Jon Mizrach was dining at the Cheesecake Factory, enjoying a Thai lettuce wrap when the idea to open a fast-casual, sustainable wrap restaurant dawned on him. Local Leaf, now open in New York’s Murray Hill, dishes up wraps and bowls where Swiss chard and Bibb lettuce play stars.
Before launching Local Leaf, Mizrach was the director of operations at Restaurant Associates, a food service and catering company. There he ran the food systems at Google, MTV, ABC/Disney, The New York Times and Princeton University. After 12 years in the corporate sphere, Local Leaf started to take form.
Serving lettuce wraps, bowls and juices, the health- and sustainability-focused restaurant’s main player is Swiss chard. Swapping tortillas for the hearty leaf, Mizrach says he and co-founder and chief operations officer Rick Bender chose Swiss chard for its malleable properties.
“It’s very hard to find consistent leaves that you can roll kind of like a burrito,” he says. “Rick and myself did a lot of trials and trying to figure out what the best leaf was that would really hold just like a burrito.”
Swiss chard leaves that aren’t so whole make their way into Local Leaf’s breakfast crêpes as the main ingredient of the batter, to ensure no leaf is left behind.
For those unfamiliar to the dark leafy green with a stunning red or orange rib, Swiss chard can have an abrasive taste. “Swiss chard by itself is not the most delightful type of green to have on it’s own,” Mizarch says. “But once you have the dressings, the proteins and all the accompaniments that come with it, it’s really that crispiness from the chard that makes it seem like you’re just eating Romaine.”
So, why not kale?
“Swiss chard, in my eyes, is the new kale,” Mizarch says. “Kale is one of those products out there that everyone is so crazed about. Kale’s also one of the greens that people are familiar with, so to be able to introduce a new leaf, we’re first in the market.”
Responsibly-sourced ingredients like the orange-hued arctic char (instead of salmon) are also on the menu. Mizarch says choosing sources that not only grow and produce food sustainably, but treating employees fairly is a goal of Local Leaf’s.
Local Leaf, 440 3rd Avenue, New York, New York 10016; 917-261-5782; eatlocalleaf.com