Good food always ends with good talk. ~Geoffrey Neighor
Eating out makes you fat, but it is one of the pleasures in life. You can't avoid it, and you should indulge on occasion. Try to limit your restaurant meals to three or less a week. That way you can take the money you're saving and indulge in more locally produced food at the market. Here's our list of mindful restaurants and farms that buy/grow local and sustainably produced or organic food. It is NY biased - but feel free to add your own discoveries (even outside NY). We've also included a section of not-mindful restaurants that surprised us - but we wish they were. Got any recommendations? Let us know!
$ based on the price of a dinner entree. $ below $10, $$ below $20, $$$ below $30, $$$$ above $30
+ based on mindfulness. ++++ is totally trusted by MindfulEats as local, sustainable and organic when possible, +++ is definitely organic or local but maybe not both - ask the waiter, ++ is responsible and aware of food issues - ask the waiter about your food, + is aware of food issues and has some sustainably sourced food - ask the waiter.
Pret a Manger $ +++ Love this place! It's evolved over the years, and today's Pret is great. This chain focuses on fresh real food. Food is presented beautifully and full of vegetables for a blast of flavor. Portions are reasonable and calories are low. The multi-colored meals are a good sign of real food.
Le Pain Quotidien $ +++ French bakery chain that is uber-green. They use organic whenever possible, and even their counter cleaner is green. The only reason they don't have the extra plus is that we're not sure the ingredients are all local.
Modmarket $ +++ This fast casual chain focuses on real food and is transparent about ingredients and calories. Portions are huge so take part of it home or leave it on the plate.
Angelica Kitchen $$ ++++ This organic vegetarian restaurant is the grandma of responsibly sourced restaurants. It's been around since 1976. Comfortable, filling and awesome. Cash only. 300 E. 12th St.
Babbo $$$ ++++ Big Mario Batali's Italian ristorante continues to be one of the toughest reservations in town. Devoted to local, predominately organic growers except for imported key ingredients. 110 Waverly Pl.
Back 40 $$ ++++This may be the best named restaurant. Seasonal American food that is responsibly sourced. Charming East Villager, it has a garden in the back. It's the younger, more casual sibling of serious food cred restaurant Savoy. I'm going to be a regular as soon as I get my bike. Ave B at 12th St.
Bare Burger $$ +++ Burgers, fries and sandwiches cooked up slow in a fun, casual atmosphere. Transparency is key here. Even the wood tables are made from reclaimed wood. It's the neighborhood joint that's gone more thoughtful and well, cool. 535 LaGuardia Place, 32-21 31st Ave (Astoria)
Barmarche $$ ++ Darling Soho eatery with a cute scene and thoughtful menu. 14 Spring St.
Blossom $$ ++++ Organic vegan, this place is so delicious that meat eaters won't miss it. 187 9th Ave.
Blue Hill $$$ ++++ Dan Barber is the local celebrity of the farm to table movement with serious food cred. Almost all food is pedigreed and delicious, a lot of it from their own Stone Barns farm. You can feel virtuous in this very adult restaurant.
Boqueria $$ +++ Delicious Spanish tapas and buzzy vibe, they're organic whenever possible. 53 W. 19th St. and 171 Spring St.
Cafeteria $$$ ++ This loud Chelsea favorite has stood the test of time. They don't advertise their food cred, but if you ask, they will tell you where they source their food. 17th St. & 7th Ave.
Caravan of Dreams $$ ++++ Organic vegan restaurant that also has a raw menu and a hippie vibe. It's not the most sophisticated atmosphere in town but you get comfortable and stay a while. 405 E. 6th St.
Chipotle $ ++ Want fast food? This chain's more food-conscious. They try to do the right thing, and we applaud that. If you want fast food, this is a better alternative. Look at their map to see which restaurants serve the "naturally" raised meats (pork, chicken, beef).
City Bakery $ ++++ Super responsible in terms of food and the environment, this expensive cafeteria is a city favorite. We love the hot chocolate and pretzel croissant, guaranteed to make you fat. 3 W. 18th.
Cookshop $$$ ++++ This American Chelsea restaurant has the same owners as Back 40. A little more chichi, it's comfortable and reliably good. 10th Ave at 20th St.
CraftBar $$$ +++ Tom Collichio's thoughtful empire serves seasonal and local favorites. Craftbar is the more casual version of Craft. 900 Broadway
Del Posto $$$$ ++++ Old world fancy Italian is driven by superstars Joe & Lidia Bastianich and Mario Batali. Food is often local. Meat is from responsible, small-production farms like Heritage and Creekstone, produce from local farms like Blooming Hill, Blue Moon and Windfall. 85 10th Ave.
Eataly ++++ The Batali/Bastianich trio open up another blockbuster. This one is a whole new concept - eat, drink and be merry in the elegant bustle of various food stations, or buy all the same things from the market. All foods are sourced from Italy or local farms. Mangia! 200 Fifth Ave. (23rd St)
Gramercy Tavern $$$ ++++ This is a MindfulEats favorite. Chef Michael Anthony is passionate about local foods, and it shows. They butcher their own meat. The bar menu may be one of the best deals in town (but seating can take a long time since you can't get reservations), and the restaurant is all prix fixe for special occasions. We just wish they had outdoor space. 42 E. 20th.
Hu Kitchen $$ ++++ This paleo palace is named Hu as in "back to human." You won't find gluten here. The owners put a lot of thought into the ingredients, and have come up with a basic menu that focuses on real food. It has a strongly masculine vibe in terms of decor and music. 78 5th Ave.
ilili $$$ ++ This Lebanese restaurant is delicious and sexy. Like Middle East dining, dinner runs late night dining. it is The menu is conscientious. 236 5th Ave.
Jimmy's No 43 $$ ++++ American gastropub, Jimmy's serves great beer and delicious organic grub. 43 E. 7th St.
The Little Owl $$$ ++ Cozy, neighborhood joint for adults with a meat menu. Our waiter told us all the meat is from Pat La Frieda, and was raised happily. Chef/Owner Joey Campanaro got back to us right away and said all seafood is from gentle Eric Teverow. "The basic principle I use in buying and serving food is to offer what is seasonally available." Bedford & Grove.
Minetta Tavern $$$ +++ Keith McNally busts out another crowd-pleaser. This renovated classic is now known for its food. The responsible menu is known for the Minetta Burger. 113 Macdougal St.
The Modern $$$$ ++++ The Museum of Modern Art's restaurant is a triumph of sustainable and delicious food. The Bar Room serves a flexible menu that allows you to snack or have a multi-course meal. The Dining Room is prix fixe for dinner. The duck is unbelievable.
Northen Spy Food Co $$++++ Cute, romantic, very reasonable. This East Villager is dedicated to local foods. 511 E. 12th (b/w A & B)
Otto $$ ++ This Mario Batalli pizzeria serves authentic Italian pizza and pasta sourced responsibly. Always crowded and fun, Otto is great value. 8th St. and 5th Ave.
Print $$$ ++++ Print is the hotel restaurant for Ink 48. In a weird location (car distributorships galore), this grown-up restaurant is sophisticated, delicious and commited to local sustainable foods. Easy access from the West Side Highway. 653 11th Ave (48th Street).
Quantum Leap $$ ++++ Affordable hippy joint with lots of vegetarian organic options. Brunch is great. Dinner is fine, but you feel good eating there. 226 Thompson St.
Rouge Tomate $$$$ ++++ This midtown restaurant has a heavy focus on local seasonal food. They think about food and nutrition deeply, and work with a nutritionist to be SPE certified, or Sanitas Per Escum (Food through Health). They even have a food truck on 64th and Fifth!
Shake Shack $ + The beef is fresh, never frozen, and ground daily by Pat LaFrieda. They use a combination of sources, but the majority of their beef comes from Creekstone Farms, a responsible farm that mostly provides antibiotic and hormone free beef. Their dairy products are from large format producers. Madison Park and others.
The Spotted Pig $$$$ +++ Gastropub that goes local whenever possible. We've had food that's been divine to so-so. 314 W. 11th
Union Square Cafe $$$$ ++++ Classic Danny Meyer restaurant, this New American restaurant is casual upscale. Much of its food is sourced at the greenmarket across the street. 21 E. 16th St.
Waverly Inn $$$$ +++ Graydon Carter's traditional American still has some scene, but the more important thing is that the food is organic and local when possible. Small "garden" and outside area for warm weather. 16 Bank St.
Wined Up $$ +++ Great second floor spot with wonderful wines and thoughtful local seasonal small plates. 913 Broadway, 2nd Fl.
Blue Marble ++++ Ice cream so good it's worth the trip to Brooklyn. Even the spoons are perfect.
Frankies 457 $$ ++++ Homey Italian in Cobble Hill with lots of food cred. Garden in the back. 457 Court St.
Niles (Upstate New York)
Niles Bistro $$$ ++++ Owner/Chef Sandy and Dave do everything sustainably here - all the food is local an organic (they point it out when it's not), and it is cooked over a wood burning stove. They even built the restaurant by hand. It's delicious and quite a warm, unique experience. 4588 Grange Hall Road
Restaurants we wish were mindful but aren't
BLT Burgers - industrial meats
DBGB - industrial meats
Friedman's Lunch - organic eggs and cage free chicken but the rest is conventional
JG Mellen's - industrial beef
Landmarc - industrial meat and seafood
Sushi of Gari - serves blue fin tuna
Westville - industrial meats and farmed fish
Farmers' markets are a great place to shop and talk to growers about your food. Here are some tips.
Cherry Lane Farms semi-organic produce from Bridgestone NJ. No herbicides and some pesticides int eh summer. Since they are further south they often are in market first. Delicious asparagus.
Gorzynski Ornery Farm from Sullivan County, NY grows organic produce.
Norwich Meadows Farm from Norwich, NY provides certified organic produce and eggs that have been meticulously cleaned and beautifully presented. On the higher end of the price scale, they are a favored provider to Gramercy Tavern and other restaurants.
nyfoods from Upstate New York provides delicious organic milk, cheese, eggs, and yogurt as NYMilk, NYCheese, NYEggs, NYogurt.
Oak Grove Plantation organic produce and pork from Hunterdon County, NJ. They used to be certified organic, but have given up the certification though they are still farming organically. Oak Grove is more reasonably priced.
Ryder Farm from Putnam Country, NY provides certified organic produce, eggs and flowers.