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Ditmas Park vegetarians host foodie focus group to plan new restaurant

Can we take your orders, please?

The Brooklyn Paper

Ditmas Park residents will definitely find something they like at a planned vegetarian restaurant — because they’re the ones coming up with the menu.

A pair of newbie restaurateurs are turning to their future customers for funding and business ideas about everything from the food to the decor before setting up shop in the neighborhood.

“We really are very open to ideas,” said Danny Rosenthal, a vegan for 20 years who is raising his three children as vegetarians.

A lot of things are up in the air: will it be a brick-and-mortar or a food truck, will it be vegetarian or vegan, and will the restaurateurs fund it themselves or bring in neighborhood investors?

But there’s one idea that’s not on the table: meat.

“That’s the one issue that’s not negotiable,” said Rosenthal, who will host neighbors and future diners at his house for a planning meeting next week (attendees can expect a light, meat-free supper). “That is our interest and driver.”

Neither Rosenthal nor his wife Jean Davis have a culinary industry background — but they say great ideas come from great company.

“I really liked the idea of it being a community-based project as a way to bring people together,” said Rosenthal. “We’ve seen with a model like the Obama campaign, that when there is a good idea or when people feel inspired they’ll give something and it will be a way for people to be connected.”

Crowd-sourcing is huge online, popular for planning food co-ops, and proved helpful for assisting restaurants in need following Hurricane Sandy.

By organizing the community around his restaurant, Rosenthal, who has done community organizing and now works as a consultant for non-profits, may even find a much-needed source of initial capital. He is considering selling shares of the eatery to neighbors for $500 or $1000 apiece.

Ditmas Park nightlife legend Justin Israelson said a restaurant could benefit from early community support, but cautioned against having too many cooks in the kitchen.

“When you open up in any neighborhood you want to walk around and get feedback from the area … but you want to keep it so there is only one person making the final decisions,” said Israelson, who opened up Sycamore Bar and Flowershop on Cortelyou Road in 2008 with one partner.

Vegetarian restaurant meeting (757 East 19 St. between Glenwood Road and Avenue H in Midwood), Jan. 14 at 7 pm. Contact Danny Rosenthal at dannyrconsult@optimum.net.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. Follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.

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Reader Feedback

Mickey Shea from Greenpoint says:
Better go with the food truck option...
Brick and mortar will be doomed to failure.
No way can it survive with the cost of rent.
Jan. 9, 2013, 3:35 pm
David K from Ditmas Park says:
Finally. Thank you.
Jan. 9, 2013, 7:01 pm
Andy from Ditmas Park says:
This neighborhood needs legit vegan options.
Jan. 9, 2013, 7:01 pm
Bev from Ditmas says:
Seeking vegan crab juice and apples
Jan. 10, 2013, 9:08 am
Pat I. from 70's Brooklyn says:
Community based....co-ops...collectives why must these f**cking tryhards overcomplicate things?

I buy organic ONLY if the price is cheaper than conventional produce. Other than that - it's too damn pricey and a normal family cannot afford to "go organic" or "local".

This nonsense is class warfare. Alice Waters the Doyenne of militant moonbat chefs wants everyone to build a garden - with federal money or local funds. So what happens in the winter - when the only thing you can grow are gourds and pumpkins?

IMHO, get the cash together and start a food bank. Why go organic when you can buy Andy Boy broccoli by the truckload?

Although looking at the average poor person I think we have an obesity problem in this country. I think very few Americans actually starve...but then this depends on what your definition of starving is - does itmean not having a full belly or not having access to organic, locally sourced micro greens?
Jan. 10, 2013, 9:07 pm
ty from pps says:
Wow, Pat... I've never heard such whining. This comment and the whining in the other thread about how hard it is to be a landlord. Booo hooo.

Guess what? Buying local doesn't mean it's organic... but what it does mean is that it's supporting your local economy, reducing needless shipping/pollution, providing you with the freshest produce, etc. And the prices are usually pretty damn close.

Oh, yeah... and your "normal family" shtick is annoying.
Jan. 11, 2013, 10:18 am

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