Wednesday's rainy weather didn't deter students and Morningside Heights residents from stopping by the Dig Inn Seasonal Market—the newest restaurant in Columbia's neighborhood—which served some 1500 people on its opening day, according to the company's spokesperson, Nicole Spilka.
A line of patient, umbrella-holding patrons extended from Dig Inn's entrance to Oren's to take part in the restaurant's opening day promotion— a pay-what-you-wish special on all salads and market plates, with all proceeds going to benefit FoodFight NYC, a nonprofit that organizes programs about food and nutrition in New York schools.
Dig Inn is making its Broadway debut in the space formerly occupied by the Card-O-Mat stationery store, and the Morningside market is the Manhattan-based chain's seventh shop. With hip, minimalistic wooden décor and an extensive selection of cold-pressed juices, sandwiches, salads, and bountiful “market plate” combos (meat on a bed or rice or vegetables, with sides like beet salad and macaroni and cheese), the restaurant's atmosphere and offerings are equally appealing.
Dig Inn began in the late '90s as The Pump Energy Food. When it renamed itself in 2011, it changed its business model and its menu to spotlight sustainable, local products.
While The Pump trucked in frozen items, most of Dig Inn's dishes are made from ingredients that come from no farther away than New Jersey and Long Island.
“What we're trying to accomplish is exceptional high-quality food at affordable prices,” Adam Eskin, Dig Inn's co-founder and CEO, said. “We hope it will democratize high-quality food. If you could give them [customers] a great home-cooked-quality meal at under $10, I think you're in business.”
Eskin's goals for Dig Inn fit well with FoodFight NYC's efforts to change the way New York's schools approach food.
“We started talking to each other for the last couple of years, trying to figure out a way we could collaborate. This seemed like a good opportunity and a good time,” said Teachers College alumna Deborah Lewison-Grant, EdD '13, MA '96, and co-founder of FoodFight NYC. “I've always been a big fan of Adam since he started his restaurant career. He came into our radar because we're always on the lookout for individuals in the food industry who have a mindset to help both in terms of what is served at the restaurant, but also how the food is sourced and produced.”
FoodFight will collect the proceeds from Wednesday's opening and use them toward introduing a curriculum into a Title I underserved school within 10 or 20 blocks of the new Dig Inn location. Lewison-Grant said that her organization is still in the process of deciding which school will get the funding because administrators must be willing to work with FoodFight. Customers will be able to make donations at Dig Inn's newest market all year long.
Besides the partnership with FoodFight, many people at Dig Inn on Wednesday were there for the price and the amount of food.
“It looks like they give good portions,” Marge Williams, a Morningside Heights resident, said. “As a senior, I'm always looking for prepared food.”
Others were drawn to Dig Inn's variety of healthy dishes, many of which are vegetarian.
“I guess I'm excited for another healthy option,” Mariko Kanai, CC '17, said. “It's an alternative to Maoz and other vegetarian places.”
Eskin said that the company looks forward to serving the Morningside Heights area.
“We're excited about getting involved in the community, serving people as they need,” he said. We want to get feedback from Columbia students and make people happy.”
Dig Inn Seasonal Market is located at 2884 Broadway, between 112th and 113th streets.
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