As the growing season winds down and gives way to freezing days and nights, many farms are preparing their beds for winter. But Somebody People, a plant-based restaurant specializing in Mediterranean cuisine, is continuing to source fruit and vegetables still growing outdoors and in greenhouses for its weekly produce boxes. The program is part of a vegetable-forward mission with the goal of providing nutritious food and easing the hardships of the pandemic.
The restaurant, located at 1165 South Broadway, began offering the weekly $20 produce box subscription in April. They’re stocked with vegetables from local farms and include add-ons from the bar, bakery and kitchen. Sam Maher, who owns Somebody People with his wife, Tricia, says the boxes have been a way to dig into the creative energy and whimsical nature of their business.
“We probably send out about 100 boxes per week,” he explains. And it’s worked really well for the most part. Issues have arisen during the season, but Maher says the couple tries to process the mishaps with a “positive spirit and a kind heart.
"It’s been super fun,” he adds.
“Fun” is a defining word for Somebody People's owners. The business recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, and in acknowledgement, the Mahers wrote on Instagram, “We can say two things... 1) it’s been fucking fun 2) we’ve made it this far.”
And while that may not be the way that many would describe this past year, Maher is determined to focus on the bright side. The restaurant concept itself is meant to be lighthearted and entertaining, and the dining room and bar are decorated in bright yellows, blues and pinks, along with murals of pop icons like David Bowie and Grace Jones. Regular DJ sessions add to the lively vibe.
Still, the heart of Somebody People is fresh, plant-based food. The restaurant makes its own pasta and serves other Italian and Mediterranean dishes — only without meat, eggs, cheese or other dairy. Maher describes the inspiration as an afternoon in Italy spent picking apples off trees and enjoying pasta sauce made that morning. “It’s slightly rustic, slightly old-school. There’s nothing fancy to it.” he says.
The dishes are created so that the vegetables shine. Specialties include rotolini (similar to lasagna, only rolled) filled with almond ricotta and spinach and topped with mushroom Bolognese; farinata, a chickpea-flour flatbread served with fairytale eggplant, skordalia (Greek potato and garlic purée) and scallions; and roasted carrots with cipollini onions, mint vinaigrette and caraway. Even the cocktails are blended with fruits in mind. Maher uses the bar's version of a Greyhound as an example: It’s made with Bluecoat gin, Lillet blanc, strawberry cordial, grapefruit juiced to order, and grated cinnamon.
In addition, the main principle of the restaurant is zero waste. This includes compostable to-go containers, Mason jars instead of cardboard cups, and returnable and reusable crates and baskets for the weekly produce boxes. The idea of eliminating waste has also inspired Somebody People's Sunday Supper: a five-course meal created from what’s still in the restaurant at the end of the week. That way, nothing needs to be thrown away. “It’s a great, fun night,” Sam adds, “and it’s always fairly busy” — and always a good deal, too.
Despite such successful efforts, Sam admits that these past seven months have been hard — for his restaurant and for everyone in the hospitality industry. Still, he says, he's learned to accept what’s beyond his control while being proactive in what he and Tricia can do for their community. “Restaurants have such a great ability to give,” he says. “Even if we don’t make it through, at least we can provide good, organic produce for everyone.”
So far, the produce boxes have helped support farmers by adding another way to sell food when business is down at the restaurant, and have provided customers with access to fresh fruits and vegetables in an environment less intimidating than crowded grocery stores. The Mahers also pass along portions of their produce to lower-income neighbors living in nearby affordable housing. “The quality that we get from the farms is excellent. It’s organic. It’s better for you. It’s got a brillant flavor. That’s what sets it apart,” Sam explains.
Somebody People’s fall and winter produce boxes will contain root vegetables, squash, hearty greens, and lettuce and salad mixes, among other available produce. In addition, customers can include any item already available at the restaurant, such as natural wines, craft cocktails, dips and pasta.
To order a weekly box, fill out the form on the Somebody People website. Boxes are available for pick-up at the restaurant from 2 to 7 p.m. every Tuesday through Friday.