Six Notable Locavore Restaurants
More than thirty years ago when Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, she sparked a movement in American cuisine that focused on locally sourced food, expertly prepared. In time, others followed suit. One restaurateur recounted that initially it was hard to arrange to obtain all of your ingredients from nearby sources. In time, as those relationships became well-established and more symbiotic, using fresh ingredients grown and harvested nearby was much easier than trying to get what you needed shipped in from a restaurant supply house.
Today, hundreds of restaurants have found their niche cultivating and creating food to feed the Locavore, the diner interested in food grown and prepared locally and not shipped long distances to the kitchen. Some of these establishments are very high-end: dinner at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry will set you back $270. Each. But there are many readily accessible to those with a more modest budget.
Here are six notable ones, chosen at random.
86 St. Paul St. Burlington VT
Established in 2009, Bluebird Tavern quickly became very popular and received an enormous amount of positive national press, culminating in a nomination for James Beards’ prestigious “Best New Restaurant.” Lunch runs about $17 per entrée, dinner around $25. A recent review called the menu “an embarrassment of riches,” citing such unusual dishes as guinea hen, lamb burgers, and the unique pork-belly-and-octopus. Known as a “Farm to Table Mecca” Bluebird Tavern has a long list of purveyors of carefully sourced local foods and a wide array of inventive and thoughtful dishes.
Olive: an Urban Dive
416 East Third St. Dayton, OH
Olive’s name comes from a play on the location’s original restaurant: Wympee’s. In an utter transformation the little diner was re-born in 2011 as Dayton’s most chic restaurant. In addition to having a list of 45 local suppliers, they now have their own farm in operation just to supply the kitchen. Their motto is “Local Over Import” and they promise that they can deliver gluten free, Paleo, vegetarian and vegan dishes—as well as their extraordinary cheeseburgers. Fried leeks, Italian Socca, Tuscan grilled cheese are all beloved favorites among the regular clientele; often finished off with a bowl of Jeni’s ice cream, from nearby Columbus, Ohio. The wait staff is very knowledgeable and can (and will) lovingly describe each dish down to the last ingredient. Lunch entrees average $15, dinner $20.
1782 Cheshire Bridge Rd, Atlanta GA
Established in 2002, the Woodfire Grill describes itself as “Local, Organic and Sustainable Cuisine.” Chef Tyler Williams, a member of “Slow Food USA” and “Georgia Organics” creates a new seasonally influenced menu daily and has garnered many favorable national reviews for his restaurant. Not open for lunch, each dinner entrée runs about $35. The ever-changing menu is developed from the foods provided by more than 20 purveyors for this favorite restaurant, each helping to fulfill Woodfire’s mission of using local, sustainable agriculture as well as responsible animal husbandry and sustainable fishing practices. In season now: black morels, king salmon, soft-shell crab, strawberries, spring peaches, local peas, carrots, beets, turnips, lettuces, ramps and Vidalia onions. Woodfire also offers a five and seven course Chef’s Tasting Menu at $70 and $90 per diner.
2113 Manor Rd, Austin TX
Twenty-five years ago, a charming Arts and Crafts bungalow became one of Austin’s first locavore restaurants, setting a trend that would become an important part of the Austin aesthetic. An organic garden was planted behind the restaurant from the beginning, providing fresh vegetables and fruit for the menu. In 2009, a flock of urban chickens made their home there too. In addition, Eastside Café serves Texas Gulf coast shrimp, as well as locally raised bison, greens and chicken. Their menu has a suitable Tex-Mex twist with fresh vegetable quesadillas, garden Poblano soup and a popular “garden crudité” appetizer. Lunch entrees are around $15, dinner $21. Owner Ruth Maven’s cookbook Fresh and New and Tried and True has become a local favorite and is available through their website.
1550 Hyde San Francisco, CA
Named San Francisco’s number one Italian restaurant by Zagat in 2012, Seven Hills is an intimate and cozy restaurant in that city’s Russian Hill neighborhood. Described as “creative farm to table cuisine inspired by Rome” (which, like San Francisco, is built on seven hills) the restaurant is celebrated for their fantastic giant raviolis, including the silky and sublime Ravioli Uovo (“full belly farm egg yolk, house made ricotta cheese, spinach, brown butter and white truffle oil”) in addition to a innovative and somewhat unusual menu that includes roasted bone marrow, seared wild halibut and seared sweetbreads with wild chanterelles. They were included in New York Magazine’s list of the Top 101 Pastas in America. Chef Alexander Alioto apprenticed around the world, starting with his father, Nunzio Alioto and finishing with Thomas Keller at The French Laundry before opening his own restaurant. The website features a list of 18 local food purveyors who supply Seven Hills’ kitchen. Only open for dinner, entrées start around $25.
Heathman Hotel, 220 Kirkland Ave. Kirkland, WA
The Trellis might be the only gourmet locavore restaurant in the country that makes its home in a hotel bar. Much beloved in suburban Seattle, the bar features “Wine country style” innovative and organic farm-to-table cuisine. Food in the bar ranges from $5 to $17 and high-quality seasonal ingredients are often sourced directly from the Chef’s own 10-acre farm in Woodinville, as well as from the Kirkland Farmer’s Market, local farms and artisan producers. Famous also for its “craft cocktails” and locally produced beer, Trellis gets high marks for their creative menus. In addition to gourmet “bar food” the restaurant has menus for on the Front Porch, breakfast, lunch, brunch, dinner, special dining events and private dinners. Seasonal dinners start at $33.
Even if you find yourself far away from any of these six cities, there’s probably a restaurant near you engaging in farm-to-table, sustainable, local organic cuisine. A simple computer or cell-phone search for your location and “farm to table restaurant” will in all likelihood reveal a nearby establishment producing excellent meals with sustainable ingredients carefully raised by local farmers, ranchers, fisherman and artisans.