Chicago’s Uncommon Ground is the poster child for green restaurants in the United States, and we aren’t the first to have noticed. In 2013, they received recognition from the Green Restaurant Association as the “World’s Greenest Restaurant.” Mayor Rahm Emanuel stated, “Uncommon Ground is a great example of what our city can do and what our country can do, use water and energy more efficiently, grow more sustainable food, while boasting the world’s most sustainable businesses.”
Not only does the restaurant divert 95 percent of its waste from the landfill through a robust composting and recycling program, but they also produce onsite renewable energy. The interior design is warm and earthy, donning wooden table tops from trees that came directly from ones downed in Jackson Park in Chicago.
Most notably, they built the first Certified Organic rooftop in the nation, which patrons can go up and visit. When dining there once, I was pleasantly surprised at how much time their rooftop farmer spent giving me the grand tour of his elevated bounty and explaining the building process. The rooftop is fit with solar panels surrounded by manicured raised garden beds of herbs, tomatoes and more.
Obviously a rooftop can only supply so much for the restaurant, but the local concept goes beyond just their own building, to a commitment to source the majority of their food from local, sustainable organic producers – 24 percent of which comes from within 300 miles of the restaurant. Their menu is constantly changing according to the seasons, which makes each visit a unique experience that gives patrons a strong sense of time and place.
True midwesterners like myself will can vouch for their hearty meatloaf, made with local grassfed beef and of course, wrapped in bacon and served with mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts, and fried nordic creamery cheese curds (a product commonly found amidst Chicago’s lively farmers markets). For dessert, I’d venture toward the seasonal crème brulee or s’mores tart.
They support the local economy by more than just helping out local farmers, but also local artisans, as you will regularly find local artist’s work featured inside and local musicians entertaining diners.
They’ve even gotten into the local brewing business, boasting their own in-house brewery at one location called Greenstar Brewing, where they brew up seasonal, sustainable concoctions that are served up at the restaurant.
On the spirits side, Uncommon Ground created what they call an “eco-cocktail”, the Agripolitan, featuring organic vodka and orchard fruits. This eco-cocktail program has raised funds to plant over 10,000 trees in India as well as to work with Chicago Rarities Orchard Project (CROP) to build a community rare-fruit orchards in Chicago. The eco-cocktail’s ingredients change according to the seasons with varying orchard fruits.
They’ve also received accolades as a World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) Humane Restaurant, The Governor’s Sustainability Award and the Green Business of the Year by the Chicago Chamber of Commerce.
Original Lakeview Location:
3800 Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60613
New Edgewater Location:
1401 West Devon Ave.
Chicago, IL 60660