and rye. Some of Nourish's baked goods also incorporate almond flour, like the Rose-Lemon Tea Loaf and the wintertime Clementine Citrus Cake. For the gluten intolerant, there are macaroons, a stellar sticky quinoa oat bar studded with dried cherries and pumpkin seeds, and a seasonal jam-filled muffin.
Like the kuchen, which changes flavor with the season, one will always find a detox kale salad studded with seasonal fruit. Right now plums are mixed in, but Lippert is about to switch over to a fall menu, so plums will soon be phased out for apples.
While many of the summer sides were based on quinoa, black rice, and barley, Nourish's fall menu is heartier and Lippert is bringing back popular dishes from last year like farro with thyme-roasted mushrooms and a vegan sweet potato sauté. It has become somewhat of a signature side, which Lippert finds amusing because it's a creation she developed at home late one night based off ingredients she had in her fridge and pantry. Think sautéed sweet potatoes with white beans, bok choy, scallions, and enough umami action thanks to fermented black beans. Also popular is the harrisa-roast chicken with lemon and rose petals, which is on the menu year-round.
Ultimately, Nourish celebrates fruits and vegetables that speak to the season, in addition to lean proteins. While Lippert shops for a smattering of ingredients at the Union Square Greenmarket, she's especially fond of Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative out of Pennsylvania, Berried Treasures and Muddy Farm for upstate fruits and veg. Milk comes via Ronnybrook, eggs are from Hudson's Feather Ridge Farm, and yogurt is by Narragansett Creamery in Providence, Rhode Island, sourced through dairy queen Anne Saxelby at Saxelby Cheesemongers. Those opposed to dairy have the option to add house-made almond milk to Counter Culture coffee beverages.
Almost everything at Nourish is made onsite except for bread, which is procured from Sullivan Street Bakery and Amy's Bread. Also, for a while Lippert was buying excellent artisanal loaves from BK17 Bakery in Brooklyn, but baker Sarah Owens is currently working on a cookbook and her operation is so small that she simply doesn't have time to do much wholesale business now.
Pino's Prime Meats in Soho supplies grass-fed meats, while birds are free range from an Amish farm in Pennsylvania. Fish is local and wild caught from Montauk, New Jersey, or slightly further north. For a period of time, Nourish offered a dish made with tilefish, which is an ocean animal notoriously high in mercury. But Nourish's tilefish was caught off the New Jersey shore and therefore was actually very low in mercury. In general though, whatever fish hits the menu is what's freshest and local that day. And frequent diners should note that while many of the dishes Nourish serves during the day are on the dinner menu as well, there's usually an extra protein and slightly more hearty dishes at night.
Buying "organic" isn't necessarily high priority for Lippert, especially when it comes to local produce. Sure, she wants to serve guests naturally grown, pesticide-free foods, but most of the farms from which she sources ingredients are small and family-run, and often those are the types of businesses that either can't afford or don't necessarily care to spend the money for a true organic certification. She would rather know who is growing her kale and tomatoes as opposed to shopping under the veil of a bastardized term that doesn't carry the credibility it once did.
Supporting local businesses and sustainability in general carries over to Nourish's small area of kitchenwares and apothecary items. There are larder goods like Bees Knees Spicy Honey made in Brooklyn and Escazu chocolates from North Carolina. Plus, tie-dye aprons custom made here in New York by Courtney Robinson of Birdkage, and African fruit bowls made by a cooperative that supports upward social mobility for women in Rwanda. Two months ago Lippert added a shelf of natural skincare products like argan oil and hand soap to emphasize that filling one's body with nutritious ingredients extends past food. It's an all-encompassing way of life that connects back to products used externally on one's skin as well.
But making the decision to eat at Nourish, and consuming a menu of healthy, nutritionist-designed food, is a choice. And while there's a lot of thought and careful sourcing behind all the ingredients that flavor Nourish's myriad of vegetable and meat fare, Lippert is cautious not to barrage customers with too much healthy propaganda. Rather, she opts to show "people by taste and by look how you can do really interesting delicious things with fruits and vegetables," she explains. The communal table and vintage Persian rug which sit alongside a small open kitchen designed with a dining bar that give Nourish the feel of dining in somebody's home, and that was the goal. A hodgepodge of warmer tones, a white washed wall and design inspiration both industrial and Scandinavian evoke an overall feeling of stylish, effortless comfort.
A year in and the West Village has more than embraced Nourish. Nearby The Lion co-owner John Delucie is a regular, and he even has a dish named after his restaurant on the menu. The Lion's Paw is a savory pastry filled with roasted veggies, wrapped in thin sheets of Turkish pastry dough (like filo dough) and topped with nigella seeds. Delucie liked to drop by and give Lippert a hard time for not selling a croissant, so this was her answer to him. Why no croissant? Because Nourish isn't a French bakery. It's a pleasant neighborhood cafe pushing a customizable menu of balanced, nutritional foods. Nourish has mastered the art of combining familiar and global flavors in an uncomplicated enough way, and the number of regulars who drop by daily is proof that the West Village has taken note.