phpfDktL9PM.jpgCounter, hands-down one of the best vegetarian restaurants in the city (even carnivores would agree!), grew from Deborah Gavito's Union Square Greenmarket pastry stand called Body & Soul. Now, years later, she has a well-established (certified green) roof over her head, but still gives back to the market where her success took root. This Saturday Counter hosts NYC's second annual Organic Beer Bash, pouring over 30 organic beers and ciders from around the world. Admission is $30 (all beer samples and appetizers are included), and proceeds go to the Greenmarket.

Can you tell us a little bit about the history of Counter? Counter came about from selling vegan pastries and baked goods at the Union Square Greenmarket starting in 1993. I still have my stand Body & Soul at the market. I had $300 and bartered with a restaurant called Manhattan Plaza Café, which closed many, many years ago. In exchange for the use of the restaurants kitchen once a week, I provided them with desserts. At first I prepped all day, baked all night, sold pastries the next day, and then went straight to a part-time job at the Village Voice pasting up their classified ads. I worked 48 hours straight and then slept for two days. I can’t imagine selling frozen muffins in a blizzard at this point in my life, but I spent so many years selling pastries in all kinds of ridiculous weather conditions, that I’m extremely grateful to have a roof over my head and bathroom facilities at Counter.

What can people expect at the Beer Bash? They can expect to taste 35 all organic beers, along with appetizers made with beer, such as, Wolaver's Wit beer phyllo purse with spiced apples; Peak Nut Brown ale pecan pie; and Orlio Common Ale Beer Battered Corn Fritters.

All of the proceeds go to the Greenmarket and Food Systems Network of NYC. I wouldn’t have my restaurant Counter without the Greenmarket.

Can you tell us about the garden on the roof--what's up there, and is it difficult to keep it thriving in the city? Unfortunately I have to do major structural renovations to the roof and I don’t have the finances. Until the roof is reinforced I wont have a rooftop garden.

Is there a beer you are looking forward to trying, or would recommend? My favorite is Sara Buckwheat Ale from Belgium. Brasserie de Silenrieux is a small farmhouse brewery and their recipe is based on an old brewing recipe from the region. The beer is dark golden with garnet highlights. It’s spicy, smooth, silky, and a thirst quencher. I’m also excited to taste the new organic beers on the market: Eel River from California will be distributed to NYC quite soon. We’ll be sampling their Raven’s Eye Imperial Stout, IPA, Triple Exultation (an old English style ale), and Porter Beers. New to the market are: Samuel Smith Organic Cider, Pinkus Jubilate, an organic dark lager, and Peak Espresso Amber Ale. I’ve yet to taste any of them, so it’s quite exciting.

Do you find that your restaurant appeals equally to meat eaters as it does vegetarians? I’ve always focused on the carnivore. Counter is vegetarian but I want Counter to be accessible to everyone. That’s why I’ve put so much emphasis on our beverage program. Right now we have over 250 all organic and biodynamic wines, 32 organic beers, and every organic spirit available on the market.

What can you tell us about your Thanksgiving menu for this year? It’s a four-course menu paired with organic wine. I won’t list the whole menu, but I can’t wait to taste the Porcini & Chestnut Roulade with Wild Rice and Cranberry Stuffing paired with a biodynamic Pinot Noir, Montinore from Willamette Valley in Oregon. Visit our website at for the full menu. It’s a $40 per person with an additional $30 for the organic wine pairing. Tonia Guffey our Mixologist Extraordinaire is creating a Thanksgiving inspired vodka infusion flight: pumpkin-sweet potato pie, maple pecan pie, and apple cranberry pie.

Are their any new recipes coming to the regular menu for the season? We thankfully have a new chef Giles Siddons (he’s very sweet, kind, hard-working, has cooking talent galore, and is a great manager). I love him! He’ll be coming out with a new menu in the next month.

Do you have any plans to expand in the future? I was planning on opening an organic bar, but that’s on hold until the economy improves. We’ll be doing major renovations on our current bar quite soon. Our back bar is a patchwork quilt. I didn’t have bar experience when Counter opened almost 6 years ago. I made several design mistakes, which I want to correct. We’ll be displaying more homemade spirit infusions and bitters. I’m looking forward to making the bar more cozy and intimate.

Please share your strangest "only in New York" story. I received a comment card a few years back that said Counter’s bathroom was the best bathroom to have sex, in all of NYC. I took that as a compliment.

Which New Yorker(s) do you most admire? Hillary & Bill Clinton

Given the opportunity, how would you change New York? I use to be a bleeding heart liberal/ACT-UP activist, but owning a business in NYC has changed my political views. I miss being young and naive and thinking that business owners are wealthy rats taking advantage of the little people. A small business owner gets hit from every direction, the health department, sanitation department, fire department; I can’t remember all the permits that are required.

The rules, regulations, lawsuits, fines that a small business has to put up with makes operating a restaurant a daunting challenge.

Under what circumstance have you thought about leaving New York? I can’t imagine living anywhere else than NYC. I would like to travel more. Last May and June I took my first vacation in five years. I visited and videotaped organic and biodynamic winemakers throughout California. The videos are featured on

Do you have a favorite New York celebrity sighting or encounter? Natalie Portman was in the restaurant a few weeks back as well as David Byrne. My favorite so far is Angie Dickinson.

What's your current soundtrack to the city? At Counter we’re upbeat, indy, dance, electro. We’re a little bit everywhere.

Best cheap eat in the city? The breakfast special at Café Mogador on St. Marks Place. I don’t have a kitchen in my apartment right now, so I have breakfast quite regularly there.