Meet Chicago’s Trash-Free Restaurant

Sandwich Me In owner Justin Vrany never has to take out the garbage

Sandwich Me In has been opened (and garbage-free) since May of 2012.

Lake View, Chicago’s Sandwich Me In is a sustainable restaurant. No, not “we switched to fluorescent light bulbs and buy local when we can” sustainable. According to owner Justin Vrany, who opened the restaurant in May 2012, Sandwich Me In produces absolutely no waste. Zero.

Well none that gets taken out or finds its way into a landfill anyway. After buying local, composting, repurposing materials, and doing his own recycling, Vrany produced a total of eight gallons of garbage in two years, about the amount some regular restaurants produce in an hour. Instead of taking it to a dumpster though, Vrany stuck to his garbage-free plan, giving the eight pounds of waste to a local artist who then created a sculpture. 

According to Vrany, he’s always wanted to be a chef, but hasn’t always been so environmentally friendly. “I used to eat whatever and just do whatever I wanted to do,” he said in a short YouTube film about his work. However, when he went back to school and learned more about composting and other environmentally friendly food practices, he changed his outlook. “I came home and told my wife “We’re not doing this anymore,” he said. 

In addition to keeping Sandwich Me In trash-free into the foreseeable future, Vrany plans to run a free composting program through the restaurant starting this summer.


Adam D’Arpino is the Restaurants Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @AdamDArpino.