Neon Greens, 4176 Manchester Ave, St. Louis, MO, 63110, announces today an opening date for the new, quick-service salad concept of Tuesday, March 19. Owned and operated by St. Louis native Josh Smith, Neon Greens delivers a farm-to-table experience in quick serve form with on-site produce grown next door in hydroponic vertical farms. Guests experience the journey of food through a conveyor belt system which transports produce from the farms into the restaurant. Neon Greens will be open daily for lunch and dinner from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

For owner Josh Smith, Neon Greens aims to provide guests with the best salad they’ve ever had. “Neon Greens was born out of a passion for fresh and flavorful ingredients,” he says. “Our salads are made with the freshest lettuce you can get, making them better tasting and much more nutritious than what you’d find in most grocery stores. There aren’t many other concepts like this in the country, and I can’t wait to share something so special with my hometown.”

After ten years as a set designer in New York City, Josh decided to combine his love for food and storytelling by creating an innovative restaurant concept that benefits both people and the planet. The seed for Neon Greens started growing while Josh was at home during the early days of the pandemic. He began experimenting with growing vegetables hydroponically and quickly realized how much better-tasting fresh produce is compared to anything available in stores. From there, his desire to provide fresh salads for others began to sprout. 

Neon Greens is connected to a vertical farming facility (see video footage here) where crops are grown hydroponically. The fresh-cut lettuce grown inside is used to construct each salad, and a window near the ceiling of the restaurant allows visitors to get a glimpse of where their food comes from. This window also serves as the starting point for a conveyor belt system that brings lettuce into the restaurant and over the heads of diners before arriving in the kitchen. 

“As a radically transparent dining experience, we aim to engage customers in answering the question, ‘Where does my food come from?,’” says Josh. Showing guests how their food is grown and prepared played a major role in designing Neon Greens. With his design expertise, Josh worked closely with the architect team from StudioDVLP to execute his vision. The exterior of the early 20th-century building remains mostly unchanged, paying homage to the roots of the historic, urban neighborhood, while the interior has been completely transformed. Upon entrance, guests are surrounded by clean, white walls with earthy undertones and playful touches. The dining room is open-concept so guests can see the inner workings of the kitchen – intentional to the vision of providing a localized, transparent food system. A glowing soffit wraps around the dining room and customers order from a queue, taking their food to-go or to enjoy at one of the restaurants’ three seating areas: the main dining room which seats 20 people, a front patio directly aligned with the greenhouse, and a second patio located behind the building that will open this summer. Guests can also place orders for carry-out to be picked up from a take-out shelf at the front of the restaurant. 

About The Menu

The 400-square foot vertical farm at Neon Greens grows six acres of produce with three different types of lettuce: Green Oakleaf, Red Sweet Crisp, and Mizuna. The menu is outlined in six sections: Signature Salads, Seasonal Salads, Build-Your-Own Salads, Soups, Bread, and Herb-Infused Soft Serve. Neon Greens is also partnering with local chefs and restaurants to create a collaboration salad each season. For spring (and available upon opening), Neon Greens has collaborated with Grace Meat + Three to bring a Thai BBQ Salad to the menu (mizuna, red cabbage, carrot jicama slaw, avocado, fresh herbs, Chow Mein noodles, peanuts, BBQ chicken, peanut vinaigrette). 

Signature Salad highlights include the Umami Crunch (mizuna, kale, wild rice, garlicky cucumbers, roasted broccoli, daikon kimchi, edamame “hummus”, carrot jicama slaw, furikake, marinated tofu, gochujang vinaigrette); Strawberry Fields (sweet crisp, kale, wild rice, fresh strawberries, shaved radish, freeze-dried strawberries, smokey almonds, goat cheese, strawberry balsamic vinaigrette); The Sicilian (sweet crisp, farro, green olives, shaved fennel, pickled celery, roasted mushrooms, currants, parmesan cheese crisp, marinated tuna salad, lemon oregano vinaigrette, lemon wedge, fresh herbs). 

Seasonal soups rotate and current offerings include The Green Soup, Neon Greens’ riff on a Tom Kha Gai that is tart with a touch of heat and finished with freshly picked herbs and coconut cream, and The Tomato Soup, topped with parmesan crisps and a drizzle of olive oil. Neon Greens also makes its bread in house – Brazilian Pão de Queijo, a bite-sized cheese bread made with gluten-free tapioca flour.

For dessert, Neon Greens utilizes its fresh herbs to create soft-serve ice cream like Matcha-infused Soft-Serve, Thai Basil-infused Soft Serve, and a combo swirl of the two flavors, which can be served with toppings like miso caramel, brown rice crunchies, sesame nougatine, and candied smoked almonds. 

About Vertical Farming

In addition to providing more flavorful food, the growing process at Neon Greens means better quality nutrition for visitors and better health for the planet. The farms at Neon Greens will grow up to 6,500 pounds of produce each year, and the process uses 90% less water than traditional farming. Unlike greens found in stores or at other restaurants, none of the chemicals used in other farming methods are used on the produce at Neon Greens. Plus, by bringing food production closer to the point of consumption, there’s no need for long-distance transportation, which alleviates pressure on the agricultural supply chain. Vertical farming also contributes to minimizing food waste by reducing the distance food travels and enabling better inventory management. By introducing this new way of dining that connects guests to what they eat, Neon Greens is reshaping the future of farm-to-table restaurant concepts. Customers get to see exactly where the lettuce on their plate came from, becoming part of the story of their meal.