Last weekend we had a chance to visit with Chris Gwin, General Manager of the Park Tavern. The congenial Gwin dubbed himself "Mr. Green," saying he is a tree hugger from way back who is constantly assessing ways to green the restaurant's operations.
"Let's start with the reservoir," he said, indicating an area to the side of the building, concealed behind some trees and shrubbery. "We capture all the gray water runoff from our air conditioning system, and that, combined with rainwater, provided us with all the water we needed for our plants this summer." Saving water is important to Gwin, who no doubt remembers last summer's drought. He's installed waterless urinals in the men's bathrooms and is upgrading the flush system in the women's rooms in the near future so that the toilets will use less water.
And while we're in the bathroom, it's worth mentioning that Gwin has installed those powerful but power-efficient hand dryers known as the XLERATORS. These work-horses blast-dry the hands with a gust of wind comparable to a hurricane, then just as quickly shut off. Gwin reports that the installation of these dryers has saved the restaurant $50,000 a year in paper towels. That's quite a savings for the environment, too.
The pleasant dog-friendly patio area where we dined sports low-wattage outdoor lighting and our table gave us a good view of the band tuning up for the free concert the tavern hosts every Sunday evening though the summer. Gwin said that he had contracted with a production company that uses solar power to run the bandstand and the musicians' equipment.
We were glad to have the opportunity to try out the chef's new menu, which included an order of tofu sushi that was an interesting and tasty treat. The sweet potato fries were crunchy little bursts of flavor and the bean dip, topped with fresh cilantro, was likewise a home run. Gwin told us that his creative young chef is always on the lookout for local food to incorporate into the menu whenever possible, which shouldn't be too hard given their proximity to the park's Green Market.
Park Tavern uses a fair number of to-go cups, but they're made from corn, so even though they're not recycled, they will eventually biodegrade in a landfill. As Gwen pointed out, the fact that the Tavern brews its own beer is a significant savings of packaging and transportation, and encourages the responsible consumption of draft beer, versus those purchased in cans or bottles.
The Park Tavern regularly donates to good green causes, such as the Piedmont Park Conservancy. They're a corporate partner for the Upper Chattahoochee RiverKeeper. They donate their used grease to a biodiesel producer and their spent grains to farmers to use as feed for livestock.
In short, they're giving wherever and whenever they feel like they can. They sure gave us a good time.