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We Don't Like Gonadal Steroids Either

By Laura Oppenheimer in Food on Jan 30, 2007 3:50PM


Chicagoist walks down Division Street every day, so we were intrigued last month when posters like the one above appeared in the windows of an empty restaurant on the corner of Division and Hoyne. Other posters lauded the benefits of organic food, asking "Is that a locally grown, certified organic, sustainable farmed zucchini in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?" and had the lyrics "When the Moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie...." We put two and two together, determined some sort of organic pizza place would be moving in to the space, appreciated the clever pre-opening marketing and left it at that.

As it turns out, this soon-to-be-open restaurant (which now has a name, Crust) is no gimmick. Chef and owner Michael Altenberg is planning on the entire restaurant being certified organic. Everything from the vegetables on the pizza, to the vodka in the martinis, to the cleaning supplies used, have to be certified.

In order to be certified as organic, Altenberg must prove that 95% of ingredients used in the restaurant meet U.S. Department of Agriculture's organic standards and come from certified organic purveyors. Doing this is no easy task; Altenberg has spent the past year documenting ingredients and sourcing materials. When he does achieve organic certification, Crust will become the Midwest's only certified organic restaurant, and only the fourth in the nation. And when it succeeds? Altenberg plans on opening other Crust outposts as well as certifying his other restaurant, Bistro Campagne.

"We want to set the bar. I want people asking, 'Is my salad organic?' " Altenberg told the Sun-Times. "To me, there's some real power in this."