Evette's Chicago, the forthcoming Lebanese-Mexican restaurant from Co-Chef/Owners Mitchell AbouJamra and Rafael Esparza, officially opens Thursday, October 15. Combining Lebanese and Mexican cuisines through a Midwestern lens, Evette’s Chicago (350 W. Armitage Ave.), Co-Chef/Owners Mitchell AbouJamra (DMK Group, Bistro 110, Sur La Table) and Rafael Esparza (Finom Coffee, Dorian’s) will source ingredients and prepare each dish on the menu by balancing their culinary upbringings with nutritional integrity and flavors. Presented in a quick-service setting, Evette’s will be available for takeout and delivery, with limited indoor and sidewalk seating.
“Evette’s is named for my teta, “grandma” in Lebanese, and we honor her with how we prepare every dish,” AbouJamra explains. “Our food is nourishing, tasty, and full of care, just like the meals she made for me and my family when she immigrated to Michigan, where I grew up.”
Esparza adds, “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.”
Cuisine & Menu
At Evette’s, the Lebanese flavors join with Mexico’s culinary culture, with dishes made from fresh produce. Evette’s knows the source of all the ingredients used, and AbouJamra and Esparza work with producers who believe in caring for products the way they care about the menu. Vendors and farmers include Global Garden Refugee Training Farm and Closed Loop Farms for vegetables and greens; BillyDoe Meats for the Halal-certified goat, lamb, steak, and chorizo; and spices from Rare Tea Cellar.
The menu centers on Shawarma wraps and plates ($10/$14), which come with choice of chicken, lamb, beef, or al pastor, served with Evette’s lemon garlic sauce, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, sumac onion, herbs, and pickled beets. The menu also features:
- Handhelds, including Meatball Sub ($10), kefta-style ground beef and lamb meatballs, shakshuka, pickled onion, herbs, and melted mozzarella cheese on sesame French bread; Gyro Melt ($10), lamb gyro slices, mozzarella cheese, whipped feta, caramelized Malört onions, and za’atar mayo on sourdough; and a distinctive salsa verde Goat Chorizo Dog ($6) with cotija cheese, onion, and tomato on a hotdog bun
- Tacos, including Taco Arabic ($3.25 each), lamb, pickled onion, radish, sumac, herbs, Evette’s lemon garlic sauce, and Aleppo hot sauce wrapped in a flour pita; and Al Pastor Taco ($3.25 each), shaved pork, pineapple, cilantro, and sumac onion wrapped in a corn tortilla
- Soups and salads, such as Shakshuka Soup ($5 cup/$8 bowl), a tomato and red pepper base spiced with cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, nutmeg, and garam masala; Tortilla Soup ($4 cup/$6 bowl), corn tortillas puréed with Mexican beer, chicken stock, onions, and spices, topped with all the fixings; and Pretty Salad ($12), greens, avocado, cucumber, tomatoes, radish, red grapes, goat cheese, pipitas, fried bulgur, pita, and lemon vinaigrette
- Teta’s Hummus ($4 small/$7 large) and other sides like Pita Nachos ($10), Za’atar Wings ($9), and Whipped Feta & Veggies ($8)
- Shakes ($6) with flavors like Peanut Butter Date, Baklava, Churro, and Horchata
Design & Décor
Located in a former 900-square-foot hotdog stand in Lincoln Park, Evette’s was designed by Siren Betty Designs (Giant, Pink Squirrel, Robert Et Fils). Evette’s aesthetic utilizes textures, patterns, and colors like turquoise and peach. Design features include colored furniture, counters clad with repurposed wood lathe, geometric black and white floor tile, and wicker lighting fixtures. The oversized front-facing sliding windows are for food pickup now and will serve as a spot to hang out, eat, and people-watch in the post-COVID future, when the restaurant will offer 20 seats in the dining room.
Mitchell AbouJamra is a first-generation Lebanese-American who grew up immersed in three food cultures that serve as his foundation: Lebanese, Mexican, and Midwestern. He was born and raised in Flint, MI, centered around his family’s table celebrating the foods of their homeland, their butcher shop, and their farm. When his parents split and his father moved to Tucson, AZ, he experienced Mexican food during his formative years. AbouJamra (who also goes by Jamra professionally) attended culinary school in Chicago and went on to work under Chef Dominique Tougne at Bistro 110. He has held positions across the spectrum of the hospitality industry, from running front-of-house operations at Wrigleyville’s bars to serving as general manager of DMK Group concept Marshall’s Landing, brand-managing alcohol companies with his business Great Lakes Beverage Collective, and serving as a lead chef-instructor for Sur La Table, opening new schools at locations across the country.
Rafael Esparza is a first-generation Mexican-American and has been a lifelong resident of Chicago, with a love of Asian flavor profiles and an affinity for the street food of all cultures. He honed his skills and developed his palate working at such restaurants as Momotaro, Shibumi (Los Angeles), Yusho, Kimski, and Band of Bohemia. Esparza has a passion for hospitality and service that is rivaled only by his passion for food. He hopes to share the lessons he’s learned with all the cooks who pass through the kitchen wherever he works, including at Finom Coffee, which he opened with Daniel Speer in Chicago’s Old Irving Park neighborhood in November 2018—and to all the guests who walk through the doors of the restaurant. Since 2019, Esparza has concurrently worked as chef of Dorian’s cocktail lounge and record shop in Wicker Park.