It's a good time to be green. Especially if you're a fan of Fort Lauderdale's Green Bar & Kitchen.
Recently, the vegetarian- and vegan-based restaurant did something exciting: Owners Elena Pezzo and chef Charles Grippo launched a test kitchen and experimental menu at a new, smaller, fast-casual location they've dubbed Green Bar Express
During the day, the 1,000-square-foot Green Bar Express location gives fans of the original Green Bar & Kitchen an easy way to grab healthy fare on the go, while also doubling as a test kitchen for the brand's flagship 17th Street restaurant. That means if customers love a specific dish that gets a test run at Green Bar Express, they can expect to see it added to the menu at the main Green Bar restaurant.
"We are changing things up a little," explains Grippo. "The more flex-casual model will offer table service after 5 p.m., when we'll be offering a small bites menu with wine and beer pairings. We're also going to offer more vegan street foods, things like tacos — grilled and smoked — and sliders."
We recently caught up with the Green Bar & Kitchen chef to learn more about what makes him tick.
White Plains, New York
Raw Food Certification from the Graff Academy in Atlanta, Georgia
New Times: What inspired you to begin cooking professionally?
: I have always been interested in cooking since as early as I can remember. I’ve cooked for family, friends, and myself my whole life. When I had the chance to prepare raw foods for the food truck [original concept before Green Bar opened], I jumped at the chance.
What's the first important meal or dish you remember making?
Pasta and gravy dishes. I’m Italian, and that’s where it always starts in the kitchen with Italian families.
What's your favorite dish on your menu right now?
My personal favorite is our veggie wrap. It’s my go-to dish when I'm hungry. The favorite at the restaurant, however, is the GBK Burger Deluxe, our signature veggie burger made with quinoa, brown rice, garbanzo beans, and roasted vegetables. The deluxe comes topped with lettuce and our chipotle mayo. Bestseller, hands down.
What's the weirdest request you've ever gotten from a customer?
Probably to deconstruct an entire rice bowl. It took more dishes to do then I ever thought possible. All grains, veggies, and sauces had to be separated.
What do you cook when you're not at work?
I love to make my own pasta noodles by hand and my own red gravy with certain aromatics.
What do you feel is lacking from the South Florida food scene?
Not too much these days. So many restaurant groups are coming up with great concepts, decor, and customer service. There's a lot to choose from, and it's great for the local dining scene.
Who is your favorite local chef?
Actually, I have two. Mike Saperstein from Rebel House in Boca Raton. He's constantly pushing food trends and flavors. This guy not only runs some major performing restaurants but is also a supplier to his own restaurants and others. Brilliant. Second would be Bruce Feingold from Dada in Delray Beach. Bruce is great at creating amazing flavors and layering them. And he's a three-time Garlic Fest winner.
Name one kitchen tool you couldn't live without?
That's a tough one. Other than my knives, my Vitamix. It's a necessary component to my cooking style.
Any advice for up-and-coming chefs trying to break into the biz?
Start small, be mobile, flexible, and always poll your audience to see what makes them a raving fan.
Green Bar Express is located at 3429 Galt Ocean Drive, Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-533-7507, or visit greenbarkitchen.com.
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.