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Ex-Oprah Winfrey Producer To Open Jar Bar, A Healthy Suburban Restaurant

Karen Firsel hopes to open more than one

Karen Firsel of Jar Bar
Jason Little
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

Karen Firsel knows Oprah Winfrey. Firsel, a Buffalo Grove native, produced for Winfrey’s TV show for years, but now she’s applying her curiosity surrounding trends to start Jar Bar, a suburban healthy restaurant with dreams of scaling to a chain. The food—salads with seared ahi tuna, oatmeal with almond ricotta, and other concoctions—all come served in a mason jar, perfect for an on-the-go lifestyle, Firsel said.

The first Jar Bar should open in April at 1350 Shermer Road in Northbrook, which neighbors Buffalo Grove. Firsel sees a void in the suburbs and wants to grow Jar Bar to other North Shore locations. She’s proud of Jar Bar’s design which makes suburbanites feel like they’re dining in the city. After making R&D trips to Los Angeles and New York, Firsel wants to bring health eating to the suburbs.

“I think the suburbs get a bad rap—they think soccer moms and these families don’t really care about interesting food,” Firsel said. “Or they think they’ve just given up.”

Firsel came up with the recipes that grew out of her 40th birthday party. When friends showed their delight in the food, that’s when she had her “lightbulb moment.” That’s what Winfrey calls times of revelation. That’s when Firsel thought about starting her own restaurant. She consulted with friends and chatted with Limitless Coffee & Tea’s Matt Matros, who give her concept a thumbs up.

In true entrepreneurial spirit, Firsel said she wants to “disrupt lunch in the suburbs.” That means catering to a variety of diets, to give diners an option other than pizza, burgers and hot dogs. Firsel has high hopes and believes customers will appreciate the quality of their product.

“We’re not just going to give you oatmeal in a bowl with a packet of brown sugar,” she said.