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After Dixie Kitchen closed in downtown Evanston last fall, it initially looked like it would re-open under new ownership with basically the same southern comfort-food menu.

But new owner Ron Khalaf says after he got pretty much everything set up to reopen under that model, he had a change of heart.

“We don’t know much about Cajun food,” Khalaf, who’s been in the food and liquor business for about 30 years, says. And after he located a chef who’s been cooking Mediterranean-style food for the past 25 years — well, it seemed natural to change the menu and decor.

A falafel plate. (Food photos by Amy Stallard.)

So the new Ya Hala Inn at 825 Church St., will feature Lebanese, Moroccan and Israeli cuisine.

The name means Hello or Welcome, and Khalaf says the restaurant will feature authentic dishes with everything made from scratch — nothing frozen or from a can.

Over the weekend the Ya Hala team was cooking up samples of the food to use for illustrations on the restaurant website, and sent along some photos.

A chicken kabob plate.

Diners can look forward to dishes ranging from Baba ghanouj to Yogurt salad; kabob plates featuring beef chicken or lamb; bamieh, an okra stew; a rice pudding dish called basbuseh, and, of course, baklava for dessert.

Ya Hala’s baklava.

Khalaf says there’s nothing quite like it in Evanston now, although he acknowledges some similarities to Naf Naf and Olive Mediterranean Grill.

“Ours will be very authentic,” Khalaf says, “like walking into a cafe in Tel Aviv or Beirut.”

Khalaf says he plans to open Ya Hala sometime next month.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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4 Comments

  1. A huge miss

    It's a shame they didn't attempt build off a well known business without direct competitors in the area and instead decided to compete with well established restaurants. And also spent quite a few months of rent and other expenses to get "pretty much everything set up to reopen under that model," going in that previous route. Also, they will miss out on the Le Peep breakfast spill over of hungry people who don't want the long wait, or those who sought out the Dixie breakfast already. This feels like a huge miss.

    1. You’re right again, Michael.

      You're right again, Michael. Highly questionable decision-making here. I'm in no rush to try yet another Mediterranean concept in Evanston. 

      1. Won’t be going

        I was SO looking forward to a revived version of Dixie Kitchen, and was ready to go as soon as they opened, but now I'll never go. My college-age daughter and her friends LOVED Dixie for brunch – me, too! We have Mediterranean restaurants all over the North Shore. Why would I pay to park in Evanston when it's free to park and inexpensive to eat at Pita Inn? I'd pay $20 for the Eggs Sardou. Now they'll never get any of my family's money. Way to wreck your business before you even open! 

        1. Why be so negative? Dixie
          Why be so negative? Dixie will be missed and personally, I’d like to see it reopened, but to say “I won’t go” from the get-go seems unnecessary. Good luck to any new Evanston businesses, IMO. Not easy.

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