Some well-known Evanston restaurants have given up the ghost because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Nine local eateries have closed their doors since February, including the Unicorn Cafe, LaMacchina Italian restaurant, and the Evanston Pub. One restaurant, the Eggsperience Express Cafe, opened earlier this year and closed eight months later.
But if those restaurants have given up the ghost, others are counting on a different spirit-world reference to help them make it through the pandemic … the “ghost kitchen.”
Prairie Moon, on Chicago Avenue, today is opening Pasta Luna, Italian takeout and delivery, using Prairie Moon’s kitchen and staff. Prairie Moon owner Rob Strom calls it a “separate revenue stream with a new concept,” but no new building.
The “ghost kitchen” is a way to expand the market with existing facilities, when restaurants are struggling with a down economy and state restrictions on indoor dining. “We’re depending on our own ingenuity,” Strom says.
Pasta Luna prices start at $10. Customers choose a type of pasta, type of sauce, and then can add toppings from meatballs to seafood. “You can make hundreds of combinations from four or five bases,” he says.
Other “ghost kitchens” in town include Bob’s Pizza, operating out of the Whiskey Thief Tavern on Davis Street and Mac & Me, operating from Farmhouse Evanston at 703 Church St. These too applies an additional concept to an existing restaurant, without adding a new building, kitchen, or employees.
Strom hopes that Pasta Luna catches on so much that he might even be able to hire a couple of new people. Despite being operated out of Prairie Moon, Strom says Pasta Luna is “its own menu and its own identity. We want to make it good.”
If success does happen, you might say this “ghost story” features a friendly ghost.