The sustainability of food is something that weighs heavily on the minds of many Berkeley residents when they choose where to dine out. The term refers to food produced in a way that does not diminish its finite supply. What is most important in defining the scope of sustainability is the degree to which foods come from the sun as opposed to being cultivated through the use of fossil fuels.
These are four Berkeley restaurants that live up to this definition. The food that is served actually comes from the idyllic farms of fresh produce and happy animals that we envisioned as children, and it benefits both hungry diners and the environment.
Located on University Avenue, Slow not only epitomizes the food movement that shares its name, but it’s also unafraid to let you know about it.
“Information on menus is a bigger thing in Berkeley than it is nationwide, but people are becoming more aware and want to know what they’re putting in their bodies,” said Slow chef Kyle Anderson.
A glance at a menu reveals the locations and manner of growth of the organic meats used in their dishes with meat coming from Niman Ranch and chicken from Mary’s Free Range Chicken.
“We try to find vendors who work for us that are reliable and meet our principles of no antibiotics,” Anderson said.
Cancun Tacqueria on Allston Way is another restaurant that seeks to maximize the power of the sun by bringing food directly from their farm to the plate. Originally opened in 1990, ownership bought a farm outside of Vacaville, Calif., to connect the Mexican dishes they serve to the land that spawned it.
General Manager Eric Saldana said that since the farm was purchased in 2000, he has seen an increase in consciousness about health and environmental standards from questioning customers.
“I definitely think that this model of farming and cooking is going to move nationwide,” said Salanda, who is planning an expansion of the restaurant to other cities. “I believe that it’s going to be a movement not just for Mexican food.”
Venus Restaurant on Shattuck Avenue doesn’t have its own farm, but it buys from local farms with sustainable practices.
“We look to build relationships with farmers from within 100 miles as well as with wild foragers of mushrooms and small herbs,” said Venus owner David Korman.
According to Korman, the restaurant receives its produce from 10 to 12 local partners who sell at the Berkeley Farmer’s Market. He said the vegetables used in the dishes bring out the stellar goodness of a Venus dish.
For a cafe experience that both your body and the rest of the planet will thank you for, Cafe Gratitude is one of the best Berkeley has to offer. According to General Manager Candice Youngman, the restaurant grows more than 70 different crops on their farm located near Vacaville, which accounts for 60 percent of all ingredients used at the cafe.
“When customers eat here, they can have a clear conscience and know that we’ve taken the high road in treating people and the earth in a respectable manner,” Youngman said.
As someone leading by example in the farm-to-table movement, Youngman said she hopes to see vendors place a similar emphasis on workers’ control and connection to the land.
“We consider ourselves a ‘Sacred Commerce Company,’ which means we don’t just look at profitability as a dollar sign but also what impact we have on our environment,” Youngman said.