The future is here – in our restaurants.
The standard order, dine, pay and tip model we’re used to in American eateries is being upended by innovative chefs and restaurateurs around the country.
Some are experimenting with radical pricing models, others are making better use of their food waste, and some are subverting diner expectations in ways never seen before.
Here are some innovative restaurants around the United States that you should check out.
The Perennial (San Francisco, California)
The Perennial is aggressively sustainable – an Eater feature described the restaurant as “progressive agrarian cuisine.”
The restaurant runs its own sustainable fish farm. The fish are fed composted waste from the restaurant, mixed with worms and black soldier fly larvae. The fish then poop out ammonia-rich fecal matter that gets converted into nitrates by bacteria. The nitrate-rich water is used to feed lettuces and other crops that the restaurant grows in its greenhouse, which are eventually served in its dishes. Then the cycle starts over again.
Kitchenette (Memphis, Tennessee)
- Wikimedia Commons
Kimbal Musk (yes, he’s Elon’s brother) has a plan to create a chain of grab-and-go restaurants called Kitchenette, which will serve sandwiches, soups, and salads. The first will open in Memphis’ Shelby Farms Park.
The big catch is that everything will be under $5. The restaurants will get to that price point by being located close to the farms they source from. Musk is hoping the restaurants will encourage diners to become more involved in their local communities and eat healthier. Offering cheaply priced lunch is certainly a good way to do that.
Mosaics Community Cafe (Bartow, Florida)
- Mosaics Community Cafe
For unemployed folks who find it easier to give away labor than money, this community cafe in Bartow, Florida is a boon.
At the restaurant, each item has a suggested price – Today reports that around 60% of diners pay it. But if they don’t have enough money, they can instead choose to volunteer their time by working at Mosaics or at a local community center down the road, where they help feed the hungry.
Blue Hill at Stone Barns (Pocantico Hills, New York)
Blue Hill at Stone Barns is located on an 80-acre farm in a pastoral town in upstate New York. While the location is a bit out of the way, the restaurant is known as one of the best in the world.
Diners eat mere steps away from the place their food came from. Chefs makes the spectacularly presented dishes with produce grown on the restaurant’s land, and use meats raised and butchered locally on the farm. (Needless to say, dinner is expensive.)
The restaurant even gives tours to visitors so they can see where exactly the ingredients in their dishes came from.
Harvey Washbangers (College Station, Texas)
If you’re prone to getting the munchies while washing your clothes, there’s a restaurant called Harvey Washbangers that pretty much allows you to do both at the same time.
Harvey Washbangers operates a bar and grill that’s connected to a laundromat. You can order soups, sandwiches, and salads while waiting for your wash cycle to finish.
Interestingly, Harvey Washbangers isn’t the only “laundrobar” you can visit. Fancy a pizza or a latte while you watch the machines spin? You can visit similar hybrids in Asheville, North Carolina; Berlin, Germany; and San Francisco, California.
Eatsa (San Francisco, Berkeley, and Woodland Hills, California)
- Justin Sullivan/Getty
Eatsa, a restaurant chain with four locations, is completely automated. Diners enter in their orders through an iPad, and their dishes come out through a glass cubbyhole. If they’re a frequent customer, the system will remember their past orders.
Virtually all their entrees come in bowls that cost $6.95. In that bowl, you can order dishes like quinoa salad, Mediterranean salads, curry or chili. For sides, you can get chips, guacamole, and chopped fruits.
Eatsa’s model is a technological breakthrough that earned the company a place on a list of this year’s most influential restaurant brands in Nation’s Restaurant News. The restaurant is planning to expand to 10 locations this year.
Momofuku Nishi (New York, New York)
Tech gurus have funding research into meat substitutes for years, and now trendy restaurants are starting to serve meatless burgers that taste close to the real thing.
David Chang of Momofuku fame has put the “Impossible Burger” on the menu of Momofuku Nishi, his newest restaurant in Manhattan. Though it might not taste exactly like its beef brother, the burger is still a big step forward for veggie-based meats.
If an esteemed chef behind a hugely successful restaurant empire backs it, there’s a good chance others will follow, too.
Everytable (Los Angeles, California)
People often look at new restaurants as a sign of gentrification in a neighborhood, but Everytable is a new restaurant chain that aims to be gentrification-neutral wherever it opens. It does that by pricing menu items according to the median income of the neighborhood it’s in.
That way, the average local will find the prices to be fair, and the sales from more affluent neighborhoods will subsidize the dishes in poorer areas. The restaurant hopes the model will make healthy food available throughout LA, where its first location is located.
The chain debuted in South LA, and is expected to open a second (more expensive) location in Downtown LA by the end of the year.