From Chicago Crain's Blog on Aug. 7, 2014
When Amy Morton opened in Evanston in 2012, weekend wait times for a table averaged two and a half hours. The farm-to-table concept was soaring in Chicago, but it was still new in the North Shore suburb.
“It was an empty canvas,” Ms. Morton says. “There was a huge void.” While a few restaurants, including were offering more contemporary dining, Evanston locals often went to Chicago for a night out. Now, Ms. Morton says, Evanston has become a dining destination for Chicagoans.and
“People from the city are just coming here on their own, it's really something,” she says. “We've been open a year and a half, and in the last year we've seen so many things open.” She deadpans: “It is the next little Brooklyn.”
Brooklyn may be a stretch, looking at the gleamingly clean streets of a town where spitting on public property is illegal. But it's hard to ignore the precious tinge that the artisanal movement is batting around the city: whole-hog meat shops where the owner can name the farmer who raised each cut (); loaves of bread made by hand from local grains and sold in compostable packaging ( ); restaurant bars that serve liquor from distilleries within biking distance over old Johnny or Jim (Found).
Since the start of 2013, nearly two dozen new restaurants and breweries have opened in Evanston, and the artisanal, local-food movement influences many of them. There are two new restaurant/breweries ( A nanobrewery, is slated to open this month.), a brewery with a tasting room ( ) and a home brew shop,
A sampling of the restaurant openings includes David Morton and Michael Kornick's and the fast-casual seasonally focused restaurant and, most recently, co-owned by former Publican chef de cuisine Brian Huston, which joined the farm-to-table clan in July.
And more is in the works: a restaurant serving wood-fired pizzas and smoked meats, is scheduled to open this fall on Central Street.
Debbie Evans, who, along with her husband, Jamie, owns the Peckish Pig, sees the Evanston renaissance as an outgrowth of the artisanal movement in Chicago and throughout the Midwest. “People are realizing how important it is to have great food and how accessible it really is, without breaking the bank. Evanston has caught on, and it's spreading like wildfire,” Ms. Evans says.
The brewery collaborates with other new, locally minded businesses. One is Hewn, which makes a “spent grain” bread incorporating grains used by Peckish Pig and Temperance in the brewing process.
Hewn co-owner Ellen King says working together is part of the fun. “We're all local in the community and our kids all go to school here and we're all having fun with our businesses,” she says. “It's honestly like a perfect storm of everybody following their passion and keeping it in their community.”
Johanna Nyden, Evanston's economic development division manager, says the food and drink renaissance there is simple to explain: In Evanston, as elsewhere, diners are demanding more. “I think 20 years ago when I was here the coolest thing that came was like a Bar Louie. But now, that doesn't cut it,” she says.