Tapioca balls -- in short supply these days. (Wikimedia Commons)

Readers’ taste buds played a prominent role in determining the top business stories of the year on Evanston Now.

Here’s a rundown of the top five food-related stories.

5. Global product shortage impacts Evanston businesses

April 23 — A shrinking supply of a critical product component is rippling across the globe, with implications here in Evanston. The shortage involves the tapioca starch balls known as boba, a key ingredient in boba tea, otherwise known as bubble tea.

The former Starbucks at 528 Dempster St. in a 2019 image from Google Maps.

4. Local coffee shop planned for former Starbucks on Dempster

Aug. 23 — The shuttered Starbucks at 528 Dempster St. is expected to reopen soon as a locally-owned coffee shop called Evanston Pour. The owner says new venue will be like a European “all day café.”

The shuttered Golden Olympic restaurant on Chicago Avenue.

3. One long-standing restaurant closes, another reopens

April 23 — It was a place where you could get rye toast, wheat toast, and even French toast. But now the Golden Olympic is toast itself. But a couple blocks away on Davis Street, Clarke’s Off Campus reopened this week after closing twice due to statewide COVID-19 regulations.

A window at Prairie Joe’s on Central Street.

2. Long-time Evanston restaurant to close next month

Prairie Joe’s, a fixture in the Central Street business district for 30 years, will shut its doors towards the end of October. Owner says he needs more family time.

The window of the soon to open bakery on Dempster.

1. A bakery, a coffee shop and a plant shop opening soon here

You’ll soon be able to get a cup of great coffee in a new shop on Dempster Street. But please, don’t call the new Dempster Street business, Comfort Desserts Reimagined, a coffee shop.

Food didn’t push all other business news off the table.

The two most-read contenders in that space:

NorthShore University HealthSystem’s Evanston Hospital.

2. NorthShore reported in merger talks

Aug. 23 — Evanston-based NorthShore University HealthSystem reportedly is in merger talks with Naperville-based Edward-Elmhurst Health.

The interior of the Bookends and Beginnings store at 1712 Sherman Ave. in an image from the store’s Facebook page.

1. Evanston bookstore sues Amazon

Without a doubt, it is a modern-day version of David vs. Goliath. Bookends and Beginnings, a small independent bookstore in Evanston, has filed a lawsuit against sales and delivery behemoth Amazon.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.