After almost a decade filled with expansions, moves, a pandemic and multiple awards, Hewn bakery doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.
Hewn, located at 1733 Central St., was recently featured in Food & Wine magazine as one of the best bakeries in America and in an article about the best bread in every state. Everything at Hewn is made in-house from scratch daily.
Ellen King, co-owner and Director of Baking Operations at Hewn, is a classically trained chef. She begins each loaf with her famous sourdough, making sure that all loaves and baked goods are naturally leavened and crafted from local grains.
All loaves are hand-shaped and naturally fermented without commercial yeast, preservatives, chemicals or additives. Hewn works with local farmers to source their grains, produce and dairy. The dough is turned every 30 minutes over four hours, and once it is shaped and placed on banneton conrainers, it rests overnight to rise naturally, totaling a fermented time of 20 hours.
King began her craft began over a decade ago in Dutch ovens as part of her “underground bread club.”
When Hewn co-owner and Business Director Julie Matthei moved to Evanston, she was searching for the type of bread she had known on the East Coast. As soon as she heard about King’s underground service, Mathhei knew she had to get on the list.
Matthei asked King why she didn’t just open a place to sell her bread, and the first version of Hewn was envisioned. Initially, they thought they would make 40 loaves and then close, but due to their popularity they decided to open a small location on Dempster Street in 2013.
While Matthei and King went into business together, they also became partners in life – all thanks to the underground bread club.
After an expansion of the Dempster Street location in 2016, Hewn was still outgrowing its space, and in the middle of the pandemic moved to its new residency on Central Street.
“We never thought we would get to this point or have to make a business survive a pandemic,” Matthei said. “If you don’t feel comfortable pivoting and make those pivots at the right time, it can hamstring your business. You have to look ahead and trust your gut and do the things you know will be best for your customers and staff.”
Now, Hewn has a stoplight in its front window to alert guests if they can enter. Green means come in right away to enjoy a delicious bread or everything croissant. Red? Wait outside a little longer and make sure to get a hot coffee to accompany your snack.
Hewn often has items that go along with holidays and events. Next up, St Patrick’s Day, Fat Tuesday and Easter.
“We can do lots of cool stuff for these micro holidays that people really look forward to and enjoy,” Matthei said. “It keeps us engaged and doing fun things throughout the year.”
Although being named one of the best bakeries in the country wasn’t their goal, it does not hurt business, Matthei said. But at the end of the day, it’s all about the bread.
“We are in it to put out good food and make people feel good about eating bread,” she said. “It’s a testament to our dedicated staff and local farmers. We love Evanston and appreciate everyone’s support over the years.”
Sorry. But I do not wait in line for food, but I do wait in Hewn’s line when nessasary, as their bread is that good. They are another reason that Chicagoland is the culinary capitol of the US.
I live in Maine and want to visit Hewn’s bakery. Would like to see what they make for Fat Tuesday and Easter. One day I’ll make it out to Evanston.
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