First came food co-ops, then CSAs, then buy-your-own-raw-milk clubs. Next up: community-supported restaurants. A natural next step in the increasing obsession with hyper-local food, CSRs allow customers to become small investors in local eateries, giving them perks such as free meals—as well as a vested interest in seeing the restaurant succeed. For travelers, dining at a CSR means eating somewhere that is truly rooted in the surrounding community. We think these six new CSRs are worth checking out. If you agree, you can always buy in.
Rock Hill, South Carolina: Lell’s Café
This two-year-old spot features hearty, down-home cooking (bacon and pimento cheese sandwich; vanilla-bourbon sticky-finger French toast) made with seasonal Carolina ingredients. It opened with no bank loans, just the support of community investors.
Portland, Maine: Local Sprouts Café
The first CSR in this restaurant-mad town grew out of a food-coop. It serves as a community gathering space that showcases Portland performers alongside farm-fresh, organic dishes, plus locally-brewed kombucha and baked goods.
Austin, Texas: Lenoir (pictured)
This new American spot serves inventive dishes like kasu-cured red snapper with avocado butter, and hosts a monthly dinner series that showcases food producers, artists, and writers from the community.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Braise
A high-end eatery that has upped the dining game in Milwaukee, Braise has earned fervid local support for its creative perpetration of local Midwestern meats, as in seared pork roulade with pozole and pickling juice vinaigrette.
Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Mystery Brewing Company
Adapting the CSR model for suds-lovers, this new microbrewery makes only seasonal beers, and gives investors access to special small-batch, barrel-aged beers.
Brendan Spiegal is a contributor to TravelandLeisure.com.