Chicago continues to rise to the top of foodies’ favorite city lists for many good reasons. Central to the urban gardening movement, the Windy City draws from local farms in Illinois, buIndiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Some restauranteurs are getting their green thumb going in rooftop gardens just above their restaurants. Here are some of the heroes of farm to table dining in Chicago.
North Pond sources directly from nearly twenty different farms, most of which are located in the Midwest. Recent James Beard “Best Chef: Great Lakes” nominee Bruce Sherman supports local farmers as much as possible and focuses on capturing ingredients in season and at the height of their flavor. With transparency about the road from farm to table at the top of his list, Sherman crafts some extraordinary menus including a five course seasonal tasting service with stylish, minimally described dishes such as “Escolar, Olive” (Florida escolar escabeche, black and picholine olives, escabeche sorbet, herbed crumbs). Located at the edge of a pond in the middle of Lincoln Park (the actual park, that is), North Pond scores high with just about anyone.
North Center’s Browntrout offers fine dining in a casual setting with a focus on sustainability and agro-consciousness. Check their website for an up-to-date menu as they change it frequently in response to the season, freshness, and availability of certain ingredients. All seafood comes from natural waters or sustainable farms, and all meat is grass-fed and free-range. Their rooftop garden provides the restaurant’s herbs for dishes like their Gunthorp Farms pork porterhouse with black beluga lentils, bacon, sage & rye bread pudding, braised cabbage, and bacon red wine jus. They also have extremely reasonable prices and regular weekly specials (Wednesday $35 three course tasting menu, Sunday 50% off all bottles of wine, and more).
With 116 environmental policies in place, Uncommon Ground was recently named the greenest restaurant in America by the Green Restaurant Association and the Green Chicago Restaurant Coalition. The fryer oil powers all restaurant-affiliated vehicles, solar energy heats their water, and they boast the first organic rooftop garden. Offering contemporary comfort cuisine, Uncommon Ground fills their menu with seasonal, local, and organic ingredients. The pumpkin ravioli are always in demand, and you should make sure to try the seasonal pizzas, salads, and egg scrambles. This is an extraordinarily beautiful venue for a party, not to mention their excellent drink menu (each Agripolitan ordered promises a tree planted). You’ll even encounter local live music in the evenings and art all day long.
If you’re curious about more of the city’s incredible green dining options, contact the Green Chicago Restaurant Coalition at www.buygreenchicago.org.