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Three D.C. Institutions That Were Farm-to-Table Before It Was Cool

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These places have done it since the beginning.

Equinox Restaurant
Equinox Restaurant
R. Lopez

classics week logoPerhaps no catchphrase has been more appropriated by restaurants over the last five to ten years than "farm-to-table." And while the phrase may be eye-roll-worthy, the idea behind it is, of course, a worthy one. Restaurants which rely on local farmers for produce and emphasize seasonality in their cooking have become more and more prevalent in Washington — and that's a good thing.

But some places have been adopting this approach for decades, long before "farm-to-table" was used as a marketing tool. Here are three that deserve credit for it.

Equinox

Equinox / Photo by R. Lopez

Todd and Ellen Gray opened Equinox in 1999 right near the White House. From the beginning, the restaurant has emphasized local products, regional specialties and seasonal cooking. The Grays have been major promoters of local seafood from the Chesapeake Bay (the restaurant is a great place to sample such delicacies as soft-shell crabs and shad roe when in season). In recent years, Gray has even raised his own cattle and caught his own fish for the restaurant. Find local veal, Northeastern recipes and in-season spaghetti squash on the menu right now.

Restaurant Nora

Restaurant Nora

Restaurant Nora opened in D.C. in 1979, with a menu devoted to using the works of organic farmers. The restaurant would become America's first certified organic restaurant in 1999, which means 95 percent of the products used in the restaurant are from certified organic suppliers. Chef Nora Poullion prepares menu items like broccoli parmesan soup and Amish veal scallopini today.

Clyde's Restaurant Group

1789.

The Clyde's group of restaurants (which also includes Old Ebbitt Grill and 1789) have been consistently committed to using farm-fresh ingredients for decades. The movement began with the owners bringing in produce from farm stands themselves to use at the restaurants; they then sat down with farmers to learn how to best supply the restaurants directly. The restaurant held farm dinners in the 1990s to draw more awareness to their producers, and opened Clyde's Willow Creek Farm in 2006 on the site of a historic farm in Ashburn.

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