Glen Head restaurant adds dinner to its repertoire

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As the busy day outside subsided, the lights inside Grassroots, an organic eatery in Glen Head, began to dim. Indie music streamed softly through the sound system overhead, and electric candles flickered inside rustic birdcages. Atop the emerald-green tablecloths lay centerpieces of tie-dye flowers, leaving just enough room for the main event: dinner.

Since December 2004, Grassroots has offered fresh pastries; prepared, packaged dishes; and pressed juices — but only for breakfast and lunch. Since late September, the restaurant has been open until 7 p.m. on Tuesdays through Thursdays.

“I did it very quietly [a month] ago, and it’s just growing every day,” said owner Rob Mansfield, of Sea Cliff. Of the dinners the restaurant has hosted in the past five weeks, he said, Grassroots has “become like a meeting ground. It’s a nurturing, warm place.” He added that mothers’ groups and book clubs have already taken advantage of the new service.

Mansfield, 54, developed a dinner menu for the eatery after he and his family tired of visiting the same restaurants every week. “We love to eat, but we were getting a little bored from the pickings in the neighborhood,” he said.

Enter Grassroots’ rotating dinner menu. Mansfield offers dinner each night at $18 a plate, and guests who opt to eat in can bring their own beverages. “It’s chill, it’s inexpensive, and it’s BYOB,” Mansfield said.

In between meetings one Tuesday night, this reporter popped into Grassroots expecting to sit alone for a quick, quiet dinner before the next assignment. Mansfield and his wife, Amy, who were sitting down to dinner, offered hugs and a place at their table.

Large dishes of food crowded the deli case — kale leaves tossed with brown miso dressing; rice pilaf with peas and carrots; and roasted bushels of broccoli with slightly charred tops. Two deep baking pans, stacked to the brim with eggplant Parmesan, topped the case, the crisp edges of the dishes oozing steamy cheese. During dinner, the Mansfields and another resident chatted about the day’s events, sharing anecdotes, as if all those present were family.

Mansfield said that sitting shoulder to shoulder with his customers feeds his soul. “It’s endearing, because interacting with people really gives you the most pleasure,” he said. “I just like to really spread the love, and I try to do that every day.”

“I’m pleased to see that there’s another option in Glen Head to have dinner,” said Deborah Gordon, president of the Gold Coast Business Association. “Grassroots is an important staple in the community, and I’m happy [Rob is] working on this.”

For future Grassroots dinners, Mansfield envisions setting up a long, farm-style table in the middle of the restaurant to create a communal dining space. The existing two-person high-tops and corner couch seating options would remain for diners on the shier side. He has begun inviting local musicians in to perform during dinner, and hopes to host small themed gatherings eventually.

“I want to do little events here that make it into a very special place,” he said. One theme he has in mind is “Some Enchanted Evening,” during which mystics and tarot card readers would perform readings for customers.

Ultimately, Mansfield said, he wants to make sure people enjoy the vibe as well as the food. “If they’re not really enjoying it, then there’s no experience there,” he said. “There are no airs about it. Just come and have fun.”

Grassroots is at 671 Glen Cove Ave. Hours are listed on the website www.grassrootsme.com.