Local produce is popular with local eateries

July 06, 2004|HERB BROCK

When you go to local restaurants, it's not uncommon to see a big food service truck or two parked at the loading dock in back, unloading tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, apples and oranges and other produce. By and large, this produce comes from farms well out of the 40422 zip code.

But at a few local eateries, you might occasionally spot a pickup truck from a farm or large garden in the local zip code area or ones close to it, unloading locally-grown produce.

While most local restaurants get the majority of their produce from food-service companies, with most of the vegetables and fruits coming from as far away as Florida, Texas and California, more than a few of them also mix in produce they buy from local farmers and growers.

"One of our specialties is fried green tomatoes, and you can't beat the green tomatoes we get from local growers," said Charley Hester, manager of the Kentucky Depot in Stanford.


Hester said she also purchases red tomatoes, green peppers, cantaloupe and watermelons from local growers.

"Farmers from around here come by often to sell their produce," Hester said. "Depending on the season and what our menus are at the time, we usually will buy some of it.

"We buy most of our produce from a food service supplier, but we do use a lot of the local produce," she said. "We like to help out our local growers, and their produce helps us out at the same time.

"Their fruits and vegetables are really good, and our customers really love them. It adds something to a meal knowing that part of it comes from right where the restaurant is."

There also is plenty of room for local produce on the menu at Dude's Place in Waynesburg, according to manager Susan Cress.

"We have a local grower here that sells us excellent, reliable produce, including cabbage, lettuce and carrots," Cress said. "Also, other farmers drop by from time to time to sell us tomatoes and peppers.

"We use food services to provide most of our fruits and vegetables, but we do buy a lot of locally-grown produce in season. The local produce is as fresh as it gets, and our customers like that."

Diners and country kitchen-style restaurants aren't the only ones that frequently use produce from local growers. Two Roads Cafe in Danville, known for gourmet cooking, also taps the local market.

"We purchase seasonal fruits and vegetables from local growers, including everything from green beans to strawberries to watermelons," said owner Jerry Houck. "We also buy tomatoes and lettuce from local growers, on a year-round basis.

"The local produce provides a freshness and a local flavor that you can't get from a supplier," he said.

Reno's in Danville relies mainly on food service companies to provide the vast majority of its produce, but the restaurant occasionally will buy locally-grown products.

"We go outside to food suppliers for most of our produce, and we do that for year-round consistency of product, but sometimes we will purchase some produce locally," said manager Lona Spigle. "For instance, we're buying locally-grown corn-on-the-cob and are running a special on it."

But for Charley Hester of the Kentucky Depot, there is nothing more "special" than a plate that has at least some local flavor on it.

"The produce we get from suppliers is good quality produce and tastes good, but there's nothing like local tomatoes or peppers or melons," she said. "And having a restaurant with Kentucky in its name, it wouldn't be right if we didn't offer some Kentucky fruits and vegetables at one time or another."

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