Cofounder Bettina Stern says she and business partner Suzanne Simon are on a mission at Washington, D.C.–based Chaia: to “change the world, one taco at a time.” The pair, who started cooking for a blog and later for a farmer’s market, opened their brick-and-mortar “farm to taco” concept in November 2015 in D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood. The menu is seasonal and plant-based, and the ingredients are sourced locally.

“Chaia is at the intersection of food, health, and the environment,” Stern says. “Our mission is to get people to eat more vegetables, in-season and grown locally.” The menu features options like the Creamy Kale & Potato taco with pepperjack, poblano crema, green sauce, and pickled onions; the Roasted Beet taco with ricotta salata, cilantro-lime yogurt, and fresh jalapeño; and the Chipotle Sweet Potato Hash taco with feta, arugula, pumpkin seed salsa, and cilantro.

Stern says Chaia is dedicated to sustainability, and the plant-based menu means the company can avoid sourcing carbon-intensive meats. She adds that the local-sourcing strategy is difficult, but possible.

“The average restaurant works with 300 ingredients; we work with around 50 at any given time,” she says. “We buy as much as we can locally … and we’ve forged these farm and partner relationships because it’s the right thing to do. We aim to be part of a food system that makes sense for both the farmer and for the consumer.”

Stern and Simon are working on opening locations two and three, and Stern says the business has grown “organically by letting our product and our team take center stage.”

Menu Innovations, Story