WastED: What to expect from NYC’s only pop-up, scraps-serving restaurant

New York is getting Wasted.

At least, at Blue Hill.

Chef Dan Barber’s March pop-up, WastED, converts his upscale downtown restaurant into a dining room serving small plates of food scraps. The concept may sound like something out of Portlandia, but the execution is far from fictional cable TV.

Reservations have been hard to come by in this month-long pop-up, each night featuring a different celebrity chef eager to plate a creation made from seemingly unusable snippets and oddments of food: lobster legs (Daniel Humm) and fluke trim (April Bloomfield). 

But if you can get in before the restaurant disappears on March 31st – add your name to the online waitlist or try for one of the coveted but not impossible to score walk-in seats, WastED offers a totally unique dinner experience that (hopefully) won’t leave you hung over.

The WastED menu is split up into five sections: salads, soups, grains, meats and desserts (with some flexibility in the categories), with each item priced at $15.  Servers recommend selecting one item per category per person, for a total of 5-6 dishes each, but unless you’re totally famished, you can probably get away with fewer dishes.

Every meal at WastED starts with a pouring of the candle, made from edible beef tallow, mixed with rosemary and a side of whipped lardo, into which diners can dip spent grain (previously used to brew beer) bread.

From there, the concoctions get more creative. A dumpster dive vegetable salad is made from bruised apples and pears and served with whipped chickpea water – yes, that’s the extra liquid that comes from a can of chickpeas.  

Dry aged beef ends broth is made from the usually unservable ends of aged beef, garnished with a thin cracker made from feed corn, which a server will remind is not usually edible for humans. It is indeed, very edible, especially when smashed into the saline soup.

Pasta scraps from nearby Rafetto’s in all shapes and flavors (spinach, squid ink) are used to make a pasta creation with smoked fish head sauce and a mishmash of ‘second-class’ grains and seeds and a tasty crunch to ‘rotation risotto’ topped with a fresh shave of cheese rind from the local Whole Foods Market.

While sustainability may ignite thoughts of vegetarianism or veganism from many, most of WastED’s menu items use animal products in a thoughtful way. ‘Dog Food’ uses dairy cows, not usually processed for human consumption in a flavorful meatloaf, served with delicately riced ‘unfit’ potatoes and gravy.  A juice pulp cheeseburger fits a patty of spicy leftover juice pulp between repurposed Balthazar buns and a side of bruised beet ketchup with pickle butts.

To chase down all the food waste are cocktails made with derivatives of coffee grounds, citrus rinds and most notably a sangria steeped with old portfolio wines and ‘Last Year’s Earl Grey.”

Is New York ready to feast on food scraps? You may not be visiting WastED for the very best meal of your life, but certainly one of the most memorable.