Evette’s, a Lebanese-Mexican restaurant that developed from a chef’s enthusiasm in tracing his family’s roots and melding them with a love from Mexican food, has opened in Lincoln Park. Chef Mitchell AbouJamra is joined by co-conspirator chef Rafa Esparza (Finom Coffee, Dorian’s) in serving shawarma, kofta meatball subs, and taco arabes. AbouJamra is using family recipes for fattoush and blending old and new schools for items like pita nachos.
The idea is to present these combined Lebanese and Mexican flavors in a manner familiar to Chicagoans. The city’s has hundreds of hot dog stands (the tenant prior to Evette’s was The Dog Joint), and the ritual of watching workers inside an open kitchen grill, boil, or deep fry hot dogs is a regular happenstance in Chicago. That’s the atmosphere that AbouJamra and Esparza are trying to recreate. But instead of encased meats, customers will see trompos rotating in the background with meats on a spit.
Esparza says opening day on Thursday was successful that they ran out of food in two hours. That’s a good sign as the duo hopes they can open more restaurants while educating the public, to give them a lesson in culinary anthropology. Esparza believes Americans give the Spanish too much credit for the country’s influence on Mexican cuisine. It’s time to put a spotlight on the people who were there before those colonists.
But learning can be fun, as the chefs have added quesabirria to the menu, a cheesy taco that’s gaining popularity this summer in big cities across the country. While the recipes are time honored passed on generations through AbouJamra’s family, Evette’s menu aims to allow the chefs to be creative and to add items on the fly.
Evette’s is now open for takeout with limited seating in Lincoln Park, a few feet west from the Park West theater. They’ll be open 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. until Monday when the restaurant will switch to regular hours.
Evette’s, 350 W. Armitage Avenue, now open; regular hours start Monday, October 19 from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.