Alpana Singh will shave 45 minutes off her daily commute from River North to Evanston by opening a restaurant within walking distance from her home. Her new restaurant, Alpana, is scheduled to open on the first day of spring, Monday, March 21. Singh, the master sommelier known for hosting Check, Please!, closed her Evanston restaurant, Terra & Vine in February.
The moves were unrelated, Singh says, as a developer has a new vision for the space where her Evanston restaurant stood for five years. They want to make that venue more family friendly and add trampoline park and other amenities. Singh says the landlord gave her the option to stay on to operate a new restaurant, but she declined: “It’s not in our wheelhouse,” Singh says.
The last night of service at Terra & Vine was very bittersweet: “We have gained such a wonderful following,” Singh says. “We felt we got through the pandemic together.”
Singh says she learned much operating a restaurant in Evanston, “it’s such an honor and privilege when you come in somebody’s neighborhood.” Her time in the suburbs has made her a better restaurant operator, particularly in how to listen to locals in incorporating their needs. With those lessons, Singh will now focus her energies on her new River North restaurant. She previously ran Seven Lions and Boarding House in the city.
The new restaurant will feature an Asian and Mediterranean menu designed by Singh; there’s no head chef as Singh is relying on her two decades of experience at restaurants as a guide. A sample menu is heavy on pastas with the priciest dish a $40 steak.
Alpana also wants to continue sparking interest in wine by educating customers and the staff. The list will focus on climate friendly selections — Singh talks about reducing carbon footprints and finding producers who care about the environment.
Earlier in the month, Singh swelled with a sense of pride seeing the restaurant’s signs installed. There’s a unique feeling for this Indian American seeing her name hanging outside. Growing up, she couldn’t find novelty items like keychains and personalized mugs sporting “Alpana.” Singh admits as a child it frustrated her and she even temporarily went by “Suzie,” to try to fit in. “Alpana” is derived from Sanskrit and can mean “decorative” or “beautiful.” That’s the type of vibe Singh wants coming through as she shifts from Evanston back to Chicago.
Alpana, 831 N. State Street, Scheduled to open Monday, March 21.