There is a spacious new dining room at Jennifer’s Edibles: Soul Food with a Twist, located at 1623 Simpson St.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday marked a re-opening and start of the restaurant’s fifth anniversary Customer Appreciation Weekend, which concludes on Sunday with a Jazz Brunch Buffet from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Proceeds will benefit the nonprofit Jennifer’s Edibles Feeding the Community that owner Jennifer Eason founded during the pandemic to feed Evanstonians in need.
“I’m truly grateful for all of my customers and community members for the first five years of my restaurant,” said Eason in a statement. “Last year was very difficult, and the Evanston Community Foundation grant as well as many private donors kept us alive while we cooked 200 dinners, seven days a week.”
She continued, “We thought of those folks as if they were our mothers and fathers. It was a blessing during a very uncertain time. We are hoping that our new dining room will expand our customer base. The dining room has been updated … and the building itself has historic significance … I’m excited to share it.”
On hand to celebrate were Mayor Daniel Biss; Pastor Monté Dillard, Senior Pastor of First Church of God Christian Life Center, Council Member Bobby Burns, 5th Ward, State Representative Robyn Gabel and William Eason, Jennifer’s brother and managing partner.
Biss told those gathered, “What we’re celebrating today is exactly what we want Evanston to be. … It is a place for family in the broad sense. We are a collective family, and we feel like it when we’re in this building… I love the way you’ve brought people together.”
Recent additions to the menu appeal to an even broader market, Eason said. “I love cooking traditional home-style dishes, but with an updated twist. We have a few Jamaican dishes on our menu, and I want to highlight those by giving out samples of our new vegan dishes, like vegan jerk chicken and curry cauliflower,” she said.
The lower level of the restaurant is decorated with large photographs of historic Evanston buildings such the Emerson Street Branch YMCA, which served Black residents until the Grove Street YMCA had fully integrated their facilities; and Community Hospital, which from 1914 to 1980 provided health care for many Black residents who were not readily admitted to other area hospitals at the time.
The main floor, too, includes items from Chef Jen’s past. “Everything in here means something,” she said. A mosaic made from some of her late mother’s dishes decorates a wall of the bright, newly renovated dining room. Copper pots and pans from the kitchen of the Evanston home where she grew up hang in the front of the restaurant.
She said she hopes the celebration will build community awareness of her nonprofit organization Jennifer’s Edibles Feeding the Community, which was founded in March 2020 in response to the pandemic.
Proceeds from the Jazz Brunch Buffet will be used to further the nonprofit’s mission of feeding Evanston’s food insecure senior citizens, housebound residents and disabled adults. Tickets for the event are $75. Reservations are required. For more information, visit jennifersediblesinc.com and JEFTC.com.