A popular fast-casual, New York City restaurant chain is expanding its presence into Westchester County.
Dig Inn, an East Coast chain that serves mostly vegetables and seasonal American fare, opened a restaurant at 112 S. Ridge Street in Rye Brook on Jan. 10.
The self-described “healthy” eatery was founded nearly a decade ago by New York City resident Adam Eskin. A former investment banker, Eskin opened his first Dig Inn in Manhattan in 2011.
Coinciding with the frenzied growth in the fast-casual dining segment, the chain now includes a dozen locations in New York City, with two more planned to open in the coming months. Last summer, Dig Inn expanded its presence to the Boston area, opening a restaurant in the city’s Back Bay neighborhood. Two other Boston restaurants are also in the works.
The Rye Brook eatery, which is at the Rye Ridge Shopping Center and occupies a portion of the space that formerly housed Family Discount, not only marks the chain’s 14th restaurant, but also its first foray into the suburban marketplace.
“We feel very strongly that there’s an unmet need in the suburbs, and we’d like to fill that need,” Eskin said.
Eskin noted that all of his company’s decisions, both strategic and otherwise, reflect Dig Inn’s core mission: to have an impact on the community.
“We want to get people to eat more vegetables, because we think that’s a big part of the solution.”
The farm-to-counter restaurant serves an array of vegetable-centric dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner: from roasted carrots with kale and pumpkin seed pesto to create-your-own market bowls, where customers can choose their own vegetables, grains and protein.
“I think when you live in New York or even other major metropolitan areas, we tend to get pretty spoiled, because we have access to everything,” he said. “We feel very strongly that there’s an unmet need in the suburbs, and we’d like to fill that need.”
The company also places a focus on supporting local farms and sources ingredients from a number of area purveyors, including Meadow Creek Farm and Migliorelli Farm in Dutchess County.
When searching for a spot to open the company’s first eatery outside of a major city, Eskin said the company’s real estate-hunting process was “mostly quantitative, and then a little gut, and then some common sense.”
“It’s an undertaking opening these new restaurants. We’ve got dozens and dozens of staff, and it’s just a lot of work to get a restaurant built and open, and it takes a lot of oversight,” he said. “So our first suburban location, just from a pure ‘how do we get this thing open’ perspective, we wanted it to be close to (the company’s headquarters in) New York City.”
Opening the restaurant in Rye Brook also allowed Dig Inn to work with the same suppliers and partners it uses to serve food in its Manhattan restaurants.
“It’s not as if we decided to open in the suburbs of Chicago, where we would have to start from scratch with an entirely new supply chain,” he said.
The company also hopes to build on the customer loyalty and social media buzz its inner-city restaurants have spurred.
“Brand recognition when you’re entering the market is important,” he said. “A lot of commuters that work in the city live in Rye or in Westchester County, and they’re familiar with the brand. Here, at least some of the community knows who we are, and they’re excited for us to open.”
Though Dig Inn’s core offerings will remain similar to its inner-city menu items, the new Rye Brook restaurant will feature a number of changes from its other restaurants.
“As we’ve expanded, we’ve started thinking of locations not just as replicas of prior locations, but more sort of miniature communities with their own nuances,” he said.
The 3,200-square-foot restaurant is about 50 percent larger than most of Dig Inn’s other eateries.
Unlike the chain’s New York City restaurants, where “every square foot matters, and you really try to squeeze stuff in because it’s so expensive,” Eskin refers to the layout of the Rye Brook location as “one giant open kitchen” that runs the length of the restaurant.
The spot’s front area features a pick-up counter and cafe serving prepared foods and long communal tables, while the rear of the restaurant is home to a larger dining room with 15-foot ceilings, a skylight and seating for 38 diners.
Customers can also choose to sit at a green marble top bar, which offers a selection of beer, wine and specialty cocktails.
“It’s access to a fun, hip environment with delicious, chef-driven food at an affordable price point in a really casual setting,” Eskin said. “That’s few and far between out here. It’s either take-out or it’s white table cloth.”
If the Rye Brook location takes off, Eskin aims to expand Dig Inn to other Westchester towns or villages.
“If we’re successful here, then that’s really exciting, because that means that there’s a lot of places in America outside of urban environments that we think we can be successful,” he said.