Local take-out joints are hawking cuisine that would make Michael Pollan proud. Grass-fed burgers paired with house-made ketchup, organic quesadillas with free-range chicken, and heaping salads packed with organic veggies are on the menu in fast food restaurants all over San Francisco. And while local parents take it for granted that their kiddos eat organic French fries, visitors to San Francisco are smitten that they can indulge in guilt-free hot dogs without breaking the bank.
In a city full of on the go locavores, innovative San Francisco foodies have found a way to bring the farm to table movement to the take-out crowd, without sacrificing the quality of the meal. When Chef Alison Rowe realized that the work crowd needed a place to grab “clean, locally grown food,” she created SoMa’s Harvest and Rowe. Nearly a decade later it has become a hub for farm-fresh sandwiches served to iPhone-toting business types and Rowe seems to have started a revolution.
Similarly, in 2005 Matthew Guelke and Mark Lewis were searching for an “easy way to eat affordable 100% organic food in a casual setting” says co-owner of Plant Cafe Lewis. Four locations later, including one in the new Terminal 2 at SFO, and two more on the way, it seems their vision of bringing “Flexitarian menus” (Referring to eaters who dine in groups and need a flexible menu that might include wheat free, dairy free, egg free, mammal free, organic poultry and sustainable seafood) to folks in the Bay Area has been very well received. Their recipe for success? Serve “fast, casual and affordable items like the famous Plant Burger (which they sell over 10K a month)” and do it well.
Now it seems everywhere you look, you’ll find a fast food joint hawking organic takeout. But these new eateries don’t just talk the talk. At Mixt Greens, the “eco-gourmet” aesthetic spans from the fresh produce packed into creative salads to the 100% compostable take-away containers and compost program. Even better, this San Francisco-based company keeps things local by trying to source its organic food from within 150 miles of each location.
But it is not all health food on the menu. You can score a big ole burger and fries, at the wildly popular Super Duper, where grass-fed Niman Ranch burgers, house-made pickles, and crispy fries are on the menu. It’s the kind of burger stop you remember from childhood, one that one local parent said he “doesn’t feel bad about offering his kids, even after reading Fast Food Nation.”
Finally at the recently opened Prather Ranch American Eatery the slow food crowd congregates for what a Los Angeles acupuncturist friend calls, “the best organic hot dog on the planet.” Prather Ranch meats are sustainable and their animals are treated humanely—and they know it because it all comes from their farm. “The trend is growing,” says San Francisco dad, Eddie Broitman. “People want to know that the food they are eating is clean. When you can know that a hot dog came from a responsible place, why would you go anywhere else?”