Zazzle Shop

Screen printing

Thursday, September 23, 2010

10 Great New Green Restaurants in the U.S.

by Jeff Kart, Bay City, Michigan

photo cups coffee green restaurant association 
Photo via CUPS blog

The restaurant business can be an extremely wasteful one -- and those times when you don't have time to cook or just feel like someone else's cooking, can have a serious impact on your footprint. Luckily the foodies have options, with more and more sustainable restaurants springing up around the world. With this in mind, we've culled 10 great new restaurants in the U.S., with help from the extensive Green Restaurant Association database and reviews from both diners and other publications. Each restaurant -- offering a variety of cuisine -- has been in operation for less than a year.

Restaurants can accumulate points in seven categories to earn a green badge from the Green Restaurant Association:

  • Chemical and Pollution Reduction
  • Water Efficiency
  • Waste Reduction and Recycling
  • Sustainable Furnishings and Building Materials
  • Sustainable Food
  • Energy, and Disposables.

Based on the number of points earned, restaurants are designated as a 2-Star (at least 100 points) or a 3-Star (at least 175 points) Certified Green Restaurant.

1. CUPS 3-star (194.42 points)

Location: La Jolla, California

Cuisine: Organic Cupcakes/Lounge

Review from Yelp:

I opted for the chocolate milk and my bf got the maple w/bacon...wowza!! I'm telling you..we could've skipped breakfast and just had some of those! It tasted like pancakes w/bacon and syrup..mmmm.. The cupcakes were very moist and generous w/the topping as well.


At CUPS, 30% of main dishes are vegetarian. They source certified organic items, boast many vegan options, and feature recycled flooring, countertops, and decor. They also recycle cardboard, paper, plastics, glass, and aluminum, and staff dines on 100% reusables.

2. Frontera Grill & Topolobampo (3-star certified, 175.02)

photo frontera topolobampo chicago 

Location: Chicago, Illinois

Cuisine: Mexican Fusion

Review from Frommers:

Owners Rick and Deann Bayless are widely credited with bringing authentic Mexican regional cuisine to a wider audience. Their restaurant is the place to taste real Mexican food, so don't show up expecting a plate of nachos with processed-cheese topping. The building actually houses two restaurants: the casual Frontera Grill (plain wood tables, terra-cotta tile floor) and the fine-dining Topolobampo (white linen tablecloths, a more hushed environment). At both restaurants, the focus is on fresh, organic ingredients supplied by local artisanal farmers.


Frontera features local and regionally-sourced certified organic foods and water is served only upon request. If every U.S. restaurant did this, the Green Restaurant Association tells us, we would save 26 million gallons of water per year.

The restaurant has a full-scale recycling program, composts pre-consumer and post-consumer waste and is conveniently located close to major public transportation outlets, helping reduce pollution. Plus, their vehicles use alternative fuels.

3. Adam's Sustainable Table (3-star certified, 253.29)

photo sustainable table fish oregon 

Location: Eugene, Oregon

Cuisine: Eclectic (they have a little bit of everything, from comfort food to Northwest specialties)

Review from Tripadvisor:

Adam's recently received the award as the first 3 Star Certified Green Restaurant in Oregon. This might lead you to think that the food is MERELY good for you, but Adam has maintained his reputation as a fine chef while sticking to his mission: sustainability and a zero carbon footprint. We go back regularly for the salads, the hormone free meat and fresh fish. Especially good last time was the "hand cut papardelle with braised lamb". We also love the bread, baked in the restaurant. Though the menu has changed from the original Adam's Place, the martinis have remained. And they are excellent.


At the Sustainable Table, to-go containers are made from 100% recycled (35% post-consumer recycled) content that's processed without chlorine; others are made from corn-based material. The restaurant's decor is made up of everything from refurbished chairs and tables to bamboo window treatments and lamps made from recycled cans.

4. Del Posto (3-star certified, 175.62)

photo del posto new york 

Location: New York, New York

Cuisine: Italian

Review from The New York Times:

Del Posto, which means "of the place," has ample ethnic grounding in Italy's fancier restaurants. It also has something more important: mostly terrific food, distinguished by first-rate ingredients (the arugula here makes arugula at many other restaurants seem like iceberg in drag), clear flavors and, more often than not, superior cooking.


Del Posto sources sustainable seafood; uses low-flow sink aerators, which help conserve water; and installed compact fluorescent lamps and occupancy sensors in the restrooms and walk-in cooler. They also buy free-range and hormone-free meats.

A full-scale recycling and composting program includes grease recycling, and the interior features recycled materials including tables made from salvaged wood.

5. Uncommon Ground (3-star certified, 228.16)

photo rooftop garden uncommon ground 

Location: Chicago

Cuisine: American Comfort Food

Review from Frommers:

When you're looking for refuge from Cubs game days and party nights in Wrigleyville, Uncommon Ground offers a dose of laid-back, vaguely bohemian civility. Just off busy Clark Street, the cafe has a fireplace in winter (when the cafe's bowl -- yes, bowl -- of hot chocolate is a sight for cold eyes) and a spacious sidewalk operation in more temperate months.


Uncommon Ground serves local food, and uses reclaimed wood in its decor and furniture. The uniforms are even made from organic cotton, and there's a full-scale recycling and composting program.

6. Comb Ridge Coffee (3-star certified, 208.5)

photo comb ridge coffee utah 

Location: Bluff, Utah

Cuisine: Coffee Shop

Review from Tripadvisor:

In a land where people get confused when you try to explain what being vegetarian means, Comb Ridge Coffee is a king among restaurants. My soy chai latte was so awesome, I went back for another and the food is excellent. Great atmosphere; my fiancee and I sat on comfy sofas and read magazines for awhile before continuing our journey. I'm so glad this place exists!


Comb Ridge serves only organic food and fair-trade coffee. In addition, kitchen equipment is energy efficient; glassware and dishes are reusable; and the restaurant runs a full-scale recycling and compost program.

7. Michael & Ping's Modern Chinese Take-Out (2-star certified, 134.5)

photo michael pings ny take out 

Location: Brooklyn, New York

Cuisine: Chinese Fusion

Review from Metromix New York:

You'll find standards like beef and broccoli, kung pao chicken and steamed pork dumplings, but unorthodox (and un-Chinese) additions like banh mi and pad thai announce that this isn't your typical old-school delivery joint.


Michael & Ping's offers vegan and vegetarian food options and has installed energy efficient dish and ice machines, hand dryers, and occupancy sensors.

8. Muir Woods Trading Co. ( 3-star certified, 175.28)

photo muir woods trading co california 

Location: Mill Valley, California

Cuisine: Healthy American

Review from Yelp:

All the ingredients were locally made and you can taste the goodness. I had the Tyler recommended special of grilled cheese and tomato soup. Bread - it's like a 9 grain. Cheese - mix was 2-3 different cheeses - white cheese, which is yum not sure which type, but it's tasty. Tomato soup is light and not too heavy. Totally recommend it.


Muir Woods purchases local food, sourced from less than 100 miles away; certified organic food; sustainably sourced seafood; hormone-free meat; and 30% of their main dishes are vegetarian. They also have salvaged booths and tables, and recycled countertops.

9. Seaglass Restaurant & Lounge (2-star certified, 131.1)

photo seaglass restaurant massachusetts 
Credit: Akuppa

Location: Salisbury, Massachusetts

Cuisine: American Seafood

User review from Zagat:

Went for drinks & ap on a week night (wed) and as everyone confirms the view is awesome, esp if you can sit by the window. Had the signature martini with the blue curacao which was delicious, my wife got a margarita, I think it was yummy. We split the ahi tuna ap, which was perfect. We were so impressed with the view we reserved a window table for a saturday night for her b-day. Hope the dinner is as good as the ap and the view.


Seaglass features locally sourced food from less than 100 miles away and recycles cardboard, plastics, glass, and aluminum. The business vehicles are fueled by waste vegetable oil, and paper products are recycled. And can you go wrong with a view that has been called breath-taking?

10. Sopraffina Marketcaffè (2-star certified, 124.7)

photo sopraffina chicago

Location: Chicago

Cuisine: Italian

Review from Centerstage Chicago:

The menu at the cafe includes thin crust pizzas, pizza-stuffed peppers, an extensive selection of salads (such as the Hilltop with candied walnuts, fresh pears, dried cranberries and gorgnozola), gourmet sandwiches with roast beef, tuna and turkey served on the signature flatbread, lasagna and homemade soup.


With several locations in the Windy City, Sopraffina offers several vegan and vegetarian purchases; 30% of their main dishes are vegetarian. There's also a reusable mug program and all deliveries are made by foot or bicycle.