Prologue: I recently had the privilege of eating at a new farm to table restaurant in Chicago called City Farms Market & Grill. This cozy and rustic restaurant is owned by Karl and Aida Boston. Karl Boston is also the chef of the restaurant. The menu is filled with American comfort food and healthy choices. However, it is hard to choose the healthy choices once your eyes see the carrot cake pancakes coming out of the kitchen. I hope you enjoy the City Farms interview as much as I enjoyed eating there!
Brooke: How did you come up with the concept for your restaurant City Farms Market & Grill?
Karl and Aida: Simply put, we wanted to offer healthy Farm to Table meals in our neighborhood. We strive to find ingredients from sources that are open about their practices. We support local farmers, ranchers, and artisans bringing this local, simple freshness from a farm to your plate. It’s not about being fancy; it’s about being mindful of what we eat and how they go about it.
Brooke: Where did the majority of your inspiration for the brunch menu come from?
Aida: Chef Boston was inspired by his mother’s and grandmother’s home cooking. The black forest cake was one of his favorite birthday cakes. His grandmother used the apples from the apple trees in the back yard to make the apple crumble pie. These childhood memories are what influenced two of our french toast creations.
Brooke: You advertise that your menu is local and sustainable. Do you use multiple sources or one main suppler/farm for your purchases?
Karl: We purchase our ingredients from multiple sources. Our eggs come from Big Head Farm in MI. City Farms’ vegetables and fruits come from Ellis Farms in Benton Harbor, MI. Our meats are from JDY; they distribute meats from local farms and ranchers. We purchase our sausage from Big Fork. The coffee we use is from crop to cup and is roasted at Asado Roasters. We also shop at many of the Farmers’ Markets in Chicago!
Brooke: What are your biggest challenges of operating a restaurant that supports local and sustainable food?
Karl: One of our major challenges has been the fact that it has been a tough year on local restaurants and farmers, because the lack of rain and hotter temperatures. These conditions have taken a toll on crop production.
Brooke: In what other ways do you make an effort to incorporate sustainability into your restaurant besides food purchasing?
Aida: We used reclaimed lumber from the Rebuild Exchange to build our tables and other furnishings. We use low VOC paints and green cleaning products. At City Farms, our coffee grounds and paper products are picked up and composted by Big Head Farms. We also use green compostable to go cups and containers at no additional charge. In the future, we are looking to do our own composting and plan on farming our own produce.
Epilogue: It is wonderful to find more local restaurants like City Farms popping up around Chicago. If you like eating locally and are a fan of food trucks check out City Farms’ new farm-to-truck called Beyond Borders. A special thanks goes to Karl and Aida Boston for taking the time to answer some Bitchin’ questions!