“Farm-to-table,” “Fair Trade,” “Sustainability,” these terms have been a part of our culinary lexicon for a while now. Sadly, the number of dining options that support these values in Lake County hasn’t kept up with the number of options available to our metropolitan neighbors to the south. ‘Sup with that? I highly doubt Cook County outnumbers us when it comes to farms!
Luckily, we’ve identified a few businesses that are paving the way here in Lake County. These businesses value fresh, local, sustainable ingredients and build relationships with the farmers and producers that supply them. When local isn’t an option, many of these establishments make sure to source their products in ethical ways that preserve both human dignity and the health of the environment.
Even better, their doors are open to young and old alike. Just because you may be 6-years old, doesn’t mean you should be deprived of high-quality ingredients crafted with care. Earth Week (or any week) is a wonderful time to visit these spots with your children. While you’re there, take the time to explain what sets these places apart from others, so your kids can learn how to make better choices for themselves. Bon appetit!
Family-Friendly Farm-to-Table Restaurants in Lake County
Inovasi, Lake Bluff
28 E. Center Ave, Lake Bluff | (847) 295-1000
Perhaps one of the best-known Farm-to-Table examples in our area is Inovasi. Chef John des Rosiers sources his ingredients for his inventive dishes from local and sustainable farms that he visits himself. While it makes for an elegant date night, I’ve seen many families with young children who dine there early. To make kids feel even more welcome, there’s a children’s menu featuring handmade pizza, linguini, steak, and even good old PB & J but elevated Inovasi-style. For an even more laid-back experience, dine there on Tuesdays for their popular Burger Night where you can enjoy dry-aged, locally sourced beef on buttery brioche rolls. Gluten-free rolls are available too! He’s really doing all that he can to make fine dining accessible to everyone, especially your kids.
The Shanty, Wadsworth
38985 North RT 41, Wadsworth | (847) 336-0262
Anyone who’s traveled on Route 41 through Wadsworth knows about The Shanty. But recently, this landmark restaurant received high praise from Enjoy Illinois and was named a Delicious Destination. Our Holly was onsite to see owner Dimitri Kallianis receive the award as well as try out their brand new menu, which focuses on seasonal, organic, and locally sourced ingredients. Holly had this to say about their children’s offerings,
I’m a happy mom when a kids’ menu offers REAL food reflective of what I’d feed at home. The Shanty does offer standard kids’ menu fare like dino chicken nuggets and burgers, but they also have options like hand-breaded cod and pasta dishes. I wouldn’t hesitate to bring my young kids to The Shanty, but I’d stick to lunch, early dinner times, or weeknights.
Conscious Cup Coffee, Barrington & Libertyville
100 E. Station St., Barrington | (847) 387-3768
355 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville | (847)
100 E. Station St., Barrington | (847) 387-3768
355 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville | (847) 549-3982
Conscious Cup is dedicated to working with growers that are both environmentally and socially sustainable. This means that the people who harvest it are paid a fair wage for their labor under ethical working conditions using sustainable farming practices. It’s an important distinction when you remember that your coffee is generally harvested in developing nations. Paleo diehards can even order their cups with organic grass-fed butter and organic virgin coconut oil to fuel all their cross-fit adventures and impromptu bison hunts.
Hansa Coffee Roasters, Libertyville
755 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville | (847) 226-8815
Rare, high quality coffee sourced via Direct Trade are what set Hansa Coffee Roasters apart. While Fair Trade may be a more common and familiar term when it comes to coffee, Direct Trade takes things a step further by buying directly from independent farmers and cutting out the middle man. Consumers get a higher quality product, farmers make more money. Simply put, this ain’t your grandpa’s Sanka.
Garden View Café at The Chicago Botanic Gardens, Glencoe
1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe | (847) 835-3040
Spend a lovely day at The Chicago Botanic Gardens, then refuel yourself and your brood at the Garden View Cafe. Their menu features local, sustainably produced, seasonal ingredients, some of which are sourced directly from the vegetable gardens onsite! An affordable kids menu is available for lunch, and all entrees come served with a side of fresh fruit. Even better is that the cafe operates with a social conscience, partnering with the Windy City Youth Harvest Farm that gives teens from low-income communities education and employment through sustainable agriculture. According to their website:
In 2008, the Garden stopped selling bottled water, and in 2011, the Garden expanded its dishwashing and storage areas in order to change from using disposable plates, bowls, and flatware to using reusable chinaware. Also in 2011, the Garden began incorporating composting of food scraps and appropriate materials into its café operations. With the help of our customers, the Garden was able to divert 38 tons of waste from the landfill in 2013 by composting and recycling.
It’s wonderful when an establishment really walks the walk! And the Garden View Cafe receives two sticky thumbs up from Melissa’s toddler… just don’t tell him his mac and cheese had butternut squash in it.
Prairie Grass Café, Northbrook
601 Skokie Blvd Northbrook | (847) 205-4433
Prairie Grass Café selects only the freshest ingredients to reflect each season. We support local sustainable farms & Chicago’s Green City Market. Their aim is to make your life easier, taste better and lift up the community around us!
Farmhouse on North, Barrington
117 North Ave Barrington | (847) 387-3408
Farmhouse on North is a farm-to-table restaurant in downtown Barrington. They serve fresh, homemade, locally sourced meals, handcrafted cocktails, craft beer, and small plates. All their food is house-made, from local farms to your table. They are always creating new, seasonal, and mouth-watering dishes, so their menu changes frequently.
Pixca, Highland Park
455 Central Ave, Highland Park | (847) 926-3189
Pixca restaurant was founded by a like-minded group of friends already working for different restaurants who have always wanted to create amazing food together. Freshness and creativity are their key ingredients. They have exceptional relationships built with different farms over the years and have developed a menu with local seasonal products that are varied and fresh. If you’re looking for a superb culinary experience, call us today to make a reservation!
Do you know of an environmentally-conscious restaurant in our area that we missed? Share in the comments.
When Loralie isn’t out exploring with her two pint-sized adventurers you’ll often find her in front of her computer plotting to take over the world (or at least Lake County.) She appreciates good friends, good food, expensive shoes and parents who make two lanes in the drop-off/pick-up line at school. Her spirit animal is The Hobbit. She invites you to join her on her quest for unique distractions, diversions and deliciousness in this county we call home.
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