Eat Well & Sustain the Planet While Traveling
Plenty of restaurants dubiously boast seasonal farm-to-table programs these days, but how many of them are truly committed to sustainability? From composting and efficient power usage to LEED-certified buildings and carbon offsetting, there are plenty of things restaurants are doing to go beyond simply serving produce in season. Here are five restaurants across the country that put in extra environmental effort — and they’re not all what you’d expect. Sustainable sushi, anyone? Below, delicious food (and beer!) with a conscience.
Black Star Co-op, Austin
In addition to functioning as a community owned co-op where tips aren’t allowed (employees earn a living wage, thanks) and making some damn fine beer, Austin’s Black Star Co-op is also a LEED-certified brewery and restaurant. Compostable plasticware, multi-zone air conditioning, extensive composting and recycling programs, and more contributed to Black Star’s role as one of the most environmentally forward microbreweries out there. They even have a local rancher pick up the spent grain from the beer for feed. The menu is thoughtful as well: Dishes prioritize seasonal vegetables, and chicken, redfish and shrimp are all Texas sourced.
Founding Farmers, Washington, D.C. and Maryland
Would you care to offset your dinner, madam? Founding Farmers offsets 100 percent of their carbon footprint each year through Carbonfund.org, and they’re LEED Gold certified. They provide a crop list alongside their seasonally evolving classic American menu so you can find out what ingredients they have at any given moment as well as where they came from. And Founding Farmers is expanding: Their website touts investment opportunities for green-minded would-be restaurateurs. A sustainable chain restaurant? Yes, please.
Hog Island Oyster Company, San Francisco and Napa, CA
Hog Island’s oysters — served at their locations in San Francisco's Ferry Building and in Napa — are on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Super Green List. That is some rarified seawater: To make the list, products must contain low levels of contaminants, the minimum daily recommended level of Omega-3s, and be on the Seafood Watch’s “Best Choice” list. Harvested from California’s famous Tomales Bay, Hog Island’s oyster offerings change seasonally but are served in stews, baked and, of course, raw.
Bamboo Sushi, Portland
Sushi may not be the first cuisine that comes to mind when you talk about sustainability, but Bamboo Sushi is trying to change that. According to the sustainability practices outlined on their website, their fish comes “from populations that are plentiful and in good health” and is caught in “an environmentally ethical manner.” Beef is local and the highest grade they can source. Also, 100 percent of their energy is purchased from renewable sources.
Perennial Virant, Chicago
How does a restaurant make the most of a short growing season? How can an eatery in snowy Chicago serve local food year round? Chef/partner Paul Virant has the answer to both: canning. Perennial Virant's slogan is, “Eat what you can, can what you can’t,” and Virant’s philosophy worked well enough he released a cookbook called The Preservation Kitchen explaining exactly how the process works. The results are much more elegant than any canned preserves your Grandma ever made. And Virant has easier access to some of the best produce in season: the sprawling Green City Market is right across the street.