Faces + Places

Sustainability Spotlight: Clementine

Photo courtesy of HDR archives.

I really like it when businesses take steps to be more eco-conscious. To me, it just feels neighborly, and I think that this is one of the reasons downtown Harrisonburg feels like such a tight-knit community. Recently, I got to chat with Mike Comfort—one of the owners of Clementine—in an effort to take a closer look at what Clementine is doing to be a good neighbor, and I’m happy to report that this restaurant’s choices are just as beautiful as the colorful place itself.

As many may have noticed, the local food movement is very much alive in downtown Harrisonburg, and Clementine bares no exception. Aside from hosting artwork by local artists and a variety of live music, this vibrant downtown restaurant also showcases in its daily specials an array of fresh produce, meat, and eggs from the Valley.

Because of the sheer volume of food required to serve Clementine’s many customers on a daily basis, sourcing the entire menu from local providers is not exactly feasible. But, as Comfort tells me, by featuring a limited amount of different “local” dishes every day, the restaurant can fulfill its desire to show off some local flavor without having to worry about running out of food for the entire menu. For Executive Chef Jeff Minnich, this setup also allows for the constant creation of new and exciting dishes inspired by what he finds at the Harrisonburg Farmers Market. I’m told that you can be sure to expect more than just a local tomato sitting atop your salad with Minnich on the prowl for local goods. What could be more enticing than that?

The folks at Clementine also take heed of where their waste goes. Coffee grounds and vegetable scraps often go home with employees and other members of the community for composting, cardboard gets used to help heat one owner’s home, and the leftover fryer oil gets a second life fueling a catering truck. Of course, Comfort assures me, the employees at Clementine try to recycle whatever they can and strive to turn the lights off whenever possible, too. As for sustainability goals, Comfort tells me that he would like to see Clementine running entirely off of solar panels someday, but that it is probably further down the road. I wouldn’t worry too much, though; it sounds as if this restaurant is well on their way down a bright path.

Clementine will also be featured at the Green Innovations Tour on Saturday, March 24! Learn more here.

Patty O’Neill is a 2011 graduate of James Madison University, an employee at the Friendly City Food Co-op, and a Harrisonburg resident.

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