Eating well these days means choosing foods that are good for you, and good for the planet. That is true when you choose foods you prepare yourself, and when you eat out. Here are four restaurants in the Washington DC area which take varied approaches to the issue of sustainability in their work:
Mixt Greens is at first what you might expect from a healthy food restaurant: salads and sandwiches, lots of fresh foods. All true, but the tables you eat on and the chairs you sit on have been made from recycled materials, and the ingredients in your meals have most often been sourced locally, as growing seasons allow. You might go for the Cowboy, a salad with romaine hearts, grilled chicken, roasted red peppers, black beans, sharp cheddar, and red onion, or the farmer sandwich, which includes cheese, grilled zucchini, roasted peppers, and roasted mushrooms, or choose to build your own creation from a list of more than three dozen ingredients. For a DC area restaurant, the prices are fairly sustainable, too, with most items topping out at less than ten dollars.
To dine at Bourbon Steak, however, you’ll need to have more than few bills in your pocket. On the other hand, you may be seated next to some very high profile movers and shakers, and even if that’s not the case, the vegetables and herbs which are part of your meal (and sometimes, your drinks) will come from the restaurant’s organic garden, where pepper spray is the method used to deter pests, and where a variety of herbs and vegetables are grown. The original stock for most of these came from Amish farms in Pennsylvania.
You would not immediately think of a pub as a place for finding sustainably sourced food, but that is just what Againn offers. Both its pub grub and its regular lunch and dinner menus are prepared by chefs committed to using regionally sourced ingredients where possible, and spending time meeting the farmers when they can. So your burger may be made up of beef raised in nearby Virginia, and your trout caught in Maryland waters.
Speaking of waters…fishing ways that respect the renewable and sometimes fragile nature of the oceans and their denizens are taken into account in the food on offer at The Tackle Box (update as of June 2015: The Tackle Box is closed). You’ll find a range of fresh seafood on the menu, as well as a note advising that availability may change with sustainability concerns, so if you’ve a certain sort of seafood in mind, call ahead and the staff will advise. The Tackle Box is a fairly relaxed and informal place with prices in line with that. If you’re looking for more upscale seafood dining, check out its sister restaurant, Hook, which follows the same principles of respect for the oceans.
There are other restaurants in the DC area which take healthy and sustainable eating into account when sourcing and preparing their foods and designing their bills of fare. Founding Farmers, for example, is owned by a co-op of farmers, and Restaurant Nora was the district’s first restaurant to be certified organic. What’s going on with sustainable food in your neighborhood?