Once a trend, “farm-to-table” is now virtually expected at most restaurants. But as our awareness of sourcing and sustainability grows, just being farm-to-table is not enough. Many D.C. restaurants have risen to meet the challenge, and are taking the concepts of sustainability, biodynamic agriculture, local farming and environmental friendliness to the next level.
Here are six spots that have gone above and beyond in being eco-friendly and sustainable so that your taste buds and the environment can both be happy.
If you’ve had one of their delicious lobster rolls (or really any of their food), you know that their seafood is fresh and top quality. What you probably don’t know is that they recently secured B Corp certification, which is a huge deal. B Corps are for-profit companies that are certified to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. There are only about 2000 certified B corporations in the world -- let that sink in. Luke’s not only adheres to all the strict fishing rules of Maine, they also take their sustainability and traceability practices very seriously across all their seafood. Their vertically integrated food chain is one of the most sophisticated and transparent: procured at the dock, steamed, packed and then sent straight to the shacks remaining in pristine condition throughout the short journey, allowing the flavor to really shine through. So really there's no reason to feel guilty about enjoying that decadent, buttery goodness! Read all about their sustainability practices HERE.
There are many conflicting opinions about Founding Farmers and the group’s many restaurants in the area, but it’s indisputable that they have always been serious about sustainability, not just in their food and drink, but also their facilities, practices and culture. Take the fact that their flagship location was D.C.’s first LEED Gold Certified restaurant -- design elements include tables made from reclaimed wood, energy efficient HVAC systems and equipment, and more. They also compost their food waste, donate used grease for recycling into biofuel and use no bottled water. The Maryland and Tysons locations are both also LEED certified, and the group takes all efforts to stay accountable in maintaining their green mission.
As part of this luxury hotel’s environmental stewardship program, the Fairmont Washington in Georgetown is home to over 100,000 honeybees. The rooftop hives enhance the hotel’s culinary program providing over 150 pounds of honey annually. Honey harvested from the Fairmont’s Beehives is used in soups, salad dressings, pastries, ice cream, cocktails and in the hotel’s signature honey walnut bread. Fairmont's interior courtyard provides fresh herbs and edible flowers as well.
From the rooftop garden that yields produce for Urbana to garden composting and working with DC Public Schools on cooking programs using herbs and produce from Urbana’s garden surplus, Executive Chef Ethan Mckee and his team are always looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint. They recently started using a food waste technology called the Bio-Digester, which converts food scraps into grey wastewater that is then safely transported for treatment via existing drain systems; they are the first D.C. restaurant to use this new food waste technology. The chef’s table dinners, "Cicchetti at Urbana", are a great way to experience and taste the fresh, seasonal ingredients and learn more about their eco practices. In the summer, typically 100 percent of the vegetables and herbs on the Cicchetti menus are sourced from the roof.
This popular Bloomingdale café definitely has one of the best patios in the city, thanks to the natural vines, the herb and vegetable garden and twinkling lights. Big Bear Café features tons of local produce, dairy and meats, and has been promoting the Bloomingdale Farmers Market for years, which hosts a number of local produce and dairy farmers, meat purveyors and local food artisans. All coffee and tea are sourced from companies that adhere to sustainable practices, and the café focuses on stirring spoons and sugar jars instead of throwaway stirrers and sugar packets. Coffee and tea grounds are composted every day, and the compostable cups and utensils are delivered off site for composting. The beautiful space also maximizes the use of natural light and uses energy efficient means of regulating temperature.
At this cozy unnamed basement bar in Shaw (the 600 T is the address reference), the tables and flooring are both constructed by the owner using salvaged and refurbished woods. The menu focuses on small batch liquors, fresh juices and herbs, and there are no plastic straws. The reusable metal straws may not please every single customer, but given that plastic waste is hardly a new problem, this small change could have a huge impact.
For more info on restaurants embracing sustainability, check out our article on five Virginia restaurants taking the farm-to-table movement to the next level.