Mmmm…fresh, earthwise & tasty
A few years ago I landed in jail. Actually it was the Cook County Boot Camp. I was taking part of the Windy City Harvest urban farm tour. The visionary warden and partner Chicago Botanic Garden staff walked us through rows of raised garden beds as inmates tended to vegetables. Not only is the organic produce used in the mess hall and donated to local food pantries, inmates learn valuable jobs skills to turn their lives around. Throughout Chicagoland, a web of non-profit urban agriculture sites, including the Resource Center’s City Farms, Growing Power, Growing Home, and New Leaf Urban Garden (closer by in Evanston) have been sprouting up. These sites are meeting farm-to-table demand by customers and restaurants seeking fresh ingredients, supplying healthy produce in neighborhoods considered food deserts and providing green jobs. Why buy tomatoes shipped in from Mexico when you can grow them right here? The locavore movement happens to coincide with rising interest in organically grown and more sustainably farmed foods. From Frances Moore Lappés Diet for a Small Planet to Michael Pollan’s The Ominovore’s Dilemna, the implications of our food choices have become more evident. Our conventional, unsustainable way of growing and eating food is undermining our health, the environment, social justice and overall economics. In The Pleasure of Eating, Wendell Berry encourages us to better understand where and how our food is produced. There’s no better way to find out than growing some of your own vegetables and fruits, as highlighted in wren’s May post Grow Edibles in Your Yard. And fortunately, the North Shore has more and more local, healthful, delicious food choices available. It’s becoming easier to seek out organic and local products in the aisles of the Grand, Dominicks, Whole Foods, Traders Joes, etc. If you prefer to more directly deal with local producers of sustainably farmed vegetables, fruit, eggs, grass fed meat, etc. you can
visit local farmers markets or sign up for a crop share. The Local Beet is a great resource for 2012 CSA farms, local farmer’s market info and local food sources. Another fun way to eat greener, in North Shore fashion, is to dine out… more selectively. So which places around here support local farms, feature organic ingredients and/or follow sustainable practices? Although I would have loved to personally experience all the best sustainable restaurants myself, I turned to local foodies, health conscious eaters and eco minded folks for their tried and true favorites. The resulting wonderful diverse list, which surely just skims the surface, is definitely something to chew on. (note some places are more earth friendly than others!) THANKS everyone for your great suggestions!
Favorite sustainable eateries around town:
We LOVE Abigail’s American Bistro in Ravinia, esp. love the Barramundi w/ roasted brussel sprouts and fingerling potatoes. Tomato basil soup also phenom. The menu reflects the seasons and features local sources. Service is consistently exceptional Kati Hansell, Winnetka
Bistro Bordeaux in Evanston is a classic French bistro. Featuring a menu with a host of traditional French specialities the restaurant has received rave reviews from Chicago Magazine, Time Out Chicago, and its customers. Our family appreciates the Bistros’s ever changing array of specials which reflect locally available produce. The restaurant has made a strong commitment to local farmers and strives to apprise its customers of what is available in local markets … Georgie Geraghty, Winnetka
**Blind Faith Cafe is a certified green restaurant that has been in the Evanston/Chicago area for more than 30 years. It’s the original vegetarian cafe with amazing options from across the globe: their Black Bean Ginger Tofu, Enchiladas Verdes and Mongolian Seitan Stir Fry are classics with a wonderful aroma. Owner David Lipschutz is inspiring and works constantly to offer new entrees and an array of tempting bakery selections and fresh juices … Darrel Brayboy, Glencoe
Campagnola in Evanston is one that emphasizes local and sustainable ... Jack Darin, Sierra Club, Evanston
Combine the best of both worlds – gardens and dining – by reserving a seat at the Chicago Botanic Garden Farm Dinners on Wednesdays July 18, August 15, and September 5.
I’ve enjoyed Fuel in Wilmette many times. Owner Tim Lenon really does the local, organic thing and is very committed to it … Beth Drucker, Go Green Wilmette
HummingBird Kitchen, a mobile food truck, is bringing sustainable food to Evanston streets (and private catered events). Follow them on twitter to find out where they will land next @hummingbirdtogo.
Inovasi in Lake Bluff has a great menu featuring food from many local farms. They also use herbs and greens grown on their rooftop … George Covington, Lake Forest
I ate at Michael in Winnetka for the first time recently. There is a Groupon now that is great. The food was terrific and they seem very conscious of where the food comes from … Nels Leutwiler, Lake Bluff
Next time you’re enjoying a show at Ravinia, stop by the Farm to Fork table at Mirabelle for a fresh bite to eat.
My local favorite is Prairie Grass Café in Northbrook that sources food from the Green City market. Chef Sarah Stegner if very involved with the school gardening movement .kids favorite dish chicken cutlet adult favorite dish anything made with Tallgrass Beef (wonderful grass fed locally raised beef) … Jeannie Nolan, Glencoe, The Organic Gardener
Sweet Dreams Organic Bakery in Glenview is really special in its gloriously beautiful baked goods, warmand friendly atmosphere, great cappuccino and satisfying entrees. The grilled tofu salad makes my mouth water just to think about. But I am not sure that here in Glenview we are ready to share this gem so don’t tell too many people about it. Also the recently reopened Glenview House offers fresh, locally sourced, organic food. You would not expect to find that at a bar but they get CSA food and are vocal about it. Kind of like an Old Town Social but up here in the burbs … Henrietta Saunders, Glenview
The American bistro Terra, one of the newest restaurants in Evanston, has a diverse and eclectic menu of fine locally fresh ingredients. Many of the items offered are Farm to Table according to the waiter. The food was great, the ambiance was family friendly elegant and the staff was very friendly. I am excited to return, as the menu offers such a great variety that I couldn’t handle eating it all at once. … Keith Glantz, Glantz Design, Evanston
So the first time I set foot in Union Pizzeria in Evanston it was to attend a benefit for the Safer Pest Control Project at SPACE, a performance venue nestled inside of Union. That told me that Union’s owners were interested in keeping toxic pesticides out of our schools, parks, and water — so far, so good. The second time, it was for dinner. That told me their food was terrific as well — even better! Next, it so happens that I just participated in a ribbon cutting of Peeled in Evanston, a new green “artisan juice bar” which offers local, organic, conventional and hydrophonic products … Rep. Daniel Biss, Evanston
**Update – newer spots
Evanston: Found Kitchen & Socail House, offers an eclectic American menu, featuring locally found decor to local food finds. Company, features a rotation of upscale pop-up chefs known for farm-to-table, such as Winnetkan Erwin Dreschler, an early pioneer of the local food scene. Also, Farmhouse, in Evanston, focuses on locally sourced tavern food and craft beers
Wilmette: Nick’s Bar & Grill a gastropub has the theme “fresh, local & delicious”
Glencoe: Guildhall is committed to working with local and artisanal purveyors
Highland Park: Benjamin Tapas sources from local farms
Deerfield: Bobby’s Deerfield is farm-to-table
Now you can even eat greener at the airport. Herbs, greens and tomatoes grown inside O’Hare are used by Wolfgang Puck Airport Cafes (located in Terminal I and Terminal 3) and Rick Bayless’s Tortas Frontera at Terminal 1.
** Avec and **Publican are reliably outstanding and a popular recommendation for clients or family visiting Chicago. It may sound strange to say but the food tastes good at Kahan’s restaurants, as opposed to some noted establishments where the food seems to compete for attention with everything else going on. And yet, both restaurants have a vibe – Avec and its cozy room has more of an edge, while at Publican you are among friends even in a crowd of strangers … Jennifer & Dave Stricklin, Winnetka
Elizabeth’s mission is to highlight nose-to-tail, root-to-branch, and farm-to-table Midwestern bounty, featuring local farms including Nichols and Hazzard Free. Vegetarian adaptations of tasting menu available!
Farmhouse in River North is a fun new (farm-to-) tavern that specializes in local, made from scratch food and Midwestern craft beers … De Gray, Chicago
My favorite place for lunch is Floriole Cafe & Bakery in Lincoln Park. Fresh, local, suatainable…they shop the Green City market twice a week. I always get the Tartine of the Day…topped with whatever is fresh from the farmer’s market. They also have the best baguettes and croissants I’ve ever had outside of France! For dinner, I love The Bristol in Bucktown Gina Rasmussen Mathews, Winnetka
Not only is the food delicious at award winning **Frontera Grill and the new quick serve (& LEED certified) **XOCO , but Rick Bayless has helped bring into fashion organic and locally sourced cuisine. It’s also great that the Frontera Farmer Foundation provides grants to small local farms that follow organic practices … Debbie Ross, Winnetka
I go to **Hannahs Bretzel at least twice a week for lunch. They have the best and freshest organic ingredients. Their vegetarian sandwiches, weekly salad specials and soups are delicious. They have a very unique design where there is a long counter with multiple “über” sandwich makers creating different parts of your sandwich. Also the company has made a very clear choice in promoting sustainability and green choices where possible. I respect their dedication and I am willing to pay a premium to support their restaurant … Mike Sekulic, Chicago
Inspired by the China Study, a book that cites studies of the connection between certain cancers, heart disease, diabetes, and nutrition, and recipes from Forks Over Knives and Green Smoothie Girl, I’d like to pass along good reviews for Karyn’s on Green in Chicago which serves vegan food. Let’s rein in our damaging behaviors … Merilee Redmond, Winnetka
Monday Night Farm Dinners at Lula Café in Logan Square stir up wonderful, unexpected combinations of farmers market ingredients that make delicious, memorable meals … Sally Kenyon, Chicago, Uptown Brownie, Chicago
Mana Food Bar in Wicker Park is a vegetarian restaurant that takes it up a notch. Mana means “the life force in nature” or “the things magic is made of. Who wouldn’t want to taste that?! … Pam Gross, Glencoe, OmmChicago.com
Native Foods, so far with three Chicago locations, has become a hotspot for healthy, organic, vegan food available in 6-9 minutes that tastes homemade … Richard Bograd, Chicago
We love North Pond Restaurant in the city…the best…Chef Bruce Sherman recently won a James Beard award. They source as much food as possible via local sustainable farmers through Green City Market … Jeannie Nolan, Glencoe, The Organic Gardener
Pelago is an upscale, elegant, organic place for wonderful celebrations. It’s also farm to table. Butcher and the Burger on Armitage is a healthy, delicious, organic place. You make your own burger… pick the meat (including grass fed beef & bison, naturally raised turkey, locally farmed pork, sustainably farmed salmon, etc.), toppings, cheese, bun, and more … Anne Wedner, Winnetka
**Province is my favorite place for both business and casual lunches. The menu has choices to suit everyones tastes, the food is fresh and delicious, and the service is impeccable. The colorful, sustainably outfitted space is located near the Metra station in the west loop. You cant go wrong with a three-star rated green restaurant in a Gold Level LEED building … Nancy Watson, Natural Resources Defense Council, Chicago
**Trattoria No. 10, to put it simply, earns its reputation as a great source for local, sustainable food right in the heart of the Loop. The menu features homemade, classic Italian fare and seasonal specialties make it one of my favorite places for working lunches or quiet dinner parties. Servers are attentive, yet respectful, and, as one of Chicago’s first restaurants to be certified “green,” it’s a great option for diners looking to support businesses that make a real effort to conserve water and energy and reduce waste and pollution. Also next store and elsewhere, **Sopraffina offers a wide variety of environmentally friendly “fast food” options and follows a similar earth-friendly ethic. I’m a big fan of their catering menu for our office functions … Sherri Racine, Sierra Club, Chicago
Two places come to mind… **Uncommon Ground which I believe is North side Chicago and has a roof top farm on top that is cool. Green Zebra is best vegetarian in Chicago and has local food … Nate Laurell, Chicago
- see the Green Chicago Restaurant Coalition for a listing of **guaranteed green restaurants. These certified eateries must achieve significant standards in the areas of sustainable food purchasing, cleaning products, disposables, and furnishings, as well as in their management of energy, water, and waste
- check out listings in the the great blog Chicago Farm and Table
- refine searches in website/aps such as Urbanspoon with “organic” or localeats with “farm to table”