THE SUSTAINABLE ROLL McCall sushi chef serves clean and green certified fish

By Carissa Wolf / Photography By Guy Hand | June 26, 2017
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Jordan and Jennifer Ragsdale prove that clean, green and fresh can get rolled into one at The Sushi Bar in McCall. They also prove that it doesn’t take a lot of green to run Idaho’s only Green Restaurant Association–certified restaurant.

“We do things a little differently,” Jordan Ragsdale said of his sustainably sourced and affordable menu that fuses traditional Asian flavors into unique creations. “We took a lot of inspiration from our own cooking and the places that we worked in the past. A lot of sushi bars went in the direction of five different
fish, deep fried with cream cheese. It’s not to say that cream cheese doesn’t have a place in a roll somewhere. A couple of our rolls feature it but it’s small and discreet—it’s not the prominent taste.”

What is prominent at The Sushi Bar is an emphasis on bright, fresh flavors and a commitment to keeping the planet green. Just as important as what’s on the menu—sustainably caught fish, $1 generous bowls of miso soup, comforting pho—is what’s not on the menu. You won’t find artificially colored pink ginger
on the side, and The Sushi Bar won’t pack your to-go order in Styrofoam. 

As for the energy that lights the restaurant and gives warmth to savory bowls of soup: It comes from the wind. And the restaurant’s leftovers? They feed some local chickens. Those are just a couple of the hundreds of efforts the Ragsdales put into the menu at the two-story, downtown McCall sushi joint that sets it above the competition and earned the restaurant a three-star rating from the Green Restaurant Association (GRA).

The GRA remains the only organization that certifies the sustainability of a restaurant through an auditing and verification process. They offer levels of certification that laud the depths of a restaurant’s green efforts which must meet standards on dozens of criteria to earn two stars. To keep the rating, restaurants must continue to improve upon that criteria to maintain their certification. To earn four stars, restaurants must meet standards in hundreds of areas that look at everything from where the food comes from to how it’s prepared and how it’s thrown away. It’s a rating system that looks at the nitty-gritty details of an operation and involves meeting standards in sustainability in seven areas including water efficiency, chemical and pollution reduction and sustainable furnishings and building materials. 

To date, more than 500 restaurants across the nation have been certified by the GRA. The Sushi Bar remains the only one in Idaho so far.

“There’s so much stuff that’s easy and simple, and the customers love it and it keeps them coming back. If a restaurant wants to embrace the concept of green, they shouldn’t have any problems doing so,” Jordan Ragsdale said.

The Ragsdales could charge a premium for the green rolls that pack the sushi bar to capacity in the summer months. But they don’t. They found that with a little creativity and a lot of passion, it’s quite affordable to do the green thing.

For Jordan, the certification is a way to fuse his culinary love with a propensity to geek out. The engineer turned sushi chef found there’s always a way to make something more efficient, to reduce waste or to find innovative solutions to everyday problems. 

The Ragsdales wrap innovation, creativity and risk around their rolls and into a business plan that had the couple ditching bosses and Boise for sushi and McCall horizons in 2009.

“It’s been a slow progression. We started so small,” he said. “We literally packed up a couple suitcases full of clothes and a sushi case that we bought on eBay, threw it in the back of the Subaru and drove up to McCall one night. And that was it.”

The Sushi Bar
414 Railroad Ave., McCall
Tu–Sa 4–9pm, Su 4–8pm

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