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Nature’s Plate Award

“You want to support people who are farming or raising animals sustainably because its better on all kinds of levels — for the animals, for the environment, for your own personal health.” —Josh Hunt, Beer Run

By Daniel White

Charlottesville’s favorite “green” restaurant is Beer Run. Hundreds of local diners voted to determine this year’s winner of the Nature’s Plate Award, The Nature Conservancy’s contest highlighting environmentally responsible restaurants in select American cities.

Nestled between Belmont and Woolen Mills on Carlton Road, Beer Run has grown into one of Charlottesville’s most popular gathering places for enthusiasts of craft beer and local, organic food.

But when owners Josh Hunt and John Woodriff were planning their business, which just celebrated its 6th anniversary, sustainable dining wasn’t on the menu. In fact, the step-brothers weren’t planning to run a restaurant at all.

Brew Station Becomes Dining Destination

Beer Run is unusually quiet when I drop by before lunchtime to present the winner’s certificate. At our table on the enclosed patio, Hunt and Woodriff discuss how Beer Run evolved from their first concept of a craft-beer shop.

“It was originally going to be a grab-and-go place, kind of a gourmet deli,” Woodriff explains. “While you waited for your food, you could have a beer, grab a six-pack.”

“But no one wanted to leave,” Hunt chimes in. “Once they got here, people wanted to hang out, so we really had to figure out seating and expand.”

In short order, Beer Run transitioned into a full-fledged restaurant with a philosophy. Hunt and Woodriff are quick to credit their mother, Mary Ann, a former restaurateur, with inspiring their passion for the local-food movement.

Beer Run’s Green Recipe

“We try to be conscious of everything we’re purchasing,” Woodriff says. That thoughtfulness extends to details such as palm-leaf sandwich plates, recycled paper and corn-based biodegradable to-go cups. And naturally, the food and drink receive particular attention.

Whether you’re ordering a pint of stout or a platter of organic black-bean nachos, there’s a connection, according to Hunt: quality ingredients. “There’s industrial beer versus craft beer, and there’s local and natural food versus industrial food,” he says.

A key difference is that Beer Run’s owners can name the local farmers who grow or raise the organic vegetables and all-natural eggs and meats that grace Chef Hernan Franco’s dishes.

“You want to support people who are farming or raising animals sustainably because it's better on all kinds of levels — for the animals, for the environment, for your own personal health,” says Hunt. “You understand that we’re all part of a bigger system, and if you can try to be a steward and reward people who are good stewards, there’s a greater goal there.”

Standing Up — and Out — for Sustainability

To capture the Nature’s Plate Award, Beer Run garnered the most votes after two rounds of online and mobile voting. The tightly contested final round featured some formidable — and delicious — competition: Brookville, Fossett’s, The Local and Rapture.

“All the places on that list are places that I love to go,” says Hunt. “I definitely appreciate what everybody’s doing around town, and it’s awesome to be in a community that values sustainable food and has such great chefs.”

Beer Run’s owners profess deep appreciation for their community of loyal customers and the Nature’s Plate voters. “The message that we’ve been trying to put out there and stay committed to for the six years we’ve been open — to get recognition for that was amazing,” says Woodriff.

And on that note … I believe it’s time for lunch.

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