Restaurant owner Jack DeMar said he saw a demand for “cheerful food” in Evanston.
“Evanston has a more holistic student community and neighborhood community and business community that could use healthier, affordable, fast-paced options,” he said. “That’s definitely how I like to eat, and I think that’s how more and more people want to eat.”
Picnic, which will open the first week of May at 1619 Chicago Ave., will try to meet this demand.
The restaurant’s menu is inspired by the kinds of foods DeMar likes to work with at home, including salads and cereal bowls, he said. When cooking, DeMar likes to focus on vegetables, grains, and lean proteins, as well as flavorful sauces and dressings. Now he will cook at the picnic every day.
One of DeMar’s favorite menu sections is what he calls “picnics,” which are plates of decorated snacks that he thinks could be a meal, an appetizer, or something to take to a park. for a picnic. A Mediterranean-inspired plate includes hummus, pita and olives. Similar to a charcuterie board, DeMarr said these plates are optimal for combining different foods.
Walking inside, customers can expect to see a relaxing, minimalist environment, DeMar said. The decor of the restaurant includes a huge mirror, commissioned painting and colorful dried herbs and flowers. He also said he wants to experiment with seasonal decor for the restaurant, which will not have a dining room.
“It’s especially important because it’s takeout, delivery only,” DeMar said. “So you’ll only have that brief moment in time that you’re there. And I want it to be a memorable moment.
After growing up in Wilmette, DeMar moved to Evanston about four years ago. He’s been cooking since he was around 12, watching Food Network and reading cookbooks, eventually making it a passion.
“I found a lot of joy in this whole experience, from conceptualizing a recipe idea, to the therapeutic process of cooking and cutting vegetables and preparing, and then serving the food to your friends or family,” did he declare.
DeMar is a fourth generation restaurant owner and also owns Pono Ono. From his experience with the now-closed Chicago family restaurant The Oak Tree and running Pono Ono, DeMar said he learned how to run a business.
He plans to play a leading role in many areas of Picnic including logo and branding, web design, social media and photography.
Picnic will also source most of the ingredients from local farmers rather than relying on a restaurant supply store, DeMar said.
“It’s just nicer when the farmers show up with their truck and have all their food for you,
he said. “We’ve all had the experience where if you taste something that comes closer to home, it’s been grown with a bit more care and it usually tastes better.”
Evanston resident Rhonda Wong-Calace said she was excited about Picnic opening as she often eats out while working.
“Evanston, for the most part, has healthier options than a lot of places,” Wong-Calace said. “There are a lot of very indulgent places around that I really like, but it’s nice to have healthier and tastier options.”
Medill junior Sara Frank, however, said he noticed other cities had better dining options for studying or eating healthy than Evanston.
As a result, she said she was looking forward to a place to grab a quick salad.
“It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” Frank said. “(Evanston) needs more healthy places like this.”
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