In artisanal bars and cafes the world over, environmentalism is in vogue. You can usually spot a behind-the-bar recycling bin, and the proprietors will pay the expected lip service to waste and sustainability.
But there’s saying and then there’s doing, and Rhodora, a brand new Brooklyn wine bar, is counting its carbon with a scrupulousness that would make Greta Thunberg beam.
The team behind the opening, The Oberon Group, has a longstanding commitment to sustainability (the bar’s forerunner, Mettā, became New York’s first carbon-neutral restaurant in 2017), but for Rhodora they’ve doubled down on every aspect.
Wines come in compostable boxes, drawn entirely from small-farm producers crafting low-intervention, natural products, picked out by owner Henry Rich, who also owns June, Brooklyn’s first natural wine bar opened in 2015. The dishwasher uses electrolysed water to steer clear of soap, and single-use plastics have been banished entirely, along with all alcohol brands that use non-recyclable bottle caps.
Local producers deliver fresh meat and seafood by bicycle, often in so-called "closed loop" deliveries where the container is returned and re-used. Scraps are composted, as is leftover cardboard, while corks are sent to a non-profit that turns them into shoe soles.
Being a no-waste space means controlling not only your own refuse, but that of your customers. You’ll have to dispose of your gum elsewhere – Rhodora doesn’t have the necessary facilities – and don’t expect a paper receipt.
The establishment, on the corner of Adelphi Street near Fort Greene Park, takes its cue from the tapas bars of Portugal and Spain, and serves up a light, early-evening combo of oysters, salads, cheeses, tinned fish, and charcuterie.
The streamlined menu means that there’s one other thing missing from Rhodora – a chef. Staff are "cross-trained" to handle every stage of the operation interchangeably, eliminating the front and back of house split that defines most eateries.
Though new to New York, no-waste restaurants are not unheard of. Rhodora drew inspiration from Silo, a London-based diner started in Brighton, which utilises a ‘pre-industrial food system’, dishing out a ‘more primitive diet… always with the bin in the mind.’