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After 12 years in Glenview, Rama Express moved when the rent got too high.
Working with their real estate agent, the restaurant’s owners, June Homma and her husband Georgie Homma, found their new location in Evanston at 1601 Simpson St. and then opened for business this past Oct. 6.
Ms. Homma said they liked the location because the area needs more restaurants, because their son used to play sports in the fields across the street and because the location already had a working exhaust hood, which is key for a restaurant and can be very costly to install. However, she said that other than the exhaust hood, the kitchen is entirely new.
Ms. Homma said that her mother ran a Thai restaurant in Clearwater, Fla., for many years and that she and her siblings grew up cooking.
“In Thailand all the kids cook – you have to cook,” said Ms. Homma.
“Also, my husband has been a chef since he was 18 in Japan. He makes all the sushi, cuts all the fish himself and it’s all fresh.”
One of Rama Express’s regular customers, Bernadette Burke, president of Brella Productions, which is next door in the same building said, “I love all the food here. I enjoy the diversity. There are a lot of healthy dishes – nice vegetarian dishes and there are fantastic shrimp dishes. The sushi is also really good.”
Ms. Burke said she often gets takeout for her team and that “no one is sad at the end of the day because there is something for everyone.”
Ms. Burke explained that historically there have not been many restaurants in the neighborhood. “To have something healthy and beautiful is awesome. Walgreens has been one of our only options for food right around here.”
Included on the menu are a full range of traditional Thai entrees that come with a choice of chicken, beef, veggie, tofu, shrimp, scallops or calamari – entrees like Pad Prik Khing made with fresh green beans, bell peppers, carrots and Thai curry.
There is a whole selection of curry dishes, noodle dishes and fried rice dishes. For those interested in sushi and rolls Rama Express offers the traditional range as well as their own creations like “Double Sake Punch” made with spicy salmon or “Sherbet,” shrimp with crab and avocado, wrapped in salmon.
Ms. Homma said Fridays and Saturdays are busy, that other nights have been quiet, but that people in Evanston are slowly but surely realizing that they are there. On the weekends, she said, long-time customers from Glenview make the trek to Evanston.
They also get customers they know from their daytime business, which includes lunchtime catering to 20 companies, providing Thai food and sushi on certain days of the month.
They cook certain days each month at the company Central State, where there is a 3,000-person lunch crowd.
This past holiday season they were one of the vendors serving 5,000 people at the Hollister Christmas party.
Between the evening business and the lunchtime catering Ms. Homma said that they are very busy, but that they want to share their cooking with more Evanston residents.
Asked why they chose the name Rama Express, Ms. Homma explained that Rama is a name for God and also means one who brings happiness. “We want our Thai food and sushi to do that,” she said with a smile.