Re-fresh-ing: Local restaurant uses its own produce

SANDUSKY Restaurants boast of their fresh ingredients, but Jonathon Pribanik has true bragging right
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

Restaurants boast of their fresh ingredients, but Jonathon Pribanik has true bragging rights.

The owner of Red Gable Mesquite Grill on Cleveland Road can show you the vegetable patch from which he plucks them.

It's maintained curbside next door, where customers can watch its progress. The 130-by-10-foot test plot teems with eggplant, pepper,cauliflower, zucchini squash, celery and broccoli plants rooted in organic soil and mulch. The eggplant has already been dished up; the rest should be harvested within weeks.

Behind the restaurant several varieties of tomato plants have begun to grow in another test plot.

The vegetable gardens are the brainstorm of Pribanik's son, Joshua, whose idealism led to their cultivation. Inspired by pioneer environmentalist Aldo Leopold, Joshua wanted to return to gardens producing vegetables that are used locally, creating capital circulation.

"The gardens are built upon his principle of land ethic: Something is good and virtuous when it works with the biotic community," he said.

He and his father can discuss the food they grow in a way they couldn't if it were shipped from somewhere else, Joshua added.

The garden is also a way to re-forge communication between the community and the grower.

"There's been a serious detachment between consumers and farmers," he said. "This is a way to reinstate the relationship."

Jonathon Pribanik said his initial thoughts were simply "to create curb appeal and appeal to your palate at the same time. I wanted a self-sustaining, edible environment."

As with the eggplant, the remaining crops will be picked, prepared and served as ordered dishes call for them. Pribanik believes his restaurant is the area's only one to offer such freshness.

"It's an aspect of dining that I never appreciated," he said. "The concept is that we have the absolute best food you can eat. This is another way to heighten the dining experience. It's, for us, just a better quality product."

It's also a way to provide customers with the higher nutritional content found in fresh foods, he said.

The garden requires about eight hours maintenance each week and is not cost prohibitive. Pribanik is pleased it offers a better quality product than processed and frozen foods.

Should the test plots prove successful, he will expand them next season with radishes, beets, spinach, spices and herbs.

The fresh-from-the-garden produce is already a hit with customers.

"They can order a dish and see us go pick the vegetable, clean it, chop it and prepare it," he said. "The response has been phenomenal. People are amazed they can have something right out of the garden."