“We shape the world with what we eat, and that includes the food choices we make while dining out,” says Alberto Gonzalez, founder of GustOrganics, the first eatery in New York to be certified organic, and the first restaurant in the country to use 100% organic ingredients. “Organics aren’t just good for your health,” Gonzalez continues. “They’re good for future generations, since these foods do very little or no harm to the environment.”
In addition to embracing the benefits of organic foods, many of these restaurants also practice environmental responsibility. Some venues use renewable energy, while others donate leftover cooking oil for biodiesel conversion or serve food in biodegradable or compostable containers.
All-organic menus used to be a rarity, but now many restaurant chains are jumping on the bandwagon. At dinegreen.com, for instance, you’ll find a national listing of restaurants deemed “Certified Green” for their comprehensive recycling systems, shunning of Styrofoam and commitment to the Green Restaurant Association’s environmental guidelines (including the use of nontoxic cleaning products and green power). Here, KIWI reviews ten budget friendly chains that offer delicious organic fare for the whole family.
Locations: Southern California
Price range: $2.00 to $7.95 $2 is the cost for adding chicken to the salad, not the price for an actual meal
All beef served at this certified-green burger joint comes from the same source—a small farm that shuns antibiotics, hormones and animal byproducts. As an alternative to grass-fed beef patties, customers can tuck into grilled turkey burgers with fresh basil or veggie burgers with organic quinoa. Committed to composting and using locally grown foods, Burger Lounge pairs its burgers and chicken tenders with either French fries (cooked in 100% peanut oil) or salad in each kid’s meal. And to satisfy your sweet tooth, the energy-efficient restaurant bakes fresh red velvet and “Hostess-style” cupcakes every day.
Locations: Oregon, Washington, Vancouver
Price range: $1.19 to $11.99
This 39-location chain whips up gourmet-inspired goods such as an Oregon Harvest Burger (featuring organic black rice, sweet potatoes, anasazi beans, veggies and flax meal) [Harvest Burger and Spicy Anasazi Bean burger are two different things] and a Wild Smoked Salmon and Hazelnut Salad. The kids’ menu includes hormone-free milk and apple slices, and each children’s meal comes with an educational, eco-friendly “toy” such as a biodegradable garden pot and vegetable-seed packet. Burgerville selects locally sourced, seasonal ingredients for its salads, sides and desserts and uses only antibiotic-free beef. The restaurant offsets 100% of its electricity use by purchasing wind-power credits.
Locations: Throughout the U.S. and Canada
Price range: $0.90 to $7.60
Chipotle is the country’s largest chain restaurant to embrace organic; it stuffs its burritos, tacos and salads with chicken and beef raised without the use of growth hormones or antibiotics. All cheese and sour cream are free of the synthetic hormone rBGH, and 30% of Chipotle’s beans are organic. With more than 500 locations across the country, this Mexican eatery is now pursuing LEED certification for its partially wind-powered Gurnee, Illinois restaurant.
Locations: Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia
Price range: $1.49 to $5.99
Featuring patties for all manner of burger lovers (meat eaters, vegetarians and even vegans), Elevation uses organic, grass-fed, free-range beef and locally sourced ingredients whenever practical. After cooking its fries in heart-healthy olive oil, the restaurant donates its leftover grease for conversion into biodiesel. Elevation is currently pursuing LEED certification for each newly constructed restaurant. The chain also employs eco-friendly equipment, low- or no-VOC paints and finishes, and energy-efficient lighting.
Le Pain Quotidien
Locations: California (Los Angeles), Connecticut, New York, Washington, D.C.
Price range: $3.25 to $16.85
Bread breakers gather around Le Pain Quotidien’s reclaimed-wood communal tables to enjoy such foodie-approved fare as organic quinoa salad and ricotta tartines with organic acacia honey and mission figs. The menu also includes kid-friendly sandwiches, soups and an organic granola parfait. Le Pain Quotidien, which is in the process of becoming certified green by the Green Restaurant Association, uses nontoxic cleaning supplies, recycled paper products, water-conserving appliances and a composting system for food waste.
Locations: Throughout the U.S. and Canada
Price range: $3.87 to $6.49
This popular sandwich chain serves only antibiotic-free chicken in its salads, sandwiches and soups. Panera recently reworked its kids’ menu to include organic juice, yogurt and milk, as well as grilled cheese sandwiches made with organic cheese and a PB&J with natural peanut butter and whole-grain bread.
Locations: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington
Price range: $6.00 to $26.00
For a planet-friendly pie, call Pizza Fusion. In addition to offsetting 100% of its power consumption, the company uses hybrid cars for deliveries, gives customers discounts for returning their pizza boxes and hosts free monthly classes to educate kids about the importance of eating organic and recycling. Several of the 27 locations are LEED-certified, and all stores have a menu that’s 75% organic. The chain also boasts gluten-free, organic alternatives for crust, plus 17 organic toppings.