Ellary’s Greens is a charming local neighborhood restaurant located at Carmine Street in NYC. Founder Leith Hill spent an afternoon with Sweet Travels to share her story AND her desserts! It was a wonderful and filling afternoon.
Where did the name Ellary come from?
An organic restaurant, Ellary’s Green has something on the menu for everyone whether it is dairy-free, vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free. Were you always so healthy growing up?
We grew up in the South in New Orleans and obviously, the food was not the healthiest. The daily diet in New Orleans back then was coffee with cream and sugar and beignets, a cocktail, fried oysters, shrimp remoulade, tomatoes with Lyonnaise for lunch and so on. The health food nut in our family was actually my dad. He was born in 1923 and at the age of 12, he was shipped off to boarding school in Massachusetts. He left on a train by himself and he arrived in Middlesex, MA. Shortly thereafter he lost both of his grandfathers to massive heart attacks. He was not athletic and he realized he needed to change his lifestyle and eating habits or else he too would pass at an early age. So, at the age of 12 years old he started researching the link between diet, exercise and heart health. Cream and butter were cut out of diet and exercise became a part of his daily routine. He was incredibly fit and conscious of what he ate. He married my mom who was the polar opposite. She loved butter, cream, dessert, and smoked. Growing up they had an agreement that he would manage the household from a food perspective, which was unique during this time period.
When we lived in Long Island, NY and started a family, there was nothing really available in terms of organic and healthy food options for babies. I started making my own baby food and continued to cook and bake from scratch. I was very careful with the organic meat we bought and the ratio of meats to vegetables. Just as I was raised, dessert was fruit.
Do you have a favorite tradition that you carry on to this day with your family?
For dinner, we love red beans, rice and shrimp creole. My favorite dessert is Fig Newtons because my dad always allowed us to eat them. He deemed them a healthy treat because of the figs! I have always made my own ice cream with my boys and two of our favorite flavors are heavenly hash and peppermint. I also make a Christmas cake and Christmas pudding.
Have you brought any of your favorite recipes to Ellary’s?
We have a separate baker who handles all of our desserts at Ellary’s. We are a peanut free house and we do not use processed sugars in our desserts. Emily Burner, our original baker at Ellary’s, created the almond butter cookie and Bliss Bar, our top selling dessert. The almond cookie is a nutrient dense and delicious snack made with oats from a certified gluten-free supplier. The Bliss Bar is an almond butter crust with a layer of chocolate and pecans. We also sell a cookie sandwich with homemade ganache. We sell plain cookies separately and we do have a Fig Newtown bar in memory of my days growing up.
Location. Location. Location. What brought you to the West Village?
I was looking to open a restaurant in this neighborhood as it has a community feel to it. Ellary’s Greens is a welcoming place. A philosophy per se and one of our primary focuses is on building a community of foodies by offering quality products. We did not want to be a place just for lunch or just for dinner.
I fell in love with Carmine Street when scouting neighborhoods. As luck would have it, I was at an event at the Staller Center in Stony Brook, NY in March 2012 and Bebe Neuwirth was the talent for the night. I met Bebe Neuwirth’s husband, Chris, who is a real estate broker, a wine merchant, and owner of Prodigy Coffee on Carmine Street. He knew the place next to his café was available and the rest is history. We signed the lease in April 2012 and we opened April 2013. It was relatively quick given it is a landmark location.
What draws people to Ellary’s Greens?
People love our nutrient dense snacks and our healthy locally sourced ingredients served in a neighborhood setting. Right when we opened, an Australian woman walked into Ellary’s asking about our coconut date bar on the menu. She was in town to compete in the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim Around Manhattan (a 28-mile race and one of the Triple Crown races in open water swimming). We ended up sourcing her and another swimmer with our coconut date bars for the race. We also are the food source for the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team when they come to town. They love our meals and healthy snacks. We pack the food for them on ice for the plane rides. When we first opened we had a café in the local Equinox gym, which was how many of the athletes found us.
Do you have any plans for expansion?
We are thrilled to be opening a pop-up at the John McEnroe Tennis Center on Randall’s Island. It is like a snack bar at a club serving beer, wine, bison, and so much more. Come check us out!
On a personal note….I met Leith many years ago when I lived in Belle Terre, Long Island. We enjoyed sharing recipes and dinners together. My favorite dessert at Ellary’s was the avocado mousse. I almost licked the cup clean! If you are exploring the West Village in NYC or taking in a tennis match at Randall’s Island, stop in and send me a note about your favorite healthy snack.