Dining Out Sustainably in San Diego

Local Produce

In the last few decades, the importance of food-consciousness has grown exponentially throughout the US, especially in Southern California. San Diego is no exception to this trend, which unlike many other food crazes that have come and gone, eating organically isn't going anywhere. Many restaurants around the San Diego area have dedicated their entire menus to using ingredients that are local, sustainable and humanely-raised. These restaurants are supplied most ingredients by local farmers and ranchers to ensure the freshness of the food and the integrity of their mission: to make delicious, healthy cuisine that promotes sustainability. Sustainable agriculture refers to the method of growing and processing food that is not only healthy for humans, but also concerns the health of the environment upon which food production is dependent.

Five restaurants in particular stand out in the San Diego scene as having some of the tastiest menus using local produce and humanely-raised poultry and meats to promote sustainability in Southern California. Urban Solace, Whisknladle, Starlite, Kitchen 4140, and Terra American Bistro have all received numerous accolades throughout the years for their innovation and dedication to provide diners with only the best the area has to offer.

Urban Solace

Urban Solace has made San Diego Magazine's "Best of" Issue four years in a row with titles including, "Best American Food," "Best Sunday Brunch," and "Best Neighborhood Restaurant." It is without a doubt that Executive Chef and Co-Founder of the restaurant, Matt Gordon, plays a huge role in the abundance of praises received. Chef Gordon not only strives to provide a comfort-food menu using high quality ingredients, but he believes in doing things ethically. In an interview with Friends Eat Blog, he states, "We feature a modern take on classic American dishes as well as feature a menu based completely on sustainable seafood, responsibly raised meats, and seasonal items in a scratch kitchen."

This North Park gem located on "Restaurant Row," uses meats that are naturally produced, hormone and antibiotic free. Their tasty seafood dishes feature selections adhering to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch List "best choice" items. By doing so, Urban Solace purchases seafood that is farmed or fished in ways that do not harm the environment and promote the conservation of certain endangered species. In their commitment to help local farms, Chef Gordon uses the company Specialty Produce to provide organic veggies; a gesture that makes a world of difference. The delectable eggs used at this restaurant come from a family owned and operated farm in Ramona, CA, Eben-Haezer Poultry Ranch. The freshness of the farm-to-table taste is perhaps what has earned their Sunday Bluegrass Brunch the status it has obtained. And as for their drink menu, Chef Gordon has stated, "We hand make all of our flavored syrups for our cocktail list and have a large selection of either sustainable, organic or bio-dynamic West Coast produced wines on our list," and all their drinks are made without the use of high fructose corn syrup.

Whisknladle

When Chef Ryan Johnston and Arturo Kassel opened the doors of Whisknladle in 2008, they had one mission in mind, "to bring good food, good wine, and great people together." With most items on the menu made from scratch daily, Whisknladle keeps things fresh. Their seasonal, ever-changing dishes are creations of Chef Johnston's creativity inspired by the selections at local farms.

Crow Pass Farms, located in Southern California's Wine Country, has been owned and operated by David and Tina Barnes since 1991. In working with other local farmers, Crow Pass is able to provide an assorted variety of produce year round, giving Whisknladle only the best to work with. This restaurant also uses produce from Chino Farms in North County to bring crisp flavors into the mix. Chef Johnston, in an interview with City's Best said, "I don't plan my menus ahead, I just go to the farms and see what's there." In doing so, Whisknladle has made its mark in La Jolla as a gourmet bistro with a home-style feel.

Starlite

When it comes to running a sustainable kitchen, Chef Marguerite Grifka does it flawlessly. Heading the neighborhood hot spot of Mission Hills, Starlite, her menu features some of the finest ingredients found in Southern California. The delicious, hand-made cuisine changes on a daily basis to accommodate the seasonality and availability of local ingredients.

Known for shopping at the Little Italy's Farmer's Market on Saturdays, it is here that Chef Grifka purchases most of the produce, nuts, and meats for her menu. In an interview with Edible San Diego she says she gathers fruits and veggies from Sage Mountain Farm, Schaner Farm, Loan Oak Ranch and meats from Da-Le Ranch. She also uses, "Brandt beef, Jidori chickens and heritage pork from Vande Rose Farms." Even the seafood comes from the sustainable and humane providers at Better Half Shelf. Perhaps the only non-local ingredients on the menu are the cheeses as Chef Grifka has said, "The world has too much good cheese to limit it."

Kitchen 4140

Kitchen 4140's menu is practically 100% local and sustainable thanks to Chef Kurt Metzger's idea that, "each season has its roster of flavors, textures, and even colors." With its onsite organic garden providing many of the ingredients on the menu, Kitchen 4140 is dedicated to an improved interest in agricultural ecosystems.

Making dishes that depend entirely on what is in season and at its peak, Chef Kurt's menu relies on the bounty of local produce, hand-made cheese and dairy and free-range livestock. Any products not found in the restaurant's prolific garden are supplied by small farms, ranches and gardens in the San Diego area. This San Diego fine dining establishment provides all patrons the opportunity to bite into freshly made food with an eclectic mix of Italian, French and Mexican flavors, all local and sustainable.

Terra American Bistro

Chef and Owner of the American Bistro Jeff Rossman is so committed to using ingredients that support local and sustainable agriculture, his motto is "from the farm to your table." His promise does not fall short as his Terra menus are filled with fresh, seasonal items-- even the drink menu features fruit and herb-infused vodkas made in-house, unique locally crafted beers, and an extensive wine list of mostly California wines. They also offer gluten-free and vegetarian options to serve a vast number of diners.

Chef Rossman supplies his kitchen with produce from San Diego's own Suzie's Farm bringing the crisp, tasty flavors for the chef's innovative American cuisine. The top of Terra's menus state, "We support local food purveyors and source all of our ingredients carefully, with a commitment to buy all products that are cultivated sustainably and humanely." By letting their customers know of their pledge to provide only the freshest sustainable and humane food, Terra's comfortable ambiance and down-to-earth setting meets the standard for anyone's dining needs.

As the awareness of living sustainably increases, restaurants in San Diego are following the trend by providing diners with fresh, locally grown cuisine that promotes a healthy lifestyle. By offering alternatives to bland and unwholesome food, restaurants like Kitchen 4140, Whisknladle, Terra, Urban Solace, and Starlite are the frontrunners of the area's organic dining scene.

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