Tasty Tuesday: Family-Friendly Farm-to-Table and Ethical Eats

“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!

Inovasi, 28 E. Center Ave, Lake Bluff
(847) 295-1000 Website| Facebook

Image from Inovasi on Facebook
Image from Inovasi on Facebook

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. Children eat FREE Monday-Wednesday with the purchase of an adult entree. 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!  Once a year, Chef John discounts his entire menu 50% off.  He’s really doing all that he can to make fine dining accessible to everyone, especially your kids.


The Shanty, 38985 North RT 41, Wadsworth
(847) 336-0262 Website | Facebook

Image from ShantyRestaurant on Facebook

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 week nights.

For Date Night

Ad-Lib Geocafe,475 S. Route 45, Lindenhurst Editor’s Note- Closed as of October 2017.
(847) 245-7328  WebsiteFacebook

Chef Rick Starr is at the helm of this fine dining restaurant in Lindenhurst.  While the surroundings are casual the menu is upscale and seasonal. According to their website, they are:

a small informal restaurant that primarily sources from the sustainable biodynamic agriculture around it; who’s menu is influenced by the current season, global cultures and applies a minimalistic approach when preparing food.

Rosemary and her husband tried it out for a date night and Rosie says they’ll be back!  There’s no children’s menu to speak of and word on the street is that while the environment is definitely laid-back (it’s located in a strip mall) it’s best saved for the grown-ups.


Cook Street Coffee, 100 E. Station St., Barrington
(847) 387-3768 Website | Facebook

Image from Cook Street Coffee on Facebook
Image from Cook Street Coffee on Facebook

Acquired by the family behind Conscious Cup in Crystal Lake, Cook Street Coffee shares their sister shop’s dedication 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 cup with organic grass-fed butter and organic virgin coconut oil to fuel all their cross-fit adventures and impromptu bison hunts.

Cacao Sweets & Treats,122 Center Street, Grayslake Editor’s Note- Closed as of May 2018.

(847) 223-2253 Website | Facebook

Image from Cacao Sweets & Treats on Facebook
Image from Cacao Sweets & Treats on Facebook

Anyone who’s read Little Lake County for an extended period of time is well aware of how much we love the owner, Candice Hunsinger, and the gorgeous baked goods and confections that come out of her kitchen.  Everything she creates is hand-crafted with love in small batches from her artisan bread (a different variety available daily), to her tipsy cupcakes, and decadent chocolates.  Selections change daily are dictated by the season and Candice’s own imagination.   She uses natural, organic ingredients, locally-sourced when possible and partners with many local vendors and organizations to provide green-living workshops to the community. It’s our pleasure to have partnered with Cacao Sweets & Treats on previous events.  Look for our next Cupcakes for a Cause on Saturday, May 16th with proceeds benefiting Partners for Progress NFP – Therapeutic Riding Center

Hansa Coffee Roasters, 755 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville
(847) 226-8815 Website | Facebook

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. On Tuesdays when you by a pound of coffee you get a free drink – no punch cards, not ever.

Worth the Trip

Garden View Cafe at The Chicago Botanic Gardens, 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe
(847) 835-3040 WebsiteFacebook

Sprout Kids Menu at the Garden View Cafe

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 is 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.

Duke’s Alehouse &  Kitchen, 110 North Main Street, Crystal Lake
(815)356-9980 Website | Facebook

Just writing this, I’m telling myself it’s been far too long since my family has been to Duke’s.  I think we need to schedule a trip to Crystal Lake very soon.  Duke’s really has it all – local and organic cuisine; certification as a “Green Restaurant” from The Green Restaurant Association; over 180 craft brews; live entertainment; options for the gluten-free, vegetarians, and carnivores in your party; and best of all a Fruits & Veggies to the Rescue class for the kids every other Sunday.  It’s perfect for parents who want to dine alone…er, I mean for kids to appreciate their veggies…

Conscious Cup Coffee, 5005 Northwest Hwy, Ste 101, Crystal Lake
(815) 356-0115 Website | Facebook

The name kind of says it all right?  It’s coffee with a conscience, and it’s the parent shop of Cook Street Coffee in Barrington. This Crystal Lake original has been around since 2006 and has always operated with respect for the environment and the people who harvest their beans.

Ethereal Confections, 113 S. Benton Street, Woodstock
(815) 575-9315 Website | Facebook

L. Thomas | littlelakecounty.com | 2015
L. Thomas | littlelakecounty.com | 2015

Melissa and I took a recent field trip to this truly “ethereal” location last week… and it was hard to leave.  So much more than a chocolate shop, Ethereal Confections makes handmade chocolates using local and organic ingredients whenever possible.  When you walk in you are enveloped in the warm scent of melted chocolate while the pleasure center in your brain clicks on.  In the rear is the cafe serving coffee, teas, baked goods, cheese plates, charcuterie, and desserts.  There is even a bar serving wine, beer and cocktails for the adults and they will even expertly pair their chocolates with a craft beverage to enhance the taste experience.  Aside from the ubiquitous sweets, you’ll find jams and preserves made from fruit grown right there in Woodstock and canned locally along with gluten-free brownie mixes.  It’s important to note that all items are dairy-free, wheat-free, and gluten-free.  Instead of cream and butter, organic coconut milk and coconut oil are used.  It’s a paleo dream come true!

Be sure to visit us for next week’s Tasty Tuesday when we tell you about Food Trucks in the ‘Burbs!

Do you know of an environmentally-conscious restaurant in our area that we missed?  Share in the comments. 

About Loralie 201 Articles
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. She is the Features Editor and Marketing Director at Little Lake County.

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