ITHACA, N.Y. — A new, healthy eatery is opening soon in Downtown Ithaca. The fast casual restaurant will offer plant-based bowls, sweets and beverages.
The restaurant, Nikki Green, will be located on East State Street about a block from the Ithaca Commons. Owner Jacky Falkenberg said she has always been passionate about food and worked toward opening a restaurant throughout school at Cornell University. She recently graduated in the spring.
Falkenberg, who is originally from California, said she loved Ithaca’s plant-based community and decided to stay.
“I fell in love with the community and was already in Ithaca,” Falkenberg said. “It was the perfect fit.”
Falkenberg has crafted a menu packed with delicious-sounding combinations of vegetables, grains, nuts and fruits. She describes her creations as a twist on Buddha bowls and smoothie bowls. Buddha bowls are typically a mix of roasted and raw vegetables and grain or salad base. Smoothie bowls have a thick smoothie base with granola, chopped fruit and other toppings.
There are bowls on the menu like the “Wonder Bowl” with sweet potato, tricolor quinoa, salad greens, smoky eggplant, cherry tomatoes and green goddess pesto with the option of adding herbed macadamia cheese. There are also smoothie bowls like the “Tropicali Bowl” made with cinnamon mango pineapple almond milk base topped with strawberries, coconut shavings, macadamia nuts and turmeric.
“It’s focused on a lot of color, very vibrant, beautifully plated, but very delicious,” Falkenberg said.
Falkenberg also intends to get a liquor license and offer local beer and wine. There will also be vegan desserts, kombucha and “wellness lattes” with nutrient-packed ingredients like beets and turmeric.
The menu offerings will be entirely plant based. Everything is also gluten free, though there may be specials in the future with gluten. Overall, it will be very allergen-accommodating, she said.
The term “plant based” has been becoming more popular over vegan or vegetarian. Plant-based foods, like the ones on Falkenberg’s menu, have no animal products — no cheese, eggs, gelatin or dairy. It sounds traditionally what people would classify as vegan, but Falkenberg explained the term vegan encompasses more than just a diet, it’s a whole lifestyle devoted to animal rights that avoids animal products in more than just diet. So someone who has a plant-based diet is not necessarily vegan.
Though Falkenberg said she loves cooking and eating plant based, she said she understands that it is a time commitment and is not for everyone.
“The goal was to get people to eat healthier food in a way that they feel they’re not compromising anything,” Falkenberg said.
The name — Nikki Green — is a mashup of her sister’s name and the desire to get people like her sister eating more green.
Falkenberg has experience working in restaurants and is not new to the plant-based food scene. She is well-known on Instagram (@jackyfalkenberg) for her vibrant plant-based food creations and has more than 11,000 followers.
Now at 320 E. State St., the windows are covered with paper with “Nikki Green Coming Soon” in printed letters. But when the paper comes down in the next month, the restaurant will have an energetic vibe with counter-style service. Falkenberg anticipates a lot of to-go orders, but there will be tables and a lounge area. It will initially just be open for dinner, but will expand to lunch and breakfast.
The restaurant is poised in a good spot, near the Ithaca Commons and in between two construction projects which will bring hundreds of new tenants and hotel guests downtown. A Hilton Canopy hotel is planned for 310-12 E. State St. The hotel has been slow to start, but when complete will be seven stories with 131 rooms. Across from the restaurant, the eight-story City Center project will have a first floor with retail space and 192 one- and two-bedroom apartments above that. The projects are slated for completion within the next two years.
Featured image: Jacky Falkenberg stands in front of her coming business, Nikki Green on East State Street. Kelsey O’Connor/ Ithaca Voice