10 Oct Sustainable and Green before Green was ‘IN’
Irregardless Café & Catering stands as a pioneer in the restaurant business putting into action ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ long before they became buzz words. Founded in 1975 by Arthur Gordon owner/chef, Irregardless opened as Raleigh’s first vegetarian restaurant and evolved to serving a diverse menu of healthily prepared fresh foods. The Cafe’s and Catering meals encourage their patrons to “eat lower on the food chain”, offering delicious vegan, vegetarian and gluten free meals, as well as meals featuring beef, lamb, seafood, poultry and duck.
Today, business are accountable to their patrons for their sustainable practices – to ensure that they do not have negative impact on the environment. Back in 1975 when Irregardless Cafe opened its doors, it was living green practices – and has continued to since then.
Right from the beginning, the Cafe sourced local produce with Chef Arthur Gordon visiting the Farmers Market each day. The Cafe’s menu was designed each day, depending on what the farmers were featuring each day. The Cafe now sources organic produce from it’s own Well Fed Community Garden, just 3 miles from the Cafe on Athens Drive.
Recycling wasn’t as easy back then, all the Cafe’s glass and cardboard needed to be taken to the recycling drop-off. There were no recycling pick ups until the Cafe’s Brunch Chef Jon Bograd (now the Cafe’s General Manager) opened his own recycling business Phoenix Resources Recycling, and Irregardless became one of his first customers in 1989.
Also respecting the value of the Cafe’s left overs saved waste – Irregardless was the first restaurant to donate its left-over meals to the Interfaith Food Shuttle to feed the hungry at soup kitchens and homeless shelters. America is ‘awakening’ to the sober realization that 40% of food is wasted! Irregardless composts it’s pre-consumer kitchen scraps at the Well Fed Garden, and the bread scraps from the tables feed the Garden’s chickens.
Saving water – with low flush toilets were installed early. Energy efficient appliances were purchased. Ten thermal solar panels on the Cafe’s roof heats the hot water needed to wash & sterilize dishes,
Irregardless Cafe has also been a leader in the Triangle community. It was the first restaurant to offer Sunday Brunch (a novel concept back then.) Irregardless was the first restaurant in the State of North Carolina to go non-smoking in the mid 1980’s, twenty five years before the State mandated it.
When the Cafe was destroyed by fire in 1994 and closed for rebuilding, Chef Arthur ‘walked the talk’ and looked after his staff like they were his family – continuing to pay them their salaries. ‘Treat others like you would like to be treated’ is his motto. Irregardless serves meals that Arthur would want to eat – freshly prepared from local produce, when possible, in a friendly atmosphere by knowledgeable, attentive staff.
Irregardless offers more than its delicious and wholesome meals – it also offers the intangible, yet valuable ‘product’: culture and community.
Culture – every night of the week, since the first day it opened, Irregardless Cafe has featured live musical entertainment with dinner. (Arthur as ‘impresario’ has invested close to $2,000,000 in NC musicians over 42+ years,) The walls of the Cafe showcase local artist Kyle Highsmith’s paintings of North Carolina and far off lands.
Community – the Cafe and now the Well Fed Garden are ‘front porch’ experiences, where neighbors see each other, visit and celebrate milestone events together. Our regular patrons have told us that as soon as they walk into the Cafe, their body’s relax, they feel safe and looked after. Over the years, the Cafe has hosted many, many regulars who have became part of the ‘Irregardless family’. And now the Well Fed Garden (named for the well that was found on the property when it was purchased in 2012) hosts communities of young people who work the soil with folks of all ages, and together they nourish themselves with organic produce and friendship.