Maldaner’s Restaurant, tradition goes farm to fork plus energy savvy.

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Michael Higgin's poses on the rooftop of Maldaner's with his bee hive and herbs.
Michael Higgin’s chef/owner poses on the rooftop of Maldaner’s with his bee hive and herbs.

Maldaner’s Restaurant has been the place to go for special occasions for generations.  Established in 1884, this is one of, if not Springfield’s oldest locally owned restaurants.  Located downtown, this is a place loved by locals and tourists alike.  It is a place I remember as a special date place, after marriage, a great anniversary and special celebration place, and recently a favorite luncheon spot.  But lately, I learned that they had more going on than just being one of Springfield and Central Illinois go to places.  While working on an article for Senior News & Times about local places to eat during the Illinois State Fair and a farm to fork story for Farm World, I stopped by Maldaner’s Restaurant with Jeff Berg of Visit Springfield.  We were thrilled when chef/owner Michael Higgins gave us a tour of the rooftop where some wonderful things are going on!

Being a farmer’s wife and working for years in the environmental field, I was excited to learn that Maldaner’s Restaurant has upped the ante lately becoming Green Business Certified through the use of Solar Panels, a rooftop garden and bee hives.  Maldaner’s is as sustainable as possible. Maldaner’s also buys fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers and Farmer’s markets,

Right before the Memorial Day weekend, Michael Higgins, the Chef/Owner of Maldaner’s Restaurant said they added to their rooftop beehive because the hive started to swarm and the hive had to be reestablished.  “There are about 100,000 bees in the hive. We use the honey they produce around 40-50 lbs, or 8-10 quarts.  We use the honey for some special parties and tasting events and give some away.”

As far as the garden, Higgins said, “We are just now starting to plant.  We started the garden three to four years ago.”

For energy savings, Higgins added solar panels and today they get about 15% of their energy from the panels and another 15% from the LED lights they added.  “This amounts to a 30% energy savings,” Higgins said.

The panels were secured through a grant program and his payback is working with the statewide education program. He also shares how the panel’s work with the public.  Higgins has been amazed by the amount of print he has received from the solar panels, the beehive and garden.  One local column in the Springfield Journal Register about the program went national and was picked up by Food magazines.  “The most obscure coverage was in Chopper Magazine, a motorcycle magazine,” Higgins added.

When adding the bees and solar panels, Higgins said they had to scale back the garden a bit.  They are adding in more herbs and native perennials and they are focusing on plants to help increase the Monarch Butterfly population like Swamp Milkweed. “There has been a lot of habitat loss for the Monarchs,” Higgins explained.

The rooftop garden is an employee favorite.  “Our employees enjoy coming up to garden.”

The employees were not the only one that loved checking out the rooftop, I did too!  Now when dining below I will be wondering if I am eating herbs or honey from above! Take time to give this local stop a try whether a visitor or central Illinoisan, tips for finding information about the restaurant can be found by logging in to  http://www.maldaners.com/.