Restaurants turn to area farms

Restaurants turn to area farms

April 22nd, 2012 by Casey Phillips in Dish2012

Greenlife Grocery sells ribeye steaks from Sequatchie Cove Farm, one of 1,500 regional farms that area restaurants rely on for fresh ingredients.

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DINING LOCAL

The following downtown restaurants feature a selection of menu items created using ingredients harvested within 100 miles of Chattanooga:

• Greenlife Grocery, 301 Manufacturers Road

• Taco Mamacita, 109 N. Market St.

• Good Dog Restaurant, 34 Frazier Ave.

• The Blue Plate, 191 Chestnut St.

• Easy Bistro & Bar, 203 Broad St.

• 212 Market Restaurant, 212 Market St.

• Rembrandt's Coffee House / Back Inn Cafe / Bluff View Bakery / Tony's Pasta Shop & Trattoria, 411 E. Second St.

• Lupi's Pizza Pies, 406A Broad St.

• Country Life Vegetarian Restaurant, 428 Market St.

• Public House, 1110 Market St.

• Broad Street Grille and The Foundry Lounge, 1201 Broad St.

• Meeting Place / St. John's Restaurant, 1278 Market St.

• Urban Stack, 12 W. 12th St.

• Niko's, 1400 Cowart St.

• The Terminal BrewHouse, 6 E. 14th St.)

• Alleia, 25 E. Main St.

• Bluegrass Grill, 55 E. Main St.

• Niedlov's Breadworks, 215 E. Main St.

Source: www.GrowChattanooga.org

To truly experience Chattanooga, visitors shouldn't be content with riding the Incline Railway or goggling at the Tennessee Aquarium's undersea menagerie. Restaurateurs and proponents of local agriculture say they need to taste it, too.

Over the last several years, Chattanooga eateries have been turning more and more to the 1,500 farms within 100 miles of the city for their ingredients.

Buying local can be a difficult transition for chefs accustomed to the ease of ordering from a regional or national distributor, but many are starting to see value in getting the freshest ingredients and supporting local farmers, said Melanie Mayo, director of education and outreach at Crabtree Farms.

"I think they want better flavor, and I think they want super freshness, and I think they want to please their customers who are asking for local food more and more," Mayo said. "Consumers are looking for local produce more and more now because it keeps their food dollars here in our economy and keeps our family farms going."

Crabtree Farms is a functioning farm off 30th Street that also promotes local food through TasteBuds, a guide to eating local food. According to TasteBuds data, downtown has more than 20 restaurants that use locally grown ingredients.

Niedlov's Breadworks, a bakery and deli on East Main Street, has been using whole-wheat flour from Colquitt, Ga.-based Sonrisa Farms in its breakfast muffins for about two years.

Bakery owner John Sweet said it can be difficult to find locally grown varieties of the ingredients he needs, but he appreciates any opportunity to support local farmers. It's a philosophy shared by many of his peers, he said.

"I absolutely would be open to doing more of it," Sweet said. "I really feel like we have a unique community in that most us feel like we're on the same page. Everyone is really in support of using more local food."

From dusting dishes with mushrooms grown on Signal Mountain to braising fish delivered fresh from Pickett Trout Ranch in Whitwell, Susan and Sally Moses have been proponents of using local ingredients in their dishes since opening their restaurant, 212 Market, in 1982.

Sally Moses said the restaurant reaches out to more than 60 local farms to acquire everything from ham hocks to tomatoes.

In addition to keeping money in the local economy, buying locally allows restaurateurs to maintain greater oversight of the process farmers use, Susan Moses said.

"It's about the footprint and relationships with families and people and knowing that they're treating their animals well," she said. "We want to make sure that if we buy things, they were humanely raised.

"We like to make sure that we're supporting other people who are doing the right thing, too. It's a karma thing. Everything works out in the big picture, and you feel better about your business."