In Lincoln Park you will find recently opened Evette’s Chicago. A restaurant that combines Lebanese and Mexican cuisines with a Midwestern nod. Co-Chef/Owners Mitchell AbouJamra (DMK Group, Bistro 110, Sur La Table) and Rafael Esparza (Finom Coffee, Dorian’s) thoughtfully source ingredients and prepare each dish on the menu by balancing their culinary upbringings with nutritional integrity and big flavors. Presented in a quick-service setting, Evette’s is currently available for takeout and delivery.
“Evette’s is named for my teta, “grandma” in Lebanese, and we honor her with how we prepare every dish,” AbouJamra explains. The menu stems from his grandma’s recipes that have been passed to him, the same way the poblano cheese sauce used in several of the dishes comes from Esparza’s grandma’s recipe. Esparza says, “Mitchell and I are both children of immigrants, the first ones born here in our families. We both grew up with two very different cultures being put on us. So Evette’s is first-generation food, paying homage to what we ate as kids growing up in the Midwest.”
AbouJamra and I get into the discussion of birria and al pastor. Two dishes this writer grew up eating at home just about every weekend. Did you know? In the early 20th century, Lebanese immigrants moved all over the world, bringing their rich culture and food with them. Many came to North America, and a select few put down roots in Mexico. There, the Lebanese adapted to the land alongside their Mexican brothers and sisters. They passed along generations of culinary traditions, the most popular being shawarma slow-roasted over a fire on a rotating, vertical contained spit. While lamb, chicken, and goat were most popular back in Lebanon, in Mexico, pork reigned supreme, leading to the creation of the al pastor taco. Al pastor has become a beloved national dish of Mexico and one of the most popular Mexican foods throughout the world. Al pastor translates to “like the shepherd,” in reference to those Lebanese immigrants and a prime example of the harmonious mashup of cultures.
There are several choices on the menu and it is hard to settle on just one thing to try. While AbouJamra notes that popular items include the Feta Fries and Pita Nachos which are a great way to start a meal; he also recommends the Birria dishes along with the shawarma chicken that cooks on a verticals rotating roaster and the halloumi dishes.
Make sure to try Evettes. You can’t go wrong with food that has been passed down from grandma. As AbouJamra says as we end the interview, “it comes from many generations of (the) family’s culinary traditions. I am just giving it to my community the way I was influenced by Midwest eating cultures.”
Located in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, Evette’s Chicago is located at 350 W. Armitage Ave., 60614; (312-659-3935)
Photos courtesy Evette’s Chicago