As with any diet, dining out can be difficult. Whittling down the few suitable options on the menu can be disheartening and frankly not very enjoyable. Going out to diner is supposed to be a fun experience, and thankfully restaurants are more frequently tailoring their menus to suit their wide variety of guests.
Many restaurants are beginning to understand the benefits of integrating local ingredients, whether it be just the eggs or trying to source the majority of ingredients locally. In Vermont, the golden arches of McDonald’s even took at shot at integrating local maple syrup into the menu.
The options of eating locally are not limited in Athens, Ohio. The small college town is the only city known to host a 30-Mile Meal initiative and is home to an array of locally ingredients coming from places such as the farmers market or Shagbark Seed & Mill Co. The variety of foods produced in the Athens area is rather impressive. As 30-Mile Meals project manager, Natalie Woodroofe, said, “One of the places where Athens is really ahead of a lot of communities is that it has a greater capacity to be self-sufficient around food.”
A locavore diet is far from tedious in Athens. With over six restaurants featuring local ingredients, even going out to eat is sustainable. Most of the restaurants are also adapting a more transparent approach to dining as well. Many restaurant websites are now often providing a page dedicated to divulging who provides the products being served.
One of the most popular restaurants in Athens is the worker-owned Casa Nueva & Cantina. The establishment takes pride in keeping it close to home. According to food philosophy located on their website, Casa tries to buy all products used within a 150-mile radius. “We believe in keeping our local economy solid, so we try to keep our dollars close to home.”
This includes items at the bar as well as the kitchen.
The benefits that Casa sees in local foods does not stop at reducing their carbon footprint or helping the local economy; it’s a quality issue as well. “We believe in farm-fresh food; much of what we serve was grown by our producers. Local food has unbeatable flavor, and it’s easy to trace.”
Casa may be at the forefront of the Athens food scene, but there are plenty of other restaurants doing an excellent job as well. The trio of businesses made up of Village Bakery, Della Zona and Catalyst Cafe are all very transparent with their food sources as well.
“Our work is part of a larger grassroots movement in American culture, that Alice Waters named the ‘delicious revolution.’ We look forward to a time when every town has its own special place to get fresh, homegrown, ecologically raised food,” reads the company’s website. “We feel blessed that our community is nurturing similar developments here in Southeast Ohio.”
In Athens, it isn’t acceptable to produce local food without accenting the meal with a local beverage. Although Jackie O’s Pub & Brewery also using local ingredients for their dishes, the uptown business is known for brewing a variety of their own ales.
Although not all beers are made with local ingredients, but the one and only Local Brown certainly is. “At Jackie O’s we love supporting local businesses, so often I am attempting to put many local products into my beers,” reads the website. “The Local Brown incorporates Black Walnuts from Integration Acres and Sticky Pete’s Maple Syrup.”
If wine is more appropriate for the occasion, Shade Winery provides the surrounding area with nine very affordable wines.
No matter what your taste buds are craving, there is a restaurant in Athens that can satisfy those desires while keeping it close to home. There is a reason Casa is a popular restaurant in town, the well crafted dishes bring together amazing local flavors that cannot be matched by any chain restaurant in the world.