Cafe Carmo (527 Julia St., 504-875-4132; www.cafecarmo.com) has taken a unique approach from the start. Dana Honn and his wife Christina blend traditions from her native Brazil with flavors from the Far East to Louisiana. They also take a lighter approach and offer many vegan choices. Along the way, they've built "green" features into their business plan, and recently the Boston-based Green Restaurant Association (www.dinegreen.com) awarded Cafe Carmo a three-star rating (out of a possible four stars) after evaluating factors from food sustainability and water efficiency to building materials and energy use. It's one of four Louisiana businesses certified by the group, and it's ranked the highest.
What makes the green approach worthwhile to you?
Honn: For one thing, all of us here feel strongly about doing the least damage and the most good in life in general. But also, I can't imagine smart business folks who aren't thinking about this now. Working the costs into your business model from the start is more savvy than waiting for regulations or just a lack of resources or even public sentiment to dictate those changes for you. It's just a reality.
What's one step that makes a really big difference?
H: In New Orleans, the No. 1 thing that's a continual work in progress is sourcing. We have the farmers markets, which are very helpful, and some farmers are growing specific produce for us now, but how the food gets to you, how long it has to travel is still the big issue. But the good news is that it's improving here, without a doubt. It comes down to shortening your supply lines as much as possible, and those aren't always simple calculations. Our tropical juice supply chain is now down to the point where it's about as efficient as someone buying orange juice from the grocery store, even though some of our juices are coming from Brazil.
What's next for Cafe Carmo?
H: We're working incrementally toward our goals. We have a solarium on the second floor where we can grow more of our produce on site, and by the end of July we should have a new bar ready, with cocktails, a new bar menu and later hours. — IAN MCNULTY