Step aside truffle oil and matcha. Sustainability is one of the trendiest things that diners are looking for in restaurants this year. Plus, the National Restaurant Association notes that more and more restaurants are focusing on eco-friendly strategies like energy-saving equipment, farm-to-table ingredients, and decreasing food waste.

Sustainability is becoming one of the most important elements that restaurants and customers alike value. So what are some examples of restaurants who are moving in a sustainable direction?  

Some of these sustainable restaurants illustrate a variety of thoughtful, environmentally-friendly establishments around the country. Check them out and maybe one day you can cross them off your restaurant bucket list for your next business lunch or dinner!

Watchman’s Seafood and Spirits, Atlanta, Georgia

Located in Krog Street Market, Watchman’s Seafood and Spirits focuses on “sustainable Southern seafood with an emphasis on Gulf seafood.” The restaurant opened in mid-2018, and it has received rave reviews. Their seasonally-inspired menu includes seafood classics like shrimp cocktail and garlic shrimp, but many have a local twist–like their red snapper tartare.

Of course, Watchman’s walks the walk of providing sustainable dishes. They update their sustainable oyster menu daily and note the origins of each offering. Peruse the oyster menu and you’ll know if your dish came from Alabama, Florida, the Carolinas, or somewhere else nearby.

The owners of Watchman’s are passionate about using fresh, local ingredients–not just because they taste better, but because they help the local economy. According to one of the Watchman’s owners, Bryan Rackley, “farmers have to move a lot of product to be successful, and if we can help them do that in any way, build a foundation, keep what they’re doing going, expand to other restaurants…we’re stoked we get to help out with that.”

The Watchman’s name is connected to local traditions, too. It was “inspired by the tradition of farmers and fisherman watching over their oysters from seed to harvest.

If you find yourself in Atlanta, do yourself (and the Gulf fishermen!) a favor. Get a table at Watchman’s for your next business lunch or dinner.  

Uncommon Ground, Chicago, Illinois

Chicago’s Uncommon Ground has broken ground on a lot of sustainable restaurant “firsts.” In 2007, the restaurant’s Edgewater neighborhood location launched the first Certified Organic Rooftop Farm in the U.S. The Lakeview neighborhood’s location proudly hosts Green Star Brewing, the first certified organic brewery in Illinois.

Uncommon Ground’s rooftop farm is sustainable inside and out. The deck itself was built from post-consumer recycled materials, the farm uses organic soil, and it’s home to organic plants that rotate seasonally. Plants include peppers, eggplants, lettuce, tomatoes, radishes, beets, okra, spinach, fennel, mustard, and shallots.

And that’s just the vegetables! The rooftop farm is also home to an herb garden–they grow rosemary, chives, tarragon, mint, basil, and beyond–and there are on-site beehives. The beehives provide pollination for plants in the garden and honey for the restaurant. That’s all pretty impressive–especially when you remember that Uncommon Ground is located in bustling Chicago.

Diners can enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of the rooftop farm’s labor in many dishes across the menu.

Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant and Boutik, Sister Bay, Wisconsin

Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant and Boutik is known for their Swedish meatballs, lingonberry sauce, and goats grazing on the roof. Yes, goats. On the roof.

The Wisconsin family-owned restaurant famously features goats that graze and nap on its sod roof. This celebrity sod roof helped earn the restaurant a Wisconsin Travel Green Program certification. The sod roof is a more unusual way of boosting a restaurant’s sustainability. It may not be practical for most restaurants, but it works for them. Sod roofs absorb rainwater, provide natural insulation, and serve as a perfect grazing ground the goats.

For almost seven decades, Al Johnson’s has been an important part of the Sister Bay community. They won Rubicon’s 2018 award for Best Small Business in America and donated all of the $10,000 prize money to the Wisconsin Humane Society.

Goats. A giving heart. Lingonberry milkshakes. What more could you want in a restaurant?

Editor’s Note:  “References made to businesses/companies in this post are not meant to convey affiliation or endorsement by Rubicon of those companies in any way.”

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