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Taking a Green Step Forward on Uncommon Ground

Steven Colin is a 27-year-old college student who, along with a group of friends, decided to stop for dinner at Uncommon Ground on Saturday. 

“I don’t usually consider factors like how green a place is when I go to eat,” he said. “I care mostly if it has good food or not.”

But after dining there, Colin and his friends said they’d start paying more attention to how a restaurant affects the environment. He said he plans to become a regular at the restaurant after only his first visit. He is one of many converts who come away from Uncommon Ground saying the food is good — and also good for the environment.

“I really enjoyed how fresh everything tasted. It’ll be weird going back to more processed stuff,” Colin said.

Uncommon Ground is a green, eco-friendly restaurant at 3800 N. Clark St. It also has another location on 1401 W. Devon Ave. The location on North Clark Street was created in 1991, and the second location was added in 2007.

The restaurant purchases organic plants at farmers’ markets to support local farmers. According to the menu, almost all the ingredients in the dishes are made with seasonal, local organic produce.

The Devon Street location even has an organic production garden on its roof where employees grow vegetables such as eggplant, lettuce and beets.

In addition, the prices are reasonable despite the process Uncommon Ground has to go through in order to be a green restaurant. 

For instance, the dish “Jonah Crab Cake,” priced at $12, contains guacamole that is freshly made in the restaurant, topped with non-artificial crab meat and lined with fresh tortilla chips.

Even the more common dishes get the same amount of eco-friendly attention. The macaroni and cheese, also priced at $12, has purely organic noodle shells with no additives.

The restaurant management tries to conserve the resources they use when they can. Diners are offered water only upon request, and the water is 100 percent recycled and processed without chlorine, and created locally with hydrodynamic energy-run machines.

Some patrons say they can taste the difference in the water and food.

Ben House, a 46-year-old resident of Chicago, said he’s been to various spots that falsely claim to have no alterations to the ingredients, but Uncommon Ground isn’t one of them. 

House and his wife said they try to support restaurants that are just as committed to the environment as they are, and it’s because of that reason that the couple frequents Uncommon Ground.

“We enjoy that Uncommon Ground is trying so hard to make a difference for the environment,” he said. “It’s more than I’ve seen other places contribute.”

House also noted that even the to-go boxes are made of biodegradable materials that aren’t harmful to the environment.

Terry Thomas, 61, said he’s been inspired by Uncommon Ground to be more eco-friendly. He said that ever since his first visit a few years back, he’s become more conscious of the environment.

“I had a chat with one of the waitresses, and she explained they they constantly try not to be wasteful and that they use as much of their own produce as possible,” Thomas said. “That really changed my outlook.”

After being inspired by his first visit, Thomas began to grow his own produce at home and said he tries his best to dine only at green restaurants.

Uncommon Ground doesn’t stop contributing to the environment with what it serves. The restaurant also participates in national earth holidays such as Earth Hour. Even though the patrons were still eating, the restaurant turned off the lights at 8:30 p.m. on March 26.

Many patrons said they leave the place feeling pleased — with the food and with themselves for choosing a business that is kind to the earth.

“It’s unique, and I don’t think I’ve had anything like it before,” Steven Colin said. “It’ll definitely be one of my dining-out choices on the weekends.”

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