The Organic Progression, Stemming From the Counter

Scott Ballum

I first encountered Counter, the East Village organic vegetarian bar and bistro, while tracing back my food habits and options during my year of consuming conciously.  One of my favorite vendors at the Union Square Greenmarket, serving up the wraps and turnovers I'd been lunching on for months (and exclusively once the project started) pointed me towards the kitchen in which his goods were prepared—and I dropped in to follow the chain back.

Granted it was a slow Monday night, but I was shocked when I asked the hostess if I could speak to the owner, and Deborah Gavito appeared just a few minutes later. Deborah is an adorable woman with a contagious smile who obviously adores her restaurant and her work. After only a moment of explaining what I was about, she brought me to a table in the back and eagerly told me all about Counter, the farms on Long Island and Upstate New York where all of her greens and herbs come from, as well as her real love—the vast array of organic wines (300 on the menu) and beers (30) she finds from all over the world. She explained that she started her restaurant exclusively using produce from the Greenmarket (the kitchen is now supplemented by a full-fledged rooftop garden, seen above, acccesible only by a hand-over-hand climb up a 14 ft ladder). The prepared goods she sells back under the name Body & Soul were her first foray into the New York food world, and she continues it as her way of completing the circle and participating in something she values so strongly.

She graciously went on to give me a tour of the small but immaculate kitchen, extensive dry storage and prep rooms, and wine vaults. I even got a taste of some amazing cocktails served up by her 'mixologist', a contracted cocktail professional who travels internationally looking for unique concoctions and finding ways to recreate them using local ingredients.

While good food and sustainably grown wines are important to her, Deborah's true goal is to create a warm and welcoming place for the community to gather and have some fun. Experiences like meeting Deborah and so many others like her a year ago, greatly influenced the creation of this website.