The Low Down On Green Living
November 4th, 2007
The Windy City…A land famous for Frank Lloyd Wright, Wrigley Field, House music, and Al Capone. The culinary classics of this town still remain the Chicago-style hot dog (with pickle spears, tomatoes, and “sport” peppers) and, of course, Chicago Deep Dish. So where can Low Impact Living possibly begin our search for America’s greatest organic dining in a town better known for pizza pies than biodynamic brussel sprouts?
At the best pizza place in town, of course, for a big bite of…Crust. Yes, Chef Michael Altenburg has found a way to feed Chicagoans pizza that they can actually feel good about. He opened the country’s fourth-ever certified organic restaurant earlier this year to nothing but accolades. Rather than the traditional deep dish style, Altenberg prefers to serve his 95% organic ingredients on piping hot herb-encrusted flatbread. His flatbreads come with everything from the simple Shroom with goat cheese, and spinach, to the wilder Mexicali Blues, topped with wood-fired shrimp, chihuahua cheese, pico de gallo, heirloom peppers, and cilantro. Only because Crust’s ingredients are of such high quality, do I not feel a need to question in greater detail just what exactly is Chihuahua Cheese. The Sweet Basil Salad with its fresh-pulled mozzarella, tomato, red onion, and basil is just perfect if you prefer your pizza without the…you know. 2056 W. Division Street 773.235.5511
Crust isn’t Michael Altenberg’s first organic restaurant venture. He founded one of Chicago’s greatest restaurants, which is actually not quite in Chicago. Just on the outskirts of the city lies Campagnola. Translated loosely as “woman of the countryside,” Campagnola has been lauded as a restaurant that feels so welcoming that walking through the front door feels like walking into a friend’s home. And though Michael Altenberg has now moved on to flatbread heaven, Chef Vincent DiBattista is holding down the reputation of this sophisticated Italian bistro just fine. The Garlic Sausage with Fingerling Potato Salad and the Steamed Mussels in Saffron Fennel Broth make divine starters. You can follow it with a bowl of Linguine with Wood-Fired Prawns, Preserved Lemon & Radicchio or skip the pasta altogether and enjoy the sustainably-raised lamb, chicken or steak. Campagnola is the perfect place to bring vegetarians and carnivores together under one roof to enjoy the bounty of organic, seasonal delicacies the Illinois countryside has to offer. 815 Chicago Avenue 847.475.6100
William Rice of the Chicago Tribune has touted Karyn Calabrese as “the high priestess of raw food.” Priestess or no, she certainly is a pioneer in the Chicago restaurant world, bravely opening this Midwest city’s first completely raw restaurant- Karyn’s Raw Vegan Gourmet Restaurant. Here vegans and raw food junkies feast on seaweed dim-sum, almond pate, and basil “ravioli” filled with macademia whipped creme and sun-dried tomato puree. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the emerging Raw Food trend, this diet does not allow for food to be heated above 110°F and involves a lot of nut purees, thinly sliced vegetables, and dehydrated or sprouted grains.
If all this sounds a wee bit too adventurous for you, head over to Karyn’s Cooked for a big ol’ Slab of Ribs, a barbecued tofu and seitan sandwich served on a torpedo roll. If you’re in the mood for something a bit more elegant, try the grilled polenta layered with wild porcini and shitake mushrooms. And even if you don’t have an appetite, Karyn’s mini empire can help you work one up at her Inner Beauty Center, which provides yoga & pilates classes, detox courses, and bodywork.
Raw: 1901 North Halsted Street 312.255.1590
Cooked: 738 North Wells Street 312.587.1050
Eat hearty and healthy in Chicago, everyone! Next up in our series, Los Angeles, the tasty home of Low Impact Living, Inc. And to find more delicious organic restaurants around the country, please consult our organic dining listings across the US by clicking here.
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