The Publican (Photo: Aysegul D. Stanford/The Publican)
Farm-to-fork. Locally sourced. Sustainable. Trendy buzzwords? Maybe. But many Chicago restaurants have been keeping up with this trend for a while, using locally grown produce that is often seasonal and organic. Here are four Chicago eateries serving up more than just lip service:
Spring Tartine at The Bristol (Photo: Anjali Pinto/The Bristol)
The Bristol, in Bucktown, lists the local farms it works with right on the menu — all just around the corner in Illinois, Indiana and Michigan.
“Much of who we are at The Bristol revolves around the practice of whole animal butchery — and utilizing every bit,” says Sean Pharr, the executive chef. “It’s a practice that pushes me to be creative and respectful to the animal. Sourcing from Catalpa Grove ensures that the hogs are humanly raised and slaughtered. It’s only up to me not to screw it up once it arrives!”
Farm Chicken at The Publican (Photo: Aysegul D. Stanford/The Publican)
Locals flock to this old-school Euro beer hall to try the homemade charcuterie and oysters, not to mention the hundreds of brews on offer. The Publican’s popularity can be attributed to one thing: damn good food, done right.
“We always say it’s the farmers that make us look good,” says Chef de Cuisine Cosmo Goss.
All meat here is butchered in-house, and every entry on their rotating menu lists the farm source. Most of the rustic dishes are from nearby — the popular farm chicken is from Slagel Family Farm in Fairbury, Ill. and the beef heart tartare is from cows at Marcotte Farm in Kankakee, Ill.
Nana (Photo: Courtesy Nana)
Take a little trip down to Bridgeport to sample this neighborhood gem. Named after the owner’s mother (a certified pastry chef who happens to make all the desserts), Nana sources ingredients from over 30 local farms, orchards and artisan craftsmen.
“When food is sourced locally, it is picked at the peak of freshness —and our guests can taste that difference,” says owner Omar Solis. “All of the family farms we work with refrain from using any chemicals or pesticides, and don’t use any antibiotics or hormones. Triple S Farms and Slagel also process their meats humanely, which is just as important to us.”
For brunch, dive into one of their signature dishes, the Nanadict, a Latin take on eggs Benedict. In place of English muffins, Solis uses papusas, flat disks made with corn and cheese. They pile house made chorizo (nana’s recipe; pork sourced from Slagel Family Farm in Illinois), poached eggs (also from Slagel) and their poblano cream sauce.
For nearly three decades, Rick Bayless put out some of the most kickass Mexican food in Chicago — all while championing local food production and urban agriculture. His restaurants work with a number of regional growers, and he supports the work of small Midwest farms through his own foundation. (Frontera Farmer awards grants to farmers each year for capital improvements to their family farms.) Plus, it doesn’t get much more local than Bayless’s own rooftop garden right atop his mega-successful adjoining restaurants: Frontera Grill, Topolobampo and Xoco.