This is Brian Thornburg.

I don’t know about you, but I LOVE going out to eat.  Discovering a wonderful new restaurant is one of life’s great pleasures, and it can be hard to decide on which one to go to. But if you care about your local community and its economic health, here’s one criterion you should always consider:  Eat Local.

Eat Local means choosing independent, locally-owned restaurants when you choose to go out to eat. Sometimes that can be hard to do with so many choices out there, but if you consciously try to select eateries that are locally-owned, you would be doing a ton of good for the local economy.

One of the biggest benefits of Eat Local is that local restaurants buy most of their supplies, produce, and other ingredients from local businesses and farms, and more money stays in the local economy. This also cuts down on all the transportation needed to collect all the supplies in one place, so that in turn cuts down on fuel costs, pollution, urban sprawl, and habitat loss. And that tomato in your sandwich that came from local farmer a mile or so down the road will taste a whole lot better than the one that traveled hundreds of miles in a gas-gulping truck.

And I can hear some of you saying, “Don’t ALL restaurants have to pay taxes?” Well, yes, all restaurants have taxes to pay. But the owners and workers at the local places also live in our community and spend their profits here in town for services. When you pay your tab at the local place, the profits may go to sponsor Youth Baseball in the Carrboro parks, and not go to a faceless corporation that may have a tax-shelter headquarters in a Grand Cayman post office box.

Another benefit of Eat Local is that you are not inadvertently supporting the questionable politics of the owner of a mega-food business. I’m thinking specifically of a certain chicken sandwich chain and a well-known pizza franchise that support policies and positions that are radically different than what I believe in. I have a hard time enjoying that sandwich knowing I’m actually making it harder to have the kind of town, county, state, and country that I believe in.

And the biggest reason to Eat Local is that we are so lucky to have an incredible abundance of excellent restaurants and restaurant owners in our community. We have almost every kind of cuisine you can think of and every price range. You could eat every meal at a local restaurant and go to a new place every day – unless you have a favorite that you like to go to often.

Bon appétit!