Yesterday evening my wife and I dined at The Found Kitchen and Social House, “Found” for short. That’s where we were seated, pictured on the left, although I think that our table was in a slightly different position. We arrived quite early, before their 4:30pm opening time, and walked around downtown Evanston.
Although I lived for many years in Evanston, I haven’t returned there for quite some time. It breaks my heart every time I see how much it has changed. When I arrived in Evanston so many years ago, buildings over four stories were banned, and downtown Evanston was mostly the place for retired Northwestern faculty and staff or young adults, the “newly-wed and the nearly dead” as used to be said. Now it’s mostly much younger people, unemployed men, and super-annuated yuppies. Marshall Fields is gone; the theaters are gone; there are plenty of multi-story buildings with rather desperate-looking “For Rent” signs plastered on them.
There’s probably half or a third as much retail as there used to be. Forty-five years ago there were four department stores in downtown Evanston along with a variety of specialty shops, drug stores, and so on. Now it’s almost entirely restaurants and high-rise office buildings.
Roger Carlson’s “Bookman’s Alley” is still there in an alley off Sherman, relatively little changed over the years. Roger is still there, now looking a bit frail. If you want to know what Roger is like, think Elwood P. Dowd. You always expect him to be there with a six foot tall rabbit with one arm around his shoulders. We used to bum around at house sales together but, of course, he didn’t remember me. I think he’s trying to liquidate his stock now.
Found is called that because practically everything there has been found: the decor, the local suppliers, even the wait staff has been found. I won’t repeat its story—that can be found on the web site linked above under “Our History”.
I don’t think that the many positive reviews of Found quite do it justice. In those there are references to Found’s embracing of the “small plates” approach—many small courses. I don’t think that’s a complete description. My take on Found is that it’s a quirky and tasty take on classic bistro food with a nod to small plates and local supply.
Sharing is encouraged and my wife and I shared an appetizer and two modestly-sized entrees. The appetizer was chickpea fritters with two sauces, a spicy herb-based sauce and a milder yogurt-based sauce flavored with cumin. My wife raved about the appetizer. I found it very reminiscent of the fried snacks frequently encountered in Indian restaurants (not to mention the corn fritters we used to make when I was a kid). It was good, tasty, and not dripping with oil as is all-too-frequently the case in Indian restaurants.
We selected one vegetarian and one meat-lover’s entree: “shiitake mushrooms, tofu pesto, carolina rice, fava shoots, english peas”, reminiscent of a risotto, and “grilled Slagel Farm steak with creamed nettles, roasted spring garlic, onions, potatoes”. The creamed nettles were extremely mild in flavor and used as a sort of sauce base for the presentation. In essence it was a take on the bistro classic steak frites, the steak a quickly-grilled fashionable (and delicious) hanger steak (a hanger steak comes from between the brisket and the flank on a steer—it can be tough unless cut properly and cooked quickly but it’s full of flavor).
For dessert my wife had a piece of chocolate pound cake with chocolate sauce, raspberries, and three small scoops of vanilla gelato. I had a class of Elijah Craig bourbon.
Found struck me as very Evanston in a number of ways it’s hard for me to put my finger on and I recommend it highly. Go with friends and share.