You can now meet at the Elephant + Vine restaurant.

But you just can’t “meat” there.

The vegan dining establishment had its’ grand opening Thursday morning, at 719 Church St. Everything on the menu is plant-based.

But owner C.D. Young says she does not want to scare off potential customers who might think that plant-based is weird or tastes odd.

“We’re not a vegan restaurant even though we are,” Young says.

“We’re not competing with other vegan places,” she explains. “We’re competing with all other places where you can eat.”

By that, Young means if you want a burger and fries, you can get them at Elephant + Vine. It’s just that the burgers are “impossible meat,” pea protein and soy, with a variety of toppings.

And the fries. Well, being potatoes, fries are vegan already. There are also plenty of other plant-based choices, such as a buffalo chik’n wrap, and a variety of salads and bowls.

Restaurant theme at Elephant + Vine

By the way, vegans do not eat anything connected to animals, including eggs and dairy. Vegeterians won’t consume meat, but dairy and eggs are fine.

Elephant + Vine is Young’s second vegan restaurant. The first, Spirit Elephant, in Winnetka, is more formal, with servers and a bar (hence the word “spirit”).

As for “elephant,” Young says it’s the “world’s largest herbivore,” which live in communities and care for one another.

The “vine” part of the name, Young explains, stands for connection, symbolically linking what she plans to be a series of similar restaurants around the country. Another is set to open in Lincoln Park soon.

Young, a vegan herself, says her business is “100% purpose driven,” because she believes veganism is the “best way to live.”

Evanston already has a vegan bakery, Cinnaholic a few blocks away. There are also other restaurants with vegan options, although not necessarily all vegan.

Young says she made a “very conscious decision” to locate in Evanston, because the city is “filled with people with progressive thinking.” Plus, Elephant + Vine is not far from Northwestern University and its thousands of hungry students, not to mention potential employees. Elephant + Vine will bring 20 or so workers to what used to be Andy’s Frozen Custard, but which has been vacant for a couple of years.

Manager Adam Butalewicz and restaurant owner C.D. Young.

Young thinks the site will fill up with customers.

“We feel very welcome and at home” in Evanston, she says.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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