Dig Inn

Dig Inn is a New York city based chain of restaurants that focuses on healthy, fast, and farm-to-counter eating. The food culture in America has been revolutionized by the works of several pioneers, including Alice Waters of Chez Pannise and Sweetgreen founders Nathaniel Ru, Nicolas Jammet, and Jonathan Neman. What Waters did for America was to bring the term farm-to-table to life, a phrase that encapsulates the relationship between farmer, produce, and customer. Sweetgreen took this concept and made it into a regional, fast eatery— based on Chipotle’s assembly line format. Here’s where Dig Inn comes in: founded by Adam Eskin in 2011, Dig Inn aims to become a pioneer in the food industry by democratizing the farm-to-table movement. Dig Inn seeks to bring farm fresh produce to the public, at a reasonable price. It is ‘Farm-to-Counter’— one plate of food at a time.

Eskin, who was originally in the finance business at Merill Lynch and Wexford Capital,  sought to bring high-quality food usually found in high-end restaurants to the general consumer. Not everybody has the means to dine at expensive restaurants everyday, but for the health conscious, eating mindfully is paramount. Through Dig Inn, Eskin brings “tasty, healthful, and mindfully sourced food to the masses by working directly with farmers they know and trust.”

dig inn nyc

Asparagus Radish

What was the inspiration behind Dig Inn?

Dig Inn was born out the idea that good, wholesome food should be accessible for all, and our model aims to democratize the farm-to-table movement by offering good food at a reasonable price.

What makes Dig Inn different than other farm to table restaurants?

Our local sourcing strategy and accessibility both play large roles in our success thus far; for example, we’ve developed direct partnerships with local farmers over the years that strip out layers of cost in the supply chain. We also make everything from scratch every day – we have full cooking kitchens with ovens, grills and sauté stations. It’s a complicated operation, but we found that there is no other way. We also strongly believe in educating young people on how to create sustainable farming practices and grow their own food – ‘teach a woman to fish’ sort of thing.

Our long-term vision involves creating a platform that encourages the agricultural movement at a small to medium sized farm level.  Most of these farmers lack the support that Big Ag receives and we’d like to have a hand in changing that. 

dig inn restaurant

Dig Inn Nomad

When was the moment you realized that this company could succeed?

I don’t know that there was ever one defining moment – it’s been more of a series of iterations and progress that ultimately resulted in where we are today, which is working nicely. We remain humbled by and conscious of the fragility of our business, and we all come to work every day trying to figure out how to make it better, and have a real impact in changing the food system over the long term.

The ‘Farm to Table’ movement is widely spread across America, and has been popularized by most restaurants. On your website, you advertise ‘Farm to Counter’ and ‘Mindful Sourcing’. Because Dig Inn is a chain restaurant, and plans to expand, do you find any challenges in keeping up with your mission of bringing locally sourced ingredients at a low price?

We have extremely high expectations for Dig Inn’s future expansion and will remain dedicated to our mission of accessibility and mindful sourcing as we enter new markets. All new locations will continue to be mindful and impactful with regards to our food and community. Currently, with 11 locations in Manhattan, we look to maintain our farm-to-counter business model and create meaningful impact – both through geographic reach and an approachable price point. This makes it a bit more challenging to scale our business in a way that works in multiple markets, but we do know that it’s easier than putting a man on the moon. We’re just trying to serve more vegetables. 

dig inn menu

Kale Rhubarb

How are you going to maintain quality and keep the relationship between Dig Inn and the places it sources it ingredients from when the company seeks to expand across the region?

We rotate our menu often to serve in-season veggies year round. It’s standard practice for us to visit our partners to ensure that we’re comfortable with their farming practices, from crop rotation to pest management, irrigation techniques to fertilizer and pesticide use. We expect that as we expand into new markets, the food we serve in each city or region will differ from one another as the seasons come and go – what might work for the northeast in the fall will likely diverge from that which is available in other areas around the country.

What local ingredients are unique to this region?

We live in a great region for fresh fruits and vegetables. Everyone knows New York is known for our apples, but historically, upstate NY was the original breadbasket of the country. A lot of great grains are still grown today. We also grow great leafy greens. We only serve kale when it’s in season in our local region, which luckily for us is about 6 months of the year. 

We have wonderful peaches and stone fruit from New Jersey. Pennsylvania’s lush countryside provides an amazing amount of traditional summer vegetables such as squashes, tomatoes, and peppers. We are so lucky to be cooking such great food that is grown so close to us.

dig inn seasonal market

Shrub

Is there a particular restaurant that inspires you?

Hard to pick just one – there is so much going on with food right now, so many talented chefs and restaurateurs pushing the envelope and doing amazing things with food. In terms of what’s near and dear to us, what Dan Barber has done at Stone Barns is pretty high on the list…

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? What about the company?

We truly believe that we can change how America eats for years to come, and a big part of seeing that vision come to fruition is making sure we are offering this food in an accessible way and at prices that everyone can afford. We’re exploring entering other markets outside of Manhattan and investing in new technology that improves our customer experience, existing supply chain and brick & mortar locations. Ultimately, we want to build a big business that has real impact, and a role in changing the way we eat.

Where do you see the future of food? What do you hope for the future of food?

More delicious vegetables. For everyone. The days of feeding Sparky the broccoli from the dinner table are waning.

dig inn lunch

Sorbellos Asparagus

Favorite hobby(s):

Muay thai, yoga, design, spending time with my wife Amanda and our 7 lb. Yorkie, Max.

What is something you know now that you wish you knew before?

Hardest. Business. Ever. But in all seriousness, I am glad I didn’t know how hard it would be. There is something really powerful about the ignorance of the entrepreneurial spirit that makes things happen.

What place do you go to for a peace of mind? How do you achieve a peace of mind?

I exercise. Muay thai is amazing – really incredible exercise from a fitness perspective, and a great way to let your brain go for an hour. It’s pretty hard to be distracted by other things – work, life, whatever – when someone is trying to kick you in the head.

And with yoga, it’s one of the few places that I can consciously turn it off and focus on me, what my body needs. I’m getting old!

dig inn food

Meatball Market Plate

We are also collecting some sandwich recipes from the chefs/restaurants we feature. Do you have a recipe— a go-to— that you have to share?

We love showcasing vegetables. This time of year, it doesn’t get much better than a Tomato and Mozzarella Caprese.

We make ours with a simple tofu and basil aioli, fresh sliced tomatoes (sprinkled liberally with Maldon flake sea salt, a good local mozzarella (we love Maplebrook Farm’s mozzarella from Vermont) and then to finish it off, we add in a few planks of the same roasted squash from above and some extra torn basil leaves.

Tofu Basil Aioli

2 cloves garlic

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ pound soft tofu

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

½ cup picked and chopped basil leaves

Juice of ½ lemon (about 1 tablespoon)

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend on high until creamy and well incorporated.

Slowly drizzle in ¾ cup of olive oil.

Taste and add in lemon juice or salt to taste.

Adam Eskin