Some of Chicago’s most celebrated restaurants have been getting their grains, proteins, produce and dairy from local Midwestern farms just a short trip away for years. Why the penchant for the local? Everything from keeping money in the community to looking for quality produce to give their dishes a little extra kick. Here, we celebrate the farms supplying some of Chicago’s best restaurants and filling our plates with from-the-earth Midwestern goodness.
The partnership between Ellen King of Hewn and Andrea Hazzard of Hazzard Free Farm Grains & Beans isn't just that of a farm supplying a bakery with local grains. The collaboraters have been working on a project to bring back Marquis wheat, an heirloom wheat that originated in the early 20th century and then virtually disappeared. This fall, after three years of effort, the duo gears up for a regular release of bread made with the newly propagated Marquis wheat.
Hazzard Free Farm: 5111 Ahrens Rd, Pecatonica, IL (815-289-1431)
The highly seasonal menus at North Pond are executed with the help of a large number of farms that supply Bruce Sherman's restaurant, including Kinnikinnick Farm, which provides produce like baby arugula, breakfast tomatoes and purple tomatoes. Owners David and Susan Cleverdon started Kinnikinnick simply because their garden grew too big. Years later, the husband-and-wife team runs a property packed with produce and livestock. Farming is a passion for the Cleverdons, and they're keen to share it by offering farm stays for those interested in learning the tricks of the trade.
Kinnikinnick Farm: 21123 Grade School Rd, Caledonia, IL (815-292-3288)
For Big Jones chef and co-owner Paul Fehribach, using local and sustainable ingredients is key to the Southern cuisine his restaurant churns out. Fehribach believes in sustaining local economies rather than buying ingredients produced hundreds of miles away. Take the restaurant's dairy—it's provided by Kilgus Farmstead, about two hours southwest of the city, and can be found in the kitchen's grits and ridiculously creamy ice cream. Fehribach credits teh texture and taste to some special bovines: Kilgus has a herd of primarily Jersey cows, which produce milk of higher quality and stronger flavor than regular cows.
Kilgus Farmstead: 21471 E 670 North Rd, Fairbury, IL (815-692-6080)
"Can you hear the cows and sheep?" says Louis John Slagel of Slagel Family Farm. He's a true believer in his product. The family-owned fifth-generation farm supplies meat, including everything from bacon to lamb, to many Chicago restaurants such as Lula Cafe, where you can find its tender dry-aged beef on the menu. The farm lauds quality as a reason to eat local; from tenderness to marbling, a product doesn't maintain the same level of excellence after being shipped long distances.
Slagel Family Farm: 23601 E 600 North Rd, Fairbury, IL (815-848-9385)
Find more of Chicago's best restaurants
Chicago is a town that cares as much about Grant Achatz's newest concept as where to find the best burgers. Hence it's with an equal passion for worthwhile splurges and cheap eats that we present our picks for the best restaurants in Chicago. (Tip: Begin or end your culinary adventures at one of Chicago's best cocktail bars.)