Prairie Joe's West and Art Gallery. (Photo by Sam Stroozas)

When Prairie Joe’s Diner closed in October, owner Aydin Dincer knew it wasn’t the end. After working for 30 years in the restaurant business, Dincer now had a lot of free time on his hands.

By the end of December, he had received his food license for his next endeavor, Prairie Joe’s West and Art Gallery.

The new establishment, at 2608 Prairie Ave., opened on Dec. 29 and operates from noon to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Dincer likes to call it the world’s tiniest art gallery, and while the RoundTable can’t confirm that, it is definitely Evanston’s smallest art gallery, sizing up at under 400 square feet.

Prairie Joe’s West and Art Gallery. (Photo by Sam Stroozas)

Dincer sells casseroles, soups and salads, but the focus of the space is the art. At the original Prairie Joe’s, Dincer spent most days on his feet but at Prairie Joe’s West and Art Gallery, across the street from the former Prairie Joe’s location, Dincer can spend more time on his art.

“Since it’s so small, I really want to focus on being able to sell the art,” he said. “I want to be successful, but I don’t really want to be a success. I want to keep it low-key. I want to find a happy medium where I can pay rent, pay expenses and maybe make a little money.”

There is only one place to sit in Prairie Joe’s West and Art Gallery, a corner where Dincer works on his art in between customers. With limited hours, to-go orders and only one employee, himself, Dincer says he isn’t as bound to the business anymore as he was with Prairie Joe’s. Yet even without the beloved interior and bustling kitchen, loyal customers still have followed Dincer on his next adventure.

“It’s something new, I am not really sure where it is going yet,” he said. “Old customers will come in and go, ‘This is really cute, this is so neat,’ and then they buy a casserole.”

Aydin Dincer’s workspace at Prairie Joe’s West and Art Gallery. (Photo by Sam Stroozas)

Dincer rents kitchen space and prepares and packages food once a week, including many of the legendary dishes once sold at Prairie Joe’s: chicken tetrazzini casserole, Greek chicken lemon rice soup and chili cheese corn mac.

Dincer’s artwork is on display for purchase but he also plans on working with local artists to showcase their work. Currently the work of Chicago artist Nelson Ghorbanian is on sale.

While the location of Prairie Joe’s has changed and the menu has shortened, Dincer has carried on the legacy.

“It’s a very comfortable, nice place to walk into and people like that,” he said. “I think Prairie Joe’s was like that too, and I carried that with me, it’s sort of my signature thing. People like seeing a person doing their own thing and I am enjoying that.”

Aydin Dincer’s artwork. (Photo by Sam Stroozas)

Sam Stroozas

Sam Stroozas is a reporter and the social media manager at the Evanston RoundTable. She covers small businesses, social justice and human interest stories. Contact her at sam@evanstonroundtable.com and...

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  1. I am so very glad to hear this! I have been so homebound that I did not realize that this new space existed. I hope that when the weather warms up delicious gazpacho will be available.
    Thank you, Round Table.