Last Friday evening we ate at Shorty's Pizza, quite possibly my favorite pizza spot ever but one I haven't visited since the inception of the Green Dining Guide.
I love Shorty's for their wide selection of vegetarian choices that go so much further than just that mushroom/onion/green pepper combo most pizzerias call a veggie pie. I ordered the Ravi Shankar, a cheeseless pizza topped with curry oil and roasted vegetables including eggplant and enough garlic that I'm sure I still smell like it today and probably will next week.
Well, yum. Strains of sitar music practically float out of this luscious pie. And Larry was just as happy with his selection, Chrissie Hynde, another vegetarian (and vegetarian pizza).
Toward the end of our meal, we overheard the woman at the table next to ours ask her waiter if the food Shorty's served was purchased locally. He said that for awhile the restaurant was running manager's specials and that the ingredients for these meals were purchased at a local farmer's market; however, the manager's special category had been dropped and all food now comes from large distributors. It would be hard to determine the true origins of the seafood on the menu, which is probably the most important sustainability issue when the question "where does it come from?" is answered with the name of a distribution company.
We asked our server what green practices Shorty's might be proud of and she replied, "Not much." Shorty's doesn't recycle or compost, although our server does, at home, and would love to see her employer follow suit. So would Barbara, the diner next to us who joined in on our conversation. Like us, Barbara would be happy to pay a little more for food that was sustainably produced, locally purchased, and disposed of in ways that were protective (or at least not so destructive) of the environment.
Speaking of which, there's that belief again - that sustainable choices are going to break the bank for restaurants that don't operate on a hefty margin and the average eatery in the casual dining sector can't afford to make the switch. That's what we thought too when we started writing this blog. Now we know more about the savings that some companies are realizing from keeping a watchful eye on their energy expenditures and satisfying customers that keep a watchful eye on restaurants.
We encourage Shorty's to take a look at the Environmental Defense Fund's No Net Cost Challenge, which shows how savings in some areas can be used to offset costs in others so that substantial changes can be made in an operation's overall sustainability picture. And another encouraging word goes out to Sean Woodson, Superintendent of Sanitation Services for the city of Decatur, who told Dayle in April that the city was moving toward providing a more comprehensive recycling program for restaurants.
Larry and I understand how the No Net Cost Challenge works because we live on a budget, too. We have to keep costs low in some areas of our lives so that we can enjoy all the lovely dining experiences we treat ourselves to. It's worth the sacrifice when the food is as good as it is at Shorty's, and delivered by a congenial and efficient serving staff to boot.
Even though Shorty's isn't recycling yet, they have adopted some good green practices. They are using paper-based take-out containers for food, which is an important move, although drinks, sadly, still go out in Styrofoam. As I mentioned, the numerous plant based menu items make it easy for customers to eat low on the food chain, which is in line with the EDF's recommendations for sustainable Best Practices. And speaking of plants, we saw the servers using water left over from departed customers to water the potted plants in front of the store.
The little side of cilantro-mint chutney, a condiment accompanying the Ravi Shankar, was delivered in a reusable ramekin rather than the omnipresent plastic that is the standard casual dining sauce condiment container. In fact, all of the dine-in dishes are reusable instead of disposable. Even if Shorty's isn't recycling their trash, they aren't creating as much of it as they could be if they were using throw-away cups, glasses and plates.
So thanks for doing all of that, Shorty's, and please, take the next small step.