LINCOLN PARK — After two years of serving meatless wings, burgers and other vegan foods at their restaurant Spirit Elephant in Winnetka, owners CD Young and Chief Operating Officer James Pierson are ready to open two “little sister” restaurants in Lincoln Park and Evanston.
Elephant & Vine will be a fast-casual, counter-service restaurant offering a variety of vegan foods that can be ordered for dining in, takeout or delivery, Young said.
The first restaurant, located at 719 Church St. in Evanston, will open in early March, followed by the Lincoln Park store at 2315 N. Lincoln Ave. in April, Pierson said.
“We’re really excited to be coming to Lincoln Park and Evanston because both locations are right off universities, and certainly young people are taking the lead with this environmental awareness,” Young said. “But we’re really finding all age groups are excited about the restaurant, and Lincoln Park has all demographics.”
The team has “big plans” to expand Elephant & Vine beyond the Chicago area, Young said.
“Keeping things close to Chicago and growing our footprint here makes sense in the near term, but we’re looking in surrounding Chicagoland areas like Wisconsin or Minnesota and perhaps internationally once we get to that point,” Pierson said. “The sky is the limit for us, and we’re really open to grow and believe in the brand, so we’ll see where it takes us.”
The duo will take what they learned from Spirit Elephant’s first two years of business when developing the menu for Elephant & Vine, Young said.
When Spirit Elephant opened in January 2020, “takeout was an afterthought,” Young said. The restaurant was more focused on offering an up-scale vegan dining experience but had to quickly pivot once the pandemic struck and indoor dining bans were implemented.
“We were so focused on this beautiful dine-in experience, but because of the pandemic we had to pivot and figure out how to adapt to takeout,” Young said. “Elephant & Vine is much more designed for takeout, so we’re going to make things in a way that if you want to eat at home, it will be the same quality as if you eat in.”
Elephant & Vine will offer some of Spirit Elephant’s most popular dishes, like the cauli-wings and plant-based burgers, as well as pretzel bowls, hand-battered “chicken” sandwiches, homemade “tuna” wraps, salads and rice bowls, Pierson said.
The restaurants will also offer hand-spun vegan milkshakes, organic juices and teas, he said.
“It will be a pretty diverse menu that caters to a multitude of appetites or preferences,” Pierson said. “But we’re not necessarily gearing our menu to only go after vegan customers. We’re really saying that our food is amazing with a variety of items available for all types of eaters, and it just so happens to be vegan.”
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.
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