FEAST: 6 green bars and bistros

Pub date April 3, 2007
SectionFood & Drink

The road to hell is paved with recycled soda cans. I know you mean well, turning off the water while you brush your teeth and sorting your trash, but don’t you know it takes more than that now? We’re saving the world, yo, and boy, does it need saving. So what else can you do besides buy your toilet paper at Trader Joe’s? How about support green businesses — and green restaurants in particular? Because with all the day-to-day hard work and heartache it takes to run such a place, it ain’t easy being … well, you know. Luckily, the world has people like Ritu Primlani, founder and executive director of Thimmakka’s Resources for Environmental Education. Thimmakka’s mission is to help restaurants conserve water and energy, prevent pollution, and minimize solid waste — and then reward them for their efforts by publicizing them as certified green businesses. And though some of the classic do-gooders are on the list — Chez Panisse and Café Gratitude among them — Thimmakka also makes a special effort to work with lesser-known, ethnic, and lower-brow venues. The following is a small set of Bay Area bars and clubs that have undergone Thimmakka’s greening program and come out a healthier shade of jade. For more, in the Bay and elsewhere, visit www.thimmakka.org. (Molly Freedenberg)


Far from being your typical dive, this Mission saloon is all about going above and beyond. It organizes charity bartender nights, hosts meetings of green-leaning politicos, and impressed Thimmakka with its myriad of earth-friendly measures: using rechargeable batteries, ultralow-flush toilets and double-sided printers, reusing recycled content in construction materials and tabletop covers, and letting dry waste sit for a day or so (to save trash bags). Plus, there’s nothing like a good pour of Stella to help you forget for a moment that global warming is going to kill us all.

3200 16th St., SF. (415) 552-1633, www.elixirsf.com


Wonder what Nepalese food is like? It’s a lot like Indian food but lighter, fluffier, and, in the case of this Marina eatery, greener. Though stark and a bit lonely during the day, this is the kind of place that could be cozy and festive when packed on a weekend night. And there’s every reason for it to be — the greens are surprisingly spicy, the garbanzo bean stew both sweet and savory, the naan so airy it’s positively gravity defying, and the service as friendly as friendly could be. Plus, it’s Thimmakka approved.

2420 Lombard, SF. (415) 674-9898, www.himalayanexp.com


Not just a home of tiny plates of food and large pitchers of sangria, Ramblas is also an exemplar of green goodness. It has discarded grease and oil picked up to be reused as biodiesel or soap. It donates electronic equipment. It uses a special vent that keeps grease away from the roof so it doesn’t wash into storm water. And all its chard and spinach are organic. Feel that high? It’s not just the fruity wine-and-spirits concoction you had with dinner. It’s the buzz of environmental righteousness.

557 Valencia, SF. (415) 565-0207, www.ramblastapas.com


This Berkeley bistro stays true to the French tradition of well-portioned, perfectly seasoned, richly flavored delights. But it shucks the age-old restaurant convention of waste, waste, waste. Among its other envirofriendly accomplishments, Liaison manages to recycle and compost 80 percent of its solid waste. C’est responsable!

1849 Shattuck, Berk. (510) 849-2155, www.liaisonbistro.com


The shabby exterior and faded sign aren’t doing San Miguel any favors, but inside this Mission eatery is a kitschy, cozy, Disneyland-does-Guatemala affair with maps under glass on the tables, rows of Latin American tchotchkes hanging from the corrugated tin ceiling, and a soundtrack of music that can only be described as south of the border polka. And in addition to doing good for your taste buds (try the sour and savory salpicon), this place is doing good for the planet. It uses potpourri and a special degreaser instead of Pine-Sol and aerosols, it’s outfitted its bathrooms with special aerated taps, and it’s learned how to identify and repair leaks. So go ahead: have your camarones asados with a side of environmentalism.

3263 Mission, SF. (415) 641-5866, www.forored.com/sanmiguel


"Really? Blondie’s?" That’s the response I get when I tell people this Mission dance club is one of Thimmakka’s darlings — not because the walls are papered with Styrofoam and baby seal eyes or anything, but because the scene is so far from the hemp and hacky-sack culture usually associated with envirofriendliness. But it’s true. This bastion of Yelp.com ambivalence serves organic vodka, reduces paper waste by posting bulletins on a board rather than handing out individual letters or memos, conserves water with special dishwasher systems, and reduces chemical pollution by using a diluted pesticide that’s 200 times less toxic than Raid. Best of all, though, Blondie’s encourages people to get out of their cars by having parking for bikes — no big surprise if you know owner Nicole Dewald’s mother was a major player in getting bike lanes and one-lane streets in the city. "It’s their claim to fame," Primlani said.

540 Valencia, SF. (415) 864-2419, www.blondiesbar.com *