The DC Restaurant That Was The First To Be Certified Organic In The US

Organics are a steadily growing side of the culinary world, per the U.S. Department of Agriculture. During the 2010s, the amount of U.S. operations that were certified organic increased by over 80%. However, it tends to be grocers that make up the majority of these organic businesses. It's a bit harder to find restaurants that can be considered up to snuff. Plus, organic food is usually pricey, so diners want to make sure they find a spot with good food, too, before spending the extra money. The eco-friendly lifestyle is no longer niche, however, so business owners could expand their customer base by adopting this green approach to restauranteering; as recently as 2016, four out of every five American families bought organic food.

Wouldn't it be great for your community if there was an organic restaurant in your own area? If you live near Washington D.C., it turns out that there is one, AND they beat everybody else in the country to the punch over two decades ago. As green as can be, their menu has salads like the local Boston lettuce & radicchio, small plates like the crispy local fried green tomatoes, and main courses like the seared sustainable salmon. Is it any wonder so many people hold their luncheons, parties, and weddings there? Read on to learn more about this pioneering restaurant's fresh backstory.

Restaurant Nora, certified organic in 1999

Restaurant Nora was the very first restaurant in the U.S. to get certified organic, just before the turn of the millennium, per NPR. Over 95% of their ingredients are sourced from cultivators and suppliers who have been deemed organic, as well. Back in the 1800s, their red brick building was constructed on a corner in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of the nation's capital. At that point in time, however, it was a mom-and-pop grocery store, complete with living quarters for the family that owned it and stables for the horses that brought them their food. The spot where those beasts of burden had once stood is now the dining room.

Owner Nora Pouillon, with business partners Steven and Thomas Damato, turned the site into a restaurant during the late '70s. The three wished to be as green as they could be, relying on local and organic food to achieve that. They still pursue this goal to this day. Organic grapes naturally grown by independent vineyards are used to make the hundred or so wines on their drink menu. Meanwhile, 50 gallons of food waste are gathered up every day and repurposed as compost in the Damato brothers' gardens. It's not just food that's eco-friendly, either — the restaurant's decorations are antiques, menus are made from post-consumer material, recycling is encouraged, and power is provided by wind farms through Direct Energy, a local business. Talk about guilt-free dining!