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These establishments are committed to doing their part for the environment
America’s Greenest Restaurants of 2015
Going green isn’t just a food trend anymore — it’s a movement that’s here to stay. More and more restaurants are focusing on water efficiency; waste reduction and recycling; sustainable furnishings and building materials; sustainable food, energy, and disposables; and chemical and pollution reduction. For the fifth year in a row, we’re celebrating these restaurants in honor of Earth Day. From a vegetarian café in New York to a tap house in Spokane, it’s true that restaurants are getting greener by the day.
#20 Slapfish, Huntington Beach, Calif.
Casual seafood eatery Slapfish is serious about its environmental efforts and has a three-star rating from the GRA to show for it. It takes sustainability to a whole new level by working closely with multiple organizations to utilize the current data on overfishing, harmful fishing practices, and responsible fish farming. It has partnered with the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach and Seafood for the Future to source the highest quality, healthiest seafood it can find. Menu favorites include the Baja mahi sandwich and the bacon-wrapped lobster dog.
#19 Luella's Bar-B-Que, Asheville, N.C.
This casual barbeque dining concept is dedicated to sustainability and good cooking, and many of its ingredients come from its own garden. All of the chicken used at the restaurant is hormone- and antibiotic-free, and it fries its food with non-hydrogenated soybean oil. All of the restaurant’s oils are recycled by Blue Ridge Biofuels. The menu boasts a variety of barbeque favorites, such as chile-rubbed beef brisket, local BBQ tempeh, and chopped pork BBQ.
#18 Sugar & Olives, Norwalk, Conn.
Sugar & Olives in Norwalk, Connecticut, takes a seasonal approach to its cuisine. The beef is grass-fed and sustainably raised at farms in upstate New York and the poultry is organic, free-range, and locally sourced when possible. The restaurant also accommodates diners who are vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan, and pescatarian. The French-inspired menu showcases crêpes, like the house "Sugar and Olives" crêpe that’s stuffed with greenery, fennel, spinach, mushrooms, peppers, sweet onions, peas, and leeks. Dinner items include a whole poussin roasted with rosemary and onions.
#17 Del Posto, New York City
The Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group makes every effort to ensure their restaurants meet certain environmental standards, particularly their award-winning Del Posto. The restaurant’s green initiatives include alternative fuel sources, energy benchmarking programs, sustainable food purchasing plans, an in-house water filtration system, and corporate-wide Meatless Mondays, among other efforts. The restaurant offers a variety of tasting menus and accompanying wine pairings with a focus on local and seasonal dishes.
#16 Osteria Mozza, Los Angeles
Los Angeles eatery Osteria Mozza believes in sustainability and going green. It focuses on food waste composting, alternative fuel sources, energy benchmarking programs, and Green Seal Certified cleaning products. Thirty-one percent of the food purchased for the restaurant is vegan and 10 percent of the total monthly food purchases are vegetarian. The menu has extensive antipasto options, including grilled octopus and baby kale and various presentations of the house-made mozzarella for which the place is named, as well as a variety of pastas with wild boar ragù and linguini with clams.
#15 Candle 79, New York City
New York’s Candle 79 is one of the city’s most popular vegan restaurants. It is dedicated to using local ingredients and organic produce whenever possible. Every dish produced in Candle 79’s kitchen is free of pesticides, chemicals, and hormones, and the restaurant does not use any genetically modified foods. In terms of its green practices recognized by the GRA, the restaurant uses only non-toxic, environmentally friendly cleaning supplies and sanitizers, and recycles glass, plastics, metals, grease, paper, old computers and electronics, printer cartridges, and more. Menu items like the live avocado-tomato tartare and the spring vegetable and mushroom crêpe are crowd-pleasers.
#14 Rouge Tomate, New York City
This Michelin-starred restaurant is considered one of New York City’s best. While the cuisine is top-notch, the restaurant is also committed to the green movement. It received a three-star rating from the GRA in categories including water efficiency, waste reduction, and recycling, among other efforts. Attention to health and detail is everything for the restaurant. Its executive chef Jeremy Bearman and executive pastry chef James Distefano work with a culinary nutritionist, Kristy Del Coro, to create dishes made using the best ingredients from local purveyors.
#13 The Lodge at Bryce Canyon, Bryce, Utah
The restaurant located at the luxurious Lodge at Bryce Canyon in Utah has been in operation since 1925, but the owners have their eyes on the future, not the past. To that extent, they rely primarily on natural light, reduce waste by composting, and source all of their food from local and regional providers in order to reduce their carbon footprint. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served at the Lodge at Bryce Canyon Restaurant, with popular dishes including grilled Wasatch buffalo flank steak, roasted Paria View duck, and Utah lamb rack. Only fish that are included on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sustainable Seafood List are served.
#12 Founding Farmers, Washington, D.C.
The flagship location of this DC-based mini-chain is the city’s first LEED Gold Certified restaurant and offsets its annual greenhouse gas emissions through Carbonfund.org. Its Montgomery County, Maryland, location is LEED Silver Certified and is one of the only restaurants in the country that’s powered 100 percent by wind energy. The restaurant’s concept revolves around promoting sustainable agriculture and family-owned farms, and the proprietors have taken measures to go green that include “front-of-house and back-of-house recycling, high-efficiency water and energy usage, and using recycled paper products whenever possible,” according to the restaurant. In addition, “the menus are printed on recycled paper with soy-based inks, and water is served in reusable glass carafes with the option of fresh-filtered, still or sparkling Vivreau water, using no waste-producing glass or plastic bottles at all.”
#11 The Greenhouse Tavern, Cleveland
The flagship restaurant of Cleveland native chef Jonathon Sawyer, the Greenhouse Tavern carries on old traditions by preserving food during the fall and serving it throughout the winter, and their relationships with local farmers is so strong that they’re able to secure ingredients like grains, beans, and legumes locally when other restaurants can’t. The building was renovated using recycled materials, even the faucets are solar-powered, and the restaurant was the first in Ohio to be LEED-certified.
#10 The Green Sage, Asheville, N.C.
The Green Sage Coffeehouse and Café in Asheville, North Carolina, now with two locations, is at the forefront of the city’s green dining movement. The menu accommodates those following a gluten-free, vegetarian, or vegan diet, and uses meats that are antibiotic-, hormone-, and preservative-free. Additional green efforts include compost and recycling stations and cabinets made from reclaimed wood, among other initiatives. The restaurant’s burgers and hot sandwiches can be filled with grass-fed beef, chicken breast, or grilled tempeh. Rice bowls, citrus kale bowls, and lentil soup are also crowd-pleasers for those choosing to dine at The Green Sage.
#9 Pizzeria Rustica, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Pizzeria Rustica in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is known for having the finest and freshest ingredients around. The Italian restaurant supports local and organic food by purchasing from Colorado farmers’ markets in season and from Colorado Springs greenhouses that grow for the restaurant. It uses the slow food method of preparation when it comes to its cuisine, particularly in the hand-stretching of its pizza dough. With a four-star rating from the GRA, Pizzeria Rustica is committed to using reusable napkins when serving its Neapolitan-style pizzas, which are meant to be eaten with a knife and fork, and there are many vegetarian and gluten-free options on the menu.
#8 GustOrganics, New York City
GustOrganics is the only four-star GRA-rated restaurant in New York City. It uses only wind energy, utilizes solar lighting, and has biodegradable take-out containers, cups, and flatware. The extensive menu offers vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free items like the vegan and gluten-free huevos rancheros and vegan veggie burger. The dinner menu also boasts paleo and macrobiotic dining options.
#7 French Broad Chocolates, Asheville, N.C.
French Broad has earned a four-star rating from the GRA. It has a five-panel solar hot water system, including a 97 percent efficient hot water heater, along with occupancy sensors and Energy Star-certified appliances. Inside the chocolate lounge, the restaurant serves a variety of cakes, including the Highland mocha stout cake, the flourless chocolate torte, and the Theros olive oil chocolate cake, along with a variety of cookies, brownies, and macaroons.
#6 Manito Tap House, Spokane, Wash.
Located on historic South Hill in the Comstock neighborhood of Spokane, Washington, Manito Tap House offers 50 beers on tap, Northwest wines, and mixed drinks to customers. It boasts a four-star rating from the GRA, and that's due in part to its building practices. The restaurant was built by using reclaimed barn wood from Reardan, Washington, to line its walls, while its bathroom counters are made from recycled paper. It also has LED and compact fluorescent lighting systems, is brightened with paint using zero volatile organic compounds, and is cleaned with eco-friendly cleaning products. The menu is filled with items made from scratch, including the Comstock quinoa salad.
#5 Ruggles Green, Houston, Texas
Ruggles Green is famous for being Houston’s first certified green restaurant, and it continues to uphold its four-star GRA rating. With a menu that has gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, and dairy-free options, diners can enjoy fresh food that they can feel good about eating. With everything from soups to wood fire-grilled pizza, the extensive menu is crafted from premier local and organic ingredients. All of the restaurant’s glass, paper, cardboard, plastic, and metal are recycled, and it even recycles its fry oil into biofuel. This year, the Ruggles restaurants have also launched a killer brunch list with items like gluten-free lemon poppy seed pancakes.
#4 Kona Pub & Brewery, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
Kona Pub & Brewery on the Big Island is a restaurant and brewing company that believes the future of the Earth depends on how we treat it, which is evident in the restaurant’s facilities, where most of the building material has been recycled. During its brewing process, the company uses heat exchangers to reclaim thermal energy for water heating and the pub uses a heat-reclamation system on its air conditioner for water heating in the kitchen. At any given time, Kona has around 12 beers on tap and an extensive beer-to-go menu. Certainly a Longboard Island Lager is the perfect draught to pair with the Kawaihae Cajun seared ahi tuna, served sashimi-style.
#3 Big Delicious Planet, Chicago
This four-star certified GRA restaurant is located in a former metal shop in West Town that has been completely renovated to include an energy efficient geothermal system. It also launched its own urban farm on the premises back in 2012 where it grows over 80 varietals of organic vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers. Another draw for the restaurant is the farm-to-table dinners in the garden: the dinner series promotes local farmers in the region with a several course meal tailored to meat-eaters, vegans, and vegetarians alike.
#2 Uncommon Ground, Chicago
Uncommon Ground now has two outposts in Chicago, one in Lakeview and a newer location in Edgewater. The cuisine at Uncommon Ground contains seasonal, locally produced, family farmed, and organic products that have spawned dishes like organic white bean purée; blackened duck breast with spaghetti squash, sautéed sweet onions, spinach, baby carrots, and pear-cranberry sauce; and Lake Superior whitefish with green lentils, baby vegetables, celery root, and sherry bacon gastrique. It still has bragging rights for launching the country’s first organic rooftop garden and farm.
#1 The Grey Plume, Omaha, Neb.
The Grey Plume believes in an eco-friendly dining environment, and from the 90 percent recycled content floors to the extensive LED lighting throughout the space, it’s clear that the owners have created just that. It received a four-star rating from the GRA and remains on the top of the heap among its competitors. In terms of water and energy conservation, the restaurant has Energy Star refrigerators, ice machines, and office equipment, and the most energy-efficient dishwasher available on the market. When you’re done marveling at the beautiful and sustainable space and are ready to chow down, you’ll find that the menus are printed with soy-based ink on recycled paper.