Koronet's, Milano’s, Westside, Community: While not technically part of campus, these restaurants are undeniably part of Columbia’s culture. Alas, the same could not have been said for Cardomat, which shut down a year ago. Over winter break, though, a large black sign covering the storefront went up, announcing that “seasonal foods market” Dig Inn will replace the gift store this February. The market is led by chef Daniel Angerer, who reportedly beat Bobby Flay on Iron Chef: America, and already has seven locations across the rest of Manhattan. We decided to visit their Hudson Street store to see what made it so successful and if it's worthy of students’ excitement.
First off, don’t be fooled by the nomenclature: While the term "market" evokes Milano’s-like images of aisles of overpriced groceries amidst counters of prepared foods in plastic containers, Dig Inn does not fit this mold. Though there are some shelves showcasing kale chips, granola, healthy cookies, and reusable totes, Dig Inn is definitely more café than supermarket. Imagine a health-food Chipotle where you go to the counter, customize your dish, and either take your compostable cardboard container on the go or take a seat at one of their mason-jar vase-topped tables.
The restaurant practices 100 percent transparency in their food production, meaning that you can find full nutrition facts for all of their foods online and that they verify the sustainable practices of the farms that sell to them. The menu features salads, sandwiches, freshly pressed juices, smoothies, and prepared foods. However, it's their “marketplates” that are really worth writing about. Patrons can select one from a variety of proteins, pick two sides, and add rice for around ten dollars. Imagine going to Milano’s and getting salmon, kale salad, quinoa, and rice. You are now out thirty imaginary dollars---in other words, this weekend’s Svedka funds.
The “seasonal” in the title comes from the fact that they only buy local produce to avoid overly processed foods, so winter sides feature ingredients like cauliflower, sweet potatoes, and beets. I tried braised beef with sides of spinach salad and cauliflower and a peanut butter smoothie. The quality of the food is apparent, and knowing exactly the nutrients I had just consumed was almost as nice as knowing that the meal would cost well under 20 dollars. Better yet, you can order online for delivery. Forget farm-to-table, this could be farm-to-bed.
Considering the fact that Dig Inn has lower prices than Milano’s, is healthier than Chipotle, and has a higher health rating than Community (what is it with that B anyway?), this “seasonal market” is sure to please Columbia’s athletes, sorority girls, and vegan hipsters alike. No longer will there be a gap in students’ needs for cheap health food or a gap in the real estate between 112th and 113th—Dig Inn is sure to become a major lunch attraction for all.