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At Selby Gardens' New Restaurant, Sustainability Comes First

The Green Orchid was designed to generate more energy than it uses, thanks to ample solar energy and a rooftop garden.

By Lauren Jackson March 7, 2024

The Green Orchid's Interior Dining Room
The Green Orchid's Interior Dining Room

Image: Ryan Gamma

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens’ new restaurant, The Green Orchid, has opened. Powered by 100 percent solar energy, it is only open to Selby visitors and members.

“This is an incredible five years in the making,” says Michael Klauber, co-proprietor of Michael’s on East, which operates the new restaurant.

The 150-seat space, which has been designed to produce more energy than it consumes (thanks, in part, to a 50,000-square-foot solar array) is topped by a rooftop garden run by Christina Esposito in conjunction with Operation Eco Vets. It provides a robust selection of fresh produce to the restaurant’s kitchen, and the garden is teeming with healthy plants. Klauber walks through the dining room with a bushel of celery, showing it to nearby guests and saying, “Look at this,” to everyone.

“We have tomatoes, celery, fennel, rosemary—it’s all grown organically," says Esposito while leading a private garden tour. "We aren’t certified, but it is all organic. We don’t use any chemicals. I refuse.” She continues to list 10 or more plants that are grown in raised beds. To call it a garden almost feels to diminish it; it’s impressive.

Produce from The Green Orchid's rooftop garden.
Produce from The Green Orchid's rooftop garden.

Esposito got serious about gardening after discovering a pamphlet at Operation Eco Vets that advertised a gardening internship.

“I learned I could garden and get paid, so I went for that internship and here we are,” she says. “Eco Vets’ main focus is therapeutic gardening for veterans. There’s something about the life cycle of the plant that’s really healing.”

Esposito’s careful attention is showcased throughout The Green Orchid’s menu. The restaurant’s namesake salad, which was developed by Klauber’s wife, features romaine hearts, avocado, English cucumber, snap peas, edamame and pistachios, topped with green goddess dressing.

“It’s basically the whole garden,” says Klauber.

The server recommends an off-menu addition to the salad: fried goat cheese wheels, which add a touch of creaminess to the produce-rich dish.

Shrimp toast at The Green Orchid.
Shrimp toast at The Green Orchid.

A shrimp toast appetizer is equally refreshing. Chilled shrimp are tossed with lemon mayonnaise, cherry tomatoes and avocado. The toast is then topped with shaved fennel and radishes. It's both cool and creamy, and as beautiful as it is delicious.

The menu also features handhelds like a blackened redfish sandwich and Cape Malay street tacos. “The tacos are an inspiration from South Africa, from a safari lodge we’ve been taking guests to since 2005,” Klauber says.

As Selby continues its multi-phase expansion project, guests are encouraged to visit often and see what’s new, and hopefully stop in for a bite at this immersive and sustainable restaurant.

“It’s so much more than I ever expected,” says Klauber.

The Green Orchid is located at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, 1534 Mound St., Sarasota. It is open 11 a.m.-3 p.m. daily. For more information, click here.

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