Eat local: A fresh take on H-Town grub

Houston’s must-visit list of green restaurants

It’s no secret that Houston is a fast-paced city. Many Houstonians are constantly multitasking on the go. Eating keeps us alive and gives us energy to successfully complete the day. However, eating meals becomes a fleeting task when we’re responding to emails, sending texts or checking social media. When meals are rushed, we often make the most convenient food choices, which aren’t typically the healthiest choices.

For some, fresh foods are extremely difficult to access. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, more than 23 million Americans live in food deserts – areas that are more than a mile away from a supermarket. Third Ward, the area surrounding the University of Houston, is considered a food desert; which means UH residents have fewer options when it comes to purchasing fresh food. However, eating sustainably doesn’t have to be a chore. There are several local restaurants and farmers markets that offer locally-sourced foods and vegetarian options.

Five green picks

Ruggles GreenWith several locations scattered throughout the Greater Houston area, Ruggles Green is the city’s first Certified Green Restaurant.  Dishes are produced with all-natural meat products, meaning no hormones, antibiotics or steroids are contained in the meats. Ruggles Green also offers several salads and vegetarian items including the popular goat cheese salad. Other favorites include the spicy fish tacos, the all-natural buffalo burger and the margherita pizza. The restaurants use 100% LED (light emitting diodes) for indoor and outdoor lighting. Several Ruggles Green restaurants also have outdoor seating – so on nice days out, you can enjoy your meal on their patio.

rugglesGoatCheeseSalad

Goat cheese salad at Ruggles Green
Credit: Ruggles Green

Local FoodsWhat’s in a name? With two locations nestled within the heart of Houston, Local Foods serves up just what their name suggests; dishes made with locally-sourced ingredients, produce and meats. Local Foods’ menu includes salads, soups, sandwiches and side dishes. Some popular sandwiches are the crunchy chicken with provolone, the parmesan and aioli on a pretzel bun, and the truffled egg salad with market greens. Yum! If you’re in the mood for a more upscale dining experience, Benjy’s is right next door to the Local Foods location in Rice Village. The two restaurants are owned by the same company and follow the same sustainable practices. A win-win!

Crunchy chicken sandwich from Local Foods. Credit: Food & Wine

Crunchy chicken sandwich at Local Foods
Credit: Food & Wine

Doshi HouseLooking for some vegan eats near UH? Doshi House is definitely a place you should check out. Located near Dowling Street and Holman Street, the restaurant is about a 10-minute bike ride and a five-minute drive from campus. The Houston Press named Doshi House the best vegetarian-friendly restaurant in 2013 and 2014. From Thai red curry to vegetable paninis, Doshi House serves a wide range of vegan and vegetarian dishes. Many dishes are cooked with locally-sourced produce and ingredients. Even the coffee is localsupplied by sustainable roasters Greenway Coffee Company. Most unique about Doshi House is their array of full-leaf teas.

Thai curry at Doshi House Credit: Houston Press

Thai curry at Doshi House
Credit: Houston Press

Sunshine’s Health Food Store & Vegetarian Deli: This gem is also located within biking distance of UH. With METRORail’s opening of the purple line, you can now take the train there from campus. Sunshine’s offers cooked vegetarian options and a raw-food, vegan deli.  According to their website, Sunshine’s encourages a “healthy, sustainable lifestyle in lieu of diets and fads.”

We recently dined at Sunshine’s for the UH Sustainability team social.  Based on what we all ordered, the black bean burger, lentil soup and the carrot salad are delicious.

I definitely recommend trying their vegan burrito – soy ground, brown rice, pinto beans, cashew cheese, pico de gallo, black olives and green onion. The garlic kale chips were a delightful compliment to the burrito. A refreshing tropical smoothie never hurts either!

Vegan burrito, garlic kale salad and tropical smoothie at Sunshine’s Vegetarian Deli & Health Food Store

Vegan burrito, garlic kale salad and tropical smoothie at Sunshine’s Vegetarian Deli & Health Food Store

Green Seed Vegan: “This is a regular lunch spot for me because it’s close to campus, and the food comes out quick! My go-to item is the zen panini – lemongrass garbanzo tempeh with arugula, carrots, cilantro, jalapeno and lemongrass aioli. It’s a creative play on a banh mi. When I want to indulge, I get the Cali sandwich that features fried cauliflower. They make cold-pressed juices that are refreshing and unique. Guilt free and delicious… give Green Seed Vegan a try when you’re in the museum district!” – Sarah Kelly, UH sustainability program manager

Latini panini at Green Seed Vegan

Latini panini at Green Seed Vegan
Credit: veggieangie.com

Honorable mentions

These eateries offer everything from vegetarian burgers to pastries baked with local ingredients:

Saving the planet and your pocketbook

Hopefully you find a place that satiates your appetite. If you visit restaurants often, try to dine-in. Not only will you enjoy your food more, you will reduce your carbon footprint by using less plastic and disposable items.

Take advantage of the great farmers markets we have in town, and cook at home as much as possible. You’ll most likely save a buck or two, and you’ll know exactly where your ingredients came from.

If you have any suggestions for eco-conscious restaurants, supermarkets or bakeries in the Houston-area, let us know! Tweet us @UHSustain, and we’ll share your favorites.

-Nicole Blanton

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