Since their first market pop-up in 2011, Local Roots founder Wen-Jay Ying has been committed to bringing “hyper-local’’ fresh produce — meaning all of the produce comes from farms no more than five hours away from NYC — into the hands (and diets) of New Yorkers. In the years since its launch, the women and minority-owned CSA has grown to have pick-up locations all over the city, including at Threes Brewing in Greenpoint and Julia’s Beer and Wine Bar in Ridgewood, but Ying’s longtime goal was always to open up her own brick-and-mortar space.
Before launching Local Roots, Ying had a series of odd jobs as well as working for AmeriCorps, which allowed her to build connections with local farmers. As a longtime musician in the DIY scene, she also dreamed of opening her own multidisciplinary venue. During the pandemic, the team pivoted their model to also focus more on delivery, as well as have more time for the build-out of Local Roots’ first-ever brick-and-mortar. Local Roots Market and Cafe, which Ying has been working toward for nearly a decade, is located in Carroll Gardens at 398 Court Street and is set to open on July 9th.
“How do you build an inclusive space, that’s hip and fun, that’s bringing people together? We’ve been working towards this for so long,” says Ying, adding that she hopes the “beautiful space” has the potential for cooking to feel like less of a chore, while encouraging customers to think more critically about who is growing their food.
Local Roots has hosted many pop-up dinners in the past, but this will be the first time it is offering a more full-service experience that showcases their farmers’ bounty in a more consistent way.
The cafe features a selection of pastries and other smaller morning bites such as housemade scones and scallion pancakes, Black Seed bagels, ham-and-cheese croissants, and more. But the main feature of the menu are heartier dishes that tap into Ying’s Chinese American background. “I’m excited to show that farm-to-table isn’t defined by one cuisine,” she says. “People portray Asian Americans to be a specific way and have certain jobs, but from the menu to the graphic design to the architect, we’re an all Asian-run creative team.”
The menu also includes tea eggs, Taiwanese fan tuan (made here using croissants), seasonal Local Roots veggies with dips (such as a sweet potato brown butter and Sichuan pepper spread, or scallion and bean paste), and overnight oats using star anise and cloves, among others. Dishes like vegetarian mapo tofu and zha jiang can be ordered sloppy-Joe style on a potato bun made by Native Bakery, atop sticky rice or over greens.
On the drinks side, there will be teas, kombucha, and shrubs on offer — though the team has plans to expand this and sell bottles of wine and other alcoholic drinks in the future.
So much of the Local Roots ethos is about educating customers about how to cook with their offerings at home. Cooking will still play a role in the cafe, with select dishes available to-go in pint and quart containers, as well as frozen versions of the cafe’s scallion pancakes, scones, and cookie doughs. Likewise, the shop will offer bulk goods like Sfoglini pasta and sustainable home goods. Loaves of ACQ Bread, a nearby bakery focused on food security (that also uses artist raffles for mutual aid fundraising), will be available as well. The Court street cafe will function as a CSA pick-up location throughout the year.
Guests can dine inside the cafe or in a backyard area, where select herbs are grown to be used at the cafe. Likewise, there is a test kitchen area that Ying hopes to rent out for food stylists, cookbook authors, as well as to host pop-ups with visiting chefs and farmers.
Local Roots Market and Cafe is open six days a week (excluding Tuesday to start), from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then 5 to 7 p.m., for takeaway only.