Mixed Greens Blog

Mixed Greens Blog
Living Sustainably in the Pacific Northwest


Eating Out, Staying Green


I’ve wondered about small neighborhood restaurants and if many of them have local and sustainable in mind. If my own neighborhood is any indication they do. Sustainability is our 21st century zeitgeist. When we eat out, sushi for example, we want to know that the fish we’re consuming won’t be obliterated in a decade because we’re loving it into extinction; we’d kind of like to know where the meat or chicken or lettuce come from too, and at what cost to the environment; whether the producers of the food are receiving a fair wage. Fresh, seasonal, local and often organic, it’s the way thoughtful restaurateurs and chefs are doing it these days. They get it that customers want to know where food comes from. Sustainability is chic. Sounds ugly, but this is meant in a good way. Chic can be haughty and pretentious, or soulful and timely.

counter at sushi restaurant

sushi restaurant

In my Seattle neighborhood there are some soulful standouts, among them Elliott Bay Brewery, Mashiko, and Fresh Bistro. At a time when others were debating about jumping on the sustainability bandwagon, Elliott Bay Brewery was driving the bandwagon. Planning menus around food they could purchase locally, seasonally and sustainably whenever possible, and pioneering a model restaurant composting practice, they’ve been leading the way for years now. When I wrote about Elliott Bay Brew Pub two years ago they were already well on their way. A hot spot, always packed, they serve great bistro food – and beer! – reasonably priced, and they’re doing it sustainably.

Another great spot for eating out and staying green, Fresh Bistro. “Our staff strives to deliver the highest level of service to every guest and is equally committed to serving the environment and community.  Along with sourcing ingredients from local producers and farmers, we continuously seek new ways to use area suppliers, assisting the economy and agriculture community. We are dedicated to reducing our environmental footprint with sustainable business practices, including recycling, composting, and reuse of products.” A meal at Fresh Bistro is a PNW seasonal dining experience. Spring Hill is another neighborhood standout, committed to using local, seasonal produce, fish and meat.

Mashiko is an example of an owner/chef who’s doing his part. BIG TIME. As of August 2009 Mashiko became Seattle’s first fully sustainable seafood bar. Recently we had sushi there. A person can feel good about going to a place like this: the food is outstanding, there’s always a big, happy crowd, a good vibe, and Chef Hajime is mindful of the fish he serves.

“Sustainable seafood is defined by several factors, and I carefully investigate our distributors. We use seafood caught in a responsible manner with minimal bycatch. With farmed seafood, we choose from antibiotic-free farms that feed properly and do not harm surrounding waters. We will not use any seafood that has dangerously low populations due to overfishing.” Hajime

It’s common commercial fishing practice these days, globally, to haul in many times more fish than you need or will keep in order to capture only the consumer-demanded species you want. The others are thrown back overboard, already dead or dying. Bycatch, and 80-90% is the ballpark number for shrimping.  Jonathan Saffron Foer, in his book Eating Animals, says that we’re at war with fish.

“Technologies of war have literally and systematically been applied to fishing. Radar, echo sounders (once used to locate enemy submarines), navy-developed electronic navigation systems, and, in the last decade of the twentieth century, satellite-based GPS give fishers unprecedented abilities to identify and return to fish hot spots. Satellite-generated images of ocean temperatures are used to identify fish schools.”

Gone fishin’ has a whole new 21st century meaning. Another reason to appreciate our Loki Fish (Our Own Fish Story). They’re fishing commercially and with conscience.  Check out Loki’s website and buy Loki fresh and smoked salmon at Farmer’s Markets and some grocery stores in town.

seafood watch

You know that a seafood restaurant is committed when you receive the bill and it’s accompanied by a tiny version of Monterey Bay’s Seafood Watch pamphlet. This practice lets Mashiko customers know that chef/owner Hajime is paying attention, and it’s also a gentle reminder about how we might proceed in our own kitchens.

On I-5 south through Oregon (not exactly my immediate neighborhood, I admit) there’s Burgerville. If you’ve never stopped at a Burgerville, you gotta. A fast food joint that’s serving local, seasonal and sustainable.

We’d like to compile a list of restaurants for our Mixed Greens site that have sustainability at their heart and soul, and those that are getting there. Let us know, please, what belongs on that list. Such lists have been compiled, but we’d like to make our own, to build it personally from our own experiences and yours. Eating out sustainably is possible at restaurants like Elliott Bay Brewery, Mashiko’s, Fresh Bistro, Spring Hill (and I-5’s Burgerville) – to name a few. What  are some other neighborhood spots that attend to local/seasonal? Places where we eat well and at the same time send a message that says yes, this is what we want. origami dollars

Sustainable means good fortune for all of us, especially for the planet.

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1 Responses »

  1. I can’t wait to try out the Found & Foraged folks’ new restaurant on Eastlake called Nettletown. It looks like the ultimate in local and seasonal.