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Jun 28, 2007 08:17 PM

Better products mean better restaurants

Why don't more restaurants use local products? In NYC, the greenmarket is crawling with chefs and cooks, looking for the freshest thing just pulled from the ground, vine, tree, etc. Austin restaurants could really benefit taste-wise from better produce and meat. It's cool that a few of them go out of their way to develop relationships with the farmer's, but maybe they should go to the market and get some buzz going.

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  1. Don't know how long you have been in Austin jdupe, but you will definitely find many aspects of Austin dining/restaurant scene are not comparable to what you will find in other parts of the U.S. Forget about local even, I just want to find more restaurants that don't keep their tomatoes in a walk-in! I think your point is a good one, though I'm sure there could be a very complicated, lengthy discussion about affordability with regards to locally grown products; I think many restaurants don't want to shell out the extra dough for locally grown organic products, because, when many of their patrons don't care or don't notice the difference, why should they? Maybe it's a cultural thing but I think many diners in these parts are satisfied with a big hunk o' ribs and a big bowl of queso (not that those things aren't delicious!) and could care less about slow food and local food. Of course those who are CHs are an exception. And of course, as you imply in your thread, there are a few Austin restaurants that DO strive for the freshest, locally grown, and organic products. I.e. right now I'm thinking of Casa de Luz but the type of food they serve is so inaccessible for the general population. I wish a regular old resto (not just vegan/gluten-free hippie places) would commit to locally grown ingredients. Interesting topic.

    1. I have seen a couple of local chefs (Wink, Asti) buying veggies at Boggy Creek, where everything is always fresh and top-quality, but it's hard to say how much, percentage-wise, this makes up of what they serve. Part of the problem is that central Texas really just doesn't produce that much actual food.

      1. I certainly don't know for certain, but I would think the opposite. On a per capita or per restaurant basis I'd bet that Austin probably has a greater percentage of restaurants that are sourcing locally and/or producing their own locally grown produce.

        The vast majority of the tens of thousands of restaurants in NYC aren't trolling green markets just like the majority of restaurants in Austin aren't heading to our farmers markets. But, we have easier access to agriculture, land is more available (therefore several restaurants grow part of what they sell). Vespiao, Enotecca, Eastside, Jefferey's, Zoot, and Wink are just a few off the top of my head that you might want to try.

        What NYC definately has that we do not is the variety and number of sources to draw from.

        2 Replies
        1. re: rollledspleen

          Uchi also has a small garden and gets a lot of product (esp. mainy of their micro greens) from local producers. And, when Mother's was open a good majority of their produce came from their own on site garden. Even Kerbey Lane farms their own tomatoes in the summer months.

          I think that what the other posters have argued is right. We do have a good percentage that are trying to use as much local produce as possible. And, our percentage is probably at least comparable to a place like NYC, where certainly there are MANY MANY restaurants not using local produce/products. I think also that yes there are a lot of local farms, etc., but with the Texas heat, we can in no way compete with the types of organic farming that exists in a cooler more amenable climate (at least in the summertime) like for example Upstate New York or even Northern California.

          1. re: rollledspleen

            I miss that kind of NYC chow, too, but as someone once pointed out to me: It's hard to do an entirely local-ingredient-driven menu throughout most of Texas. This has to do with climate and agricultural practices. It’s also true that the state in general does not have the kind of food culture that will support a lot of specialty small growers.

            I've noticed that local restaurants that have gardens don't always serve many items that they've grown themselves. At Eastside Cafe, for example, most of the vegetables served as side dishes were not grown on-site. I also can’t help but observe that if the use of “local ingredients” were truly a sure-fire means of producing better chow, then the food at Wink would taste much better than it does.

            For those interested in this topic, I remember that there were a couple of good threads on General Chowhounding Topics:



          2. There's a new place called Bull & Boar that is supposed to be home cooking made with local ingredients. I haven't seen any reviews, but I'm hoping to check it out soon.