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3p Weekend: The Foodie's Travel Guide to the World's Most Sustainable Restaurants

Mary Mazzoni headshotWords by Mary Mazzoni
Leadership & Transparency
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With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

Long gone are the days when sustainable food equates to uninspired veggies stews and mushy ratatouille. These days, chefs and restauranteurs looking to lighten their impact on the environment are serving up everything from classic comfort foods to gastronomic feats with a side of sustainability.

For those die-hard foodies who couldn't dream of traveling without hitting up all the locally-esteemed eateries, this week we pulled together a travel guide featuring sustainable restaurants from all over the world. Bon appétit!

1. Relae: Copenhagen, Denmark

Winner of the 2015 Sustainable Restaurant Award on the annual 50 Best Restaurants list, Relae combines organic, local and fairly-traded ingredients with an innovative menu and a no-frills atmosphere.

Co-owned by director Kim Rossen and chef Christian Puglisi, the restaurant was founded in 2010 with sustainability at its core. The menu rotates nightly, and Chef Puglisi prides himself on the element of surprise for the gastronomic experience he curates at Relae.

The Michelin-starred restaurant in the Nørrebro district of Copenhagen matches its menu with an impressive list of environmentally-friendly practices: On any given night 90 to 100 percent of the ingredients served are certified organic; the chairs and tables are recycled; light fixtures are LED; the chef cooks with induction methods; and local deliveries are collected by bike.

2. Azurmendi: Larrabetzu, Spain


Founded in 1976, this gorgeous restaurant in Northern Spain has been sustainable from the start.

The restaurant itself is a stunning feat of sustainable architecture. Reflecting the Basque aesthetic, the building also integrates photovoltaic solar panels and a geothermic system to produce electricity and harvests rainwater to cover a number of operations. Operators strived to make the space "bioclimatic," and blended its design as seamlessly into the surrounding environment as possible.

As for the food, three-time Michelin star winning Basque chef Eneko Atxa emphasizes local produce and makes it a point to revive lost varieties of local vegetables. The menu features eggs from the restaurant's own hens, cooked from the inside and layered with truffles, as well as mouth-watering veggie dishes like frozen olive and vermouth and artichoke with pesto.

3. Tilth: Seattle, Washington


It makes sense that Seattle would top the list for sustainable eats, and executive chef and owner, Maria Hines, makes her home city proud with this classic American restaurant with an eco twist.

Hines, a James Beard Award winner and "Iron Chef" contestant, makes sure everything at Tilth is as sustainable as possible -- from soy crayons for the kids to organic feminine products in the ladies room. She is also active in the community, fundraising and lending support to the Fresh Bucks program -- a nutrition incentive program that doubles the purchasing power for low-income Seattle residents who use their federal food stamp benefits at farmers markets.

As for the food, Hines uses 95 percent organic ingredients -- local when possible -- for all of her delightful dishes. When an ingredient isn't available organically, she often makes it herself, including homemade butter, ketchup and vinegar, the Huffington Post reports. Menu items range from watermelon carpaccio and house-made tagliatelle to Skagit River Ranch pork belly and mini duck burgers. And be sure to check out Hines' other two restaurants on your visit to Seattle.

4. Uncommon Ground: Chicago, Illinois

Named the Greenest Restaurant in the World by the Green Restaurant Association in 2013, Uncommon Ground brings local sourcing to the next level. Above the restaurant, situated in the Lakeview/Wrigleyville neighborhood of Chicago, sits America's first certified organic rooftop farm -- where co-owners Helen and Michael Cameron source a bounty of ingredients. The farm even includes its own beehive.

The menu features classics like vegetarian chili and huevos rancheros and intriguing additions like 'peaches and pork candy' and seasonal gnocchi. The beer list is dominated by GreenStar Brewing, the first certified organic brewery in Illinois, which donates 5 percent of its proceeds to local nonprofits.

5. Rub & Stub: Copenhagen, Demark

Another win for Copenhagen, critically acclaimed restaurant Rub & Stub takes sustainability to new heights. The first restaurant of its kind in Europe, Rub & Stub is nonprofit, is part of the Danish Refugee Council and is solely staffed by volunteers. But that's not all: The main ingredient in its delectable dishes is leftovers.

The eatery receives donated surplus food from farmers, food cooperatives, local food stores and bakeries, and Food Bank Copenhagen. In its first year and a half of existence, Rub & Stub served around 3.5 tons of food that would otherwise have gone to waste. Food donations tend to be "ugly" produce -- fruits and veggies that are the wrong size, shape or color -- as well as items too close to their "best before" dates.

The restaurant's menu rotates nightly, with an emphasis placed on making sure there's something for everyone. Each nightly menu features a vegetarian option, as well as a variety of local meats. Portion sizes are kept reasonable to reduce food waste, but if you're still hungry, you can ask for a second helping -- for free.

6. The Captain's Galley: Scrabster, Scotland, U.K.

Located in Scrabster, a small fishing town on the north coast of the Highlands in Scotland, The Captain's Galley serves only fresh, local and seasonal seafood.

Jim Cowie, who co-owns the restaurant with his wife Mary, makes daily trips to the Scrabster fish market and hand-selects a catch of the day that's of the highest quality, is wild-caught locally using sustainable methods and is from non-pressure stock species. All produce is sourced within a 50-mile radius of the restaurant.

As you may guess, the menu rotates daily. Past favorites have included Fruit de Mer (which features local lobster, hand-dived scallops and Langoustines) and the day's market fish in a classic bouillabaisse with saffron potatoes and rouille.

7. Rosemary's: New York, New York

For a taste of classic New York City Italian comfort food with an eco twist, check out Rosemary's in Greenwich Village. Created by Carlos Suarez, the owner of two other popular NYC eateries, Bobo and Claudette, Rosemary's sources a good portion of its ingredients from its very own rooftop farm (check out the webcam livefeed here), as well as a school garden and community garden in the Village and another rooftop farm in Brooklyn.

The menu includes Tuscan classics like tasty focaccia, cavatelli with heirloom tomatoes, basil and parmesan, and salmon with spring garlic puree, dandelion greens and smoked almonds.

8. Narisawa: Tokyo, Japan

Chef Yoshihiro Narisawa embraces nature and biomimicry in the way he operates his two-time Michelin starred restaurant. He rotates his menu seasonally to highlight the best Japanese ingredients. Using French culinary techniques, he models "the smell, aspect and inner texture" of his dishes after the natural landscapes from which the ingredients came.

If you decide to visit Narisawa, be sure to arrive hungry. Its tasting menu features 10 seasonal items, listed only by ingredient and concept, and invites diners to enjoy "with an open mind."

9. Riverford at The Duke of Cambridge: London, England, U.K.

The Duke of Cambridge, London's first -- and still only -- certified organic gastropub, recently teamed up with Riverford, a hugely successful family-run farm known for its organic veg box scheme and farm shops.

The Duke’s founder, Geetie Singh, married Guy Watson, the man behind Riverford, in June 2014, so the union of the business was a natural fit. The restaurant is 100 percent organic, including produce, meats and beverages, and prides itself on "ensuring a fair deal for all" -- suppliers, staff, customers and the planet.

The pub's bar features organic beer, wine and spirits from local independent sources. Its menus are field-to-plate and rotate daily. Tonight's dinner menu includes roast cherry tomato and chili soup with yogurt, beef and pork meatballs over polenta, and falafel with herbed quinoa and sautéed savoy cabbage.

10. Woodberry Kitchen: Baltimore, Maryland

Woodberry Kitchen prides itself on its relationship to the Chesapeake Bay, which provides a bounty of fresh and local seafood for its menu. The restaurant features seasonal catches from the Bay, regularly supports conservation efforts, and even saves and returns oyster shells as part of an effort to regenerate oyster beds.

The restaurant's menu boasts fresh local fare that's way beyond seafood. You'll find Maryland classics like crab and catfish -- accented with local veggies like lima beans, corn and spicy peppers -- as well as steak, lamb, brisket and vegetarian options served up in American style with an attitude.

Staff Pick -- The Hall: San Francisco, California

The local watering hole of TriplePundit's San Francisco-based team, The Hall is a temporary food and drink venue in San Francisco's Mid Market neighborhood, featuring six independent local food vendors and a great bar scene.

Enjoy local, approachable food for as little as $5 a plate in a communal atmosphere that's anything but pretentious. Or just stop by for an after-work happy hour served up with local drinks.

Image and video credits: 1) Rosemary's via Facebook 2) VisitDenmark 3) Azurmendi 4) Tilth via Facebook 5) Uncommon Ground 6) Rub & Stub 7) The Captain's Galley 8) Rosemary's via Facebook 9) Narisawa 10) Riverford at The Duke of Cambridge 11) Woodberry Kitchen 12) The Hall

Mary Mazzoni headshotMary Mazzoni

Mary Mazzoni, Senior Editor, has written for TriplePundit since 2013. She is also Managing Editor of CR Magazine and the Editor of 3p’s Sponsored Series. Mazzoni’s recent work can be found in Conscious CompanyAlterNet and VICE’s Motherboard. She is based in Philadelphia, PA.

Read more stories by Mary Mazzoni