The Best Eco-Friendly, Farm-to-Table Restaurant in Every State
The Best Farm-to-Table Restaurant in Every State
This article originally appeared on Travel + Leisure.
The farm-to-table movement may be decades old, but recent heightened attention towards issues like climate change and health has given rise to a new generation of chefs who are redefining what that oft-abused phrase means. In an era where fast food chains are hawking the farm-to-table trend, consumers are left feeling that every restaurant is green to some degree. These 50 establishments—plus Washington D.C.—stand out from the pack by not only creating exciting innovative cuisine with a locally sourced menu, but also by applying that same eco-minded culinary philosophy to every aspect of the operation.
Considering that the average food item in America has traveled 1,500 miles from the farm to your plate, according to Worldwatch Institute, eating local—for your health, the environment, and your taste buds—is only logical. From the James Beard-awarded chefs to under-the-radar talents and those fresh on the scene, it's increasingly important to know the story behind the food we eat when dining out, not just at home.
We consulted with the country’s top food bloggers and experts (and did plenty of foraging ourselves) to uncover the best eco-friendly restaurant in every state, from the Sun Belt to the Gulf of Alaska to the shores of Hawaii's Big Island.
Alabama: Acre in Auburn
Located an hour east of Montgomery in the historic downtown district of Auburn, Acre in Auburn is known for pairing bold modern flavors and deep Southern roots with a reliable eco-conscience. When Chef David Bancroft’s not in the kitchen or in the on-site vegetable garden, he’s working with local ranchers, farmers, and Gulf Coast fishermen, shaping his seasonally driven menu around ingredients sourced from the Blackbelt Region.
Alaska: Snow City Cafè
You don’t have to be a fish and game enthusiast to slip into a local’s way of life in Alaska’s biggest city. Just make a reservation at Snow City Café, where residents like Maya Evoy of Alaska from Scratch and out-of-towners like President Obama are fond of visiting for a delicious sustainably minded meal that’s always made from scratch. Order the salmon and crab eggs Benedict or the stuffed French toast, two of the reasons the restaurant is widely considered to be the most popular brunch spot in Anchorage.
Arizona: The Larder + The Delta
“The Larder + The Delta has hooked me in with its Southern flair, creative dishes and farm-fresh ingredients,” said Diana Brandt, founder of Arizona Foodie. Situated inside Desoto Central Market in downtown Phoenix, The Larder + The Delta and Chef Stephen Jones have quickly made friends in the small farming community and among locals like Brandt who order items like Brussels sprouts with shishito peppers, fermented mustard seed, and Fresno chilies; the Kentucky fried quail with a foie gras biscuit; and the tender belly pig ear “Cheetos.”
Arkansas: Trio’s Restaurant
Alan Leveritt grows strawberries and raises grass-fed lambs when he’s not busy working as publisher of the Arkansas Times. Among his many buyers is Trio’s Restaurant, where founder and chef Capi Peck’s strawberry shortcake and commitment to locally grown produce is well known in Little Rock and throughout the Land of Opportunity.
California: Liholiho Yacht Club
The drought has made Californians extra sensitive to climate change, causing daily decisions like where to eat out—and whether or not to ask for water—to be taken far more seriously than ever before. While the state is full of innovative, sustainably minded restaurants, from Solbar in Napa Valley to Chi Chi in Palm Springs, the place to get blow-your-mind-good food with an eco twist is in San Francisco’s Lower Nob Hill. At Liholiho Yacht Club, whether it’s the tuna poke, the marinated squid and crispy tripe, or the beef tongue with kimchi and cucumber on a poppy seed steam bun, Oahu-born chef/owner Ravi Kapur invites regulars, like Outstanding in the Field’s Jim Denevan, to discover the different magical flavor profiles of his Hawaiian, Indian, and Chinese heritage while staying true to a locavore mentality. “We only work with purveyors who understand that for their personal sustainability and well-being, they have to be on board with eco practices or they themselves will be extinct,” said Chef Kapur, who shops religiously at the Berkeley Farmer’s Market on Tuesdays and the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market on Saturdays.
Colorado: The Kitchen
“Over the past five years in Boulder and Denver, I've noticed a big shift towards a vibrant restaurant scene with a palpable verve around sustainability,” said Toni Dash of Boulder Locavore. “Restaurants like Black Cat, Potager, and Fruition have really stepped up to the plate to deliver inspired seasonal cuisine.” Paving the farm-to-table way in Colorado is The Kitchen, which has establishments in Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins and applies its strong eco-friendly philosophy—that includes everything from the locally sourced ingredients to wind power to composting—in each location. Founders Hugo Matheson and Kimbal Husk have also created a nonprofit that’s built over 200 Learning Gardens in schools in Colorado, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Memphis for 120,000 students to discover the benefits of growing and eating fresh healthy food.
Connecticut: Back 40 Kitchen
“Back 40 Kitchen is the epitome of what farm-to-table is all about,” said OmNomCT’s Dan and Kristien Del Ferraro of one of their favorite restaurants. In addition to working with local purveyors, this Greenwich spot sources ingredients for its modern American menu and cocktail program from its own nearby 75-acre farm. Executive Chef George DeMarsico doesn’t pander to his informed clientele with farm-this-and-farm-that verbosity as items like heirloom popcorn, grilled milk-fed veal loin, and roasted king oyster mushrooms get the message across just fine with freshness and flavor.
Recently announced as a James Beard semifinalist for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic region, chef/owner Hari Cameron of a(MUSE.) is a local celebrity on the Delaware Coast despite being somewhat of an anomaly in a state where farm-to-table is greeted with an eye roll. “Our McDonalds and Burger King works with local farmers to get tomatoes and lettuce, so everything seems to be farm-to-table and there’s no big year round community in rural Delaware dedicated to sustainability,” said Bob Yesbek of rehobothfoodie.com. “Chef Cameron changes the menu from day to day depending on what his fishmonger or forager brings in, be it mushrooms or berries. Cameron puts effort into finding the best fresh ingredients and only buys from places that work hard for sustainability,” said Yesbek. To get the full scope of Chef Cameron’s unusual modernist progressive cooking style, try the 11-course tasting menu, featuring plates like housemade burrata with shattered heirloom tomato and gooseberry; foie gras mousse with heirloom melon, country ham, white balsamic, and caramelized onion fluid gel; and lavender honey ice cream with lavender ganache and honey marshmallow.
“Miami is pretty far behind the curve when it comes to the environmental trend, which is ironic because we will probably be the first one affected by the rising tides,” said Eater Miami Editor Olee Fowler. But in a sea of tan climate-change deniers is LoKal, one of Fowler’s favorite spots for a juicy grass-fed burger and feel-good food. Among the Coconut Grove restaurant’s many eco initiatives is its rooftop garden, compost program, and up-cycled boho décor; LoKal is also the first 100 percent clean, renewably powered restaurant in Miami.
Georgia: One Eared Stag
When locals like Grant Goggans of Marie, Let’s Eat! want an under-the-radar culinary adventure, they head a few minutes from downtown Atlanta to Inman Park, a charming neighborhood that's home to tree-lined streets, Victorian homes, and One Eared Stag. Though this restaurant’s not really a secret to Peach State residents, it succeeds in keeping that hidden gem aura, and has menu items like heritage pork chop and bone marrow with toast, roe, radishes, and goat cheese. Chef Robert Phalen is widely lauded for working exclusively with organic, sustainable farms and fisheries, but it’s his cook-it-and-they-will-come ethos toward inventive, daily-changing dishes that will stand the test of time—that, along with the house-made elixirs and mounted animal heads.
Hawaii: ‘ULU Ocean Grill
Though Hawaii imports roughly 90 percent of its food, a growing number of restaurants are shedding light on the bright farm-to-table future of the Aloha State. Catherine Toth Fox, Honolulu Magazine’s Food & Dining Editor, points to Mud Hen Water and O’o Farms as one of the many rising stars of the burgeoning eco food scene, but it’s ‘ULU Ocean Grill at the Four Seasons Resort Hualālai on the Big Island that sets the bar high for responsible dining. “‘ULU Ocean Grill prides itself on its sustainable approach to its menu,” said Fox. “The restaurant works with more than 160 farmers and fishermen on the island, and the menu boasts 75 percent locally sourced ingredients, including wild boar, ahi, octopus, tomatoes, and corn. And you can’t beat the sunset view here, with every seat facing the ocean.”
A perfect day in Boise isn’t complete without a bike ride on the Ridge to Rivers Trail System, a turn through the Boise Art Museum, and a meal at newcomer Juniper, which has quickly become a favorite for locals like Boise Food Guild blogger Bob Young. Chef Aaron puts Idaho on a pedestal, working closely with local farmers, growers, winemakers, and brewers throughout the Gem State, but it’s the restaurant’s funky personality that continues to dazzle diners. As a locally spirited gastropub, speakeasy, live music hall, and gin joint, Juniper is like one great love story about Idaho that never gets tired of being told. Pop in on any Wednesday to Saturday to try the $48 five-course dinner at the Chef’s Table.
Illinois: Perennial Virant
Chicago is brimming with eco-friendly restaurants these days. Just ask Anthony Todd, Food and Drink Editor at Chicagoist, who could rattle off laudable green restaurants—there’s Cantina 1910, The Bristol, Longman & Eagle, Farmhouse—for the length of a meal. Top honors goes to Perennial Virant for Chef Paul Virant’s unwavering devotion to cooking dishes from scratch year-round, using only what’s in season from the local harvest. For the chef and self-described preservation guru, helping his guests make a strong connection to the land is what matters most. Housed in a vintage 1928 building inside Hotel Lincoln just across from Lincoln Park, the restaurant offers a daily changing menu (a few staples include the Midwestern cheese board and grilled beef loin) and a variety of Illinois brews.
Indiana: Joseph Decuis
Out in the tiny town of Roanoke in northeastern Indiana, Pete and Alice Eshelman raise wagyu beef for their restaurant Joseph Decuis on a nearby farm. “The farm strictly adheres to the methods of Shogo Takeda of Japan, with whose help they built their herd,” said Jolene Ketzenberger, editor of EatDrinkIndy.com and host of Eat Drink Indiana Radio. “The farm also raises produce and chickens that help supply the restaurant; other ingredients are responsibly sourced from area producers.” Ketzenberger recommends the wagyu beef or a dish made with foraged morel mushrooms come spring. Visit in the summer when Joseph Decuis hosts outdoor dinners at the farm.
If you’ve spent any time passing through the Hawkeye State, you’ve likely looked across the horizon in awe of all that farmland—30.6 million acres, to be exact. According to the USDA, Iowa’s farmers are among the most eco-minded, focused not just on harvesting great corn and soybeans, but on conservation and renewable energy; Iowa ranks second in the country for the number of farms with wind turbines. In the historic East Village of Des Moines, Hoq epitomizes that deliciously fierce sense of sustainability. “Their motto says it all, ‘local food, global flavor,’" said Des Moines Foodster’s Nick Lucs. “Approximately 90 percent of Hoq’s ingredients come from local farms.” Order the grass-fed steak with hand-cut root fries.
Kansas: Room 39
In the small town of Leawood, right on the border between Kansas and Missouri, it’s possible to savor the American Dream. If you didn’t particularly care whether a restaurant was eco-friendly or not before, Room 39 will change the way you dine from here on out. Especially if you opt for a grand presentation of classic Kansas fare with the four-course tasting menu, which showcases the heart and soul of the hard-working, environmentally driven agricultural community. Several bites in, after learning about the local farmers—like Mitch Mott from Shroommates in Overland Park and chicken purveyors Carol and Jay Maddox of Campo Lindo Farm—the feast will undoubtably become an unexpectedly intimate and deeply meaningful experience.
Kentucky: Proof on Main
Dining at Proof on Main can feel like an out-of-body experience. Situated on Museum Row inside the boutique 21c Museum Hotel, the restaurant’s art-dappled space is as exciting and fresh as the creative Southern food being served. The cocktails are often inspired by current exhibitions, but one thing that is constant is the devotion to local Kentucky purveyors, which include the 21c founders Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson’s own Woodland Farm. Even if you’re not a bourbon buff, it’s worth sampling from some of the more than 75 Kentucky bottles available. Savoring Kentucky’s Rona Roberts also recommends local favorite Lilly's run by Kathy Cary, largely considered to be Louisville’s queen of farm-to-table.
“With the Gulf of Mexico at our fingertips and a year-round growing season, Louisiana offers great sustainable dining options everywhere you look,” said Jay D. Ducote of Bite & Booze, citing Nino’s Italian, Wine Country Bistro, and Sac-A-Lait as examples. Plenty of Louisana chefs have been cooking with a farm-to-table ethos long before it was cool, but newcomer Sac-A-Lait and chefs Cody and Sam Carroll have enlivened the New Orleans food scene with a wild, whimsical approach to locavorism while sourcing from Louisiana swamps, woods, and prairies. Ducote highly recommends the sweet fried alligator and mirliton with white remoulade.
Maine: Fore Street
Opened in 1996 in the Old Port District, Fore Street is still one of the hardest tables to get into in Portland. There, Chef Sam Hayward helped pioneer the local farm-to-table movement, according to Maine Eater’s Editor Adam H. Callaghan. Hayward, who has received various James Beard Foundation accolades as well as sustainability awards for his focus on seasonal ingredients, underscores that the menu showcases food that goes “far beyond lobster and blueberries to the wilder shores of four-season farms, shellfish gatherers, woodland foragers, day-boat fishers, and abundant pastures.”
Maryland: Maggie’s Farm
After you’ve had a meal at Maggie’s Farm, summer trips to Maryland won’t just be for blue crab anymore. Executive Chef Tim Hogan lets the local ingredients—sourced from his own garden and a short list of favorite purveyors—shine at this popular no-frills restaurant featuring globally inspired comfort food with flecks of Southern, Asian, and Spanish influences. Get the crispy Brussels sprouts, chicken and waffles, and bourbon donuts, and expect to order a second round of Bloody Marys.
Massachusetts: Clover Food Labs
Cambridge-based Clover Food Labs, a food truck-turned fast-casual vegetarian spot, makes it easy to dine with a tinier carbon footprint. “Serving only vegetarian fare, Clover does way more than the average restaurant in terms of being environmental,” said Jennifer Che of Tiny Urban Kitchen. “They do dverything from running their trucks on biodiesel and using only compostable utensils and plates to sourcing most of their products from local farms.” Che recommends the chickpea fritter sandwich, the egg and eggplant sandwich, and made-to-order pour-over coffee from a rotating list of local coffee purveyors. As for two other great eco restaurants around Boston, Che suggests experiencing nose-to-tail dining at Craigie on Main and the Chef’s Tasting at Lumière in Newton.
Costa Rican native Mario Cascante opened Luna in downtown Grand Rapids this past fall as an ode to Latin cuisine and farm-to-table dining. Whether you order the salsa flight or the pork tacos at Luna—which has already become a favorite spot for margarita lovers and locals like Wendy Hammond of Eat Local West Michigan—you can be sure every bit of the dish is organic, homemade, and grown from within West Michigan.
Minnesota: Birchwood Cafe
In the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis, locals line up to eat at Birchwood Cafe, which has spent more than 20 years building a business around farm-to-table and the fair treatment of workers. But, as the Heavy Table’s publisher and editor James Norton points out, none of that would be possible without food that people really want to eat. “The restaurant's savory waffles are maybe the best symbol of Birchwood's commitment to flavor and are a cornerstone of their popular brunch menu,” said Norton. “The variety changes constantly, but a recent example is a sweet potato, brown rice, and kale waffle with grapefruit preserves, shallot cilantro butter, bacon lardons, a sunny-side egg, and maple syrup.”
Mississippi: Table 100
If you ask Andy Chapman, publisher of Eat Jackson and the founder of Jackson Restaurant Week, there’s really only one restaurant in town that can whet your appetite and feed your soul. “Table 100 not only supports small local farmers and presents beautifully crafted dishes, but the food always blows me away,” said Chapman, who recommends the seared thick-cut pork chops with a Delta Blues rice grit cake, herb roasted baby carrots, and balsamic red wine gastrique.
“In St. Louis, where the growing season lasts six months, creating a bona fide farm-to-table restaurant takes determination and creativity,” said George Mahe, dining editor at St. Louis Magazine. “Leave it to chef Gerard Craft, the city’s first James Beard Award winner, to lead the fray. At his nationally acclaimed flagship Niche, he practices what he calls ‘extreme regionalism,’ where all ingredients are sourced from within 150 miles of the city.” Indeed, while there are myriad restaurants that have joined Missouri’s Green Dining Alliance (Milque Toast Bar, Nathalie’s, and Pi Pizzeria among them), Niche’s imaginative menu and celebration of sustainably minded fare—“we are more in awe of a carrot or potato, grown by one of our trusted farmers, than we are by a white truffle flown in from Italy” make it a winner.
Montana: Local Kitchen
“Because we have a long-standing tradition of hunting, fishing, farming, and ranching, and take great pride in self-reliance, a high percentage of Montanans have naturally eaten farm to table for generations,” said Lynn Donaldson, Montana-based photographer and author of The Last Best Plates. Yet Travis Stimpson’s Billings-based Local Kitchen is among a new breed of restaurants in Big Sky country being outspoken about the sustainable food movement. “The beef comes from Stimpson’s family ranch; even the elm that crackles in the open kitchen’s wood-fired oven is harvested from the eastern Montana homestead,” added Donaldson, who recommends the handmade pumpkin ravioli.
Nebraska: The Grey Plume
The first three-star Sustainabuild Certified Green Restaurant in the country, The Grey Plume opened in Omaha five years ago with a whole-heartedly eco operation, from the repurposed building materials to the LED lighting, solar-powered hand sinks, composting program, and locally sourced menu. Order the raw wagyu beef collar and the duck fat donut with ice cream.
“In Las Vegas, agriculture is difficult in a desert with three inches of yearly rainfall,” said John Curtas of Eating Las Vegas. “Being farm-to-table means utilizing some Nevada products and a lot of produce from smaller California farms.” Curtas recommends Carnevino, Mario Batali's steakhouse on the strip, where you can enjoy a perfectly cooked, 90-day dry-aged ribeye steak just a little bit more knowing the meat is free-range and grass-fed, and all menu ingredients are sourced within 300 miles. Behind the scenes, the restaurant implements many mindful practices such as using energy efficient appliances, non-toxic ink, green seal certified hand soap, composting, and converting grease into biodiesel.
New Hampshire: Moxy
Chef Matt Louis’ background reads like a recipe for success: Culinary Institute of America, Bouchon, The French Laundry, Per Se. So it’s no wonder his restaurant Moxy is so wildly beloved in Portsmouth and throughout the state. Locals like Susan Laughlin, New Hampshire Magazine’s food editor, admire the clever presentations and serious farm-to-table philosophy. That, and travel-worthy tapas like the lacquered pork belly bites with pears and roasted pearl onions, and the DIY Johnny Cake Community platter of cornmeal pancakes, brown sugared pork shoulder, crispy onion, and pickled cucumbers. Don’t leave without the whoopie pie sliders.
New Jersey: Elements
New Jersey’s farm-to-table scene is gaining national recognition thanks to places like Elements in Princeton, Razza in Jersey City, and newcomers like Brick Farm Tavern in Hopewell and 12 Farms in Hightstown. At Chef Scott Anderson’s Elements restaurant, whether you opt for the four-course tasting menu, the nine-course chef’s tasting menu or go à la carte, you’ll come away with memorable flavors and a whole new appreciation for what it means to eat well. “His modernist cuisine relies on local farms for produce as well as the foraging and herb growing his own team does,” said Pat Tanner of Dine with Pat. “But he also works with local aquaculturists and animal farmers to custom-raise product for him.”
New Mexico: La Merienda
At Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm, surrounded by the bucolic, adobe-filled Albuquerque, La Merienda is a green oasis that pays homage to the pioneering farm-to-table roots of pueblo cuisine. Everything on the menu—from the micro greens to the bacon to the honey and jujubes—is sourced on-site. Whether you come for breakfast or dinner, items like the pound cake French toast and onion soup will be accompanied by beautiful lavender fields, patrolling peacocks, and charming 1930s dairy-style buildings.