Found Kitchen & Social House (1631 Chicago Ave., Evanston), Amy Morton’s quirky farm-to-table restaurant, has been a fixture in the Chicagoland dining scene since it opened five years ago (and is one of the standing excuses for Loop dwellers to trek to Evanston). Usually, the rule in restaurants is, don’t mess with a good thing—but that’s not Morton’s style, as she is completely shifting the concept for Found. It will close for just five days for this makeover, from June 3 through June 8.
Morton describes the original concept for Found as “Gertrude Stein’s salon meets Jack Kerouac,” which combines her two favorite literary periods. It took her five years to refine this into a vision fit for a restaurant. Well, if Found used to live somewhere in the ‘20s, get ready for some swing; the new concept is rooted in the 1960s.
“Found is morphing from Gertrude and Jack to Jackie O. meets the Beatles in India,” Morton says.
It’s no accident that in this age of dissent, Morton is finding inspiration from what might be called the previous great era of resistance. Her goal is to create a praiseworthy restaurant while being a little provocative. “It is the conversation about who we are, and where we are in the world today,” says Morton. “If we don’t talk about it now, it’s never gonna change.”
During construction, Found’s windows will be covered with paper. The only interior detail visible to curious passersby will be a television, playing what Morton calls “the most iconic events of the 1960s.”
Once Found re-opens, the vibe will be very different. Its antique fittings will be gone, replaced with palms and vibrant textiles. “It’s chic modernity of midcentury meets a splash of hippy,” says Morton. She also rediscovered her record collection during a recent move, and all that vinyl will keep the tunes as groovy as can be.
As for the food, Chef Bradford Phillips has totally revamped the menu. Expect a huge focus on vegetables, with vegan dishes representing one-third of the offerings. Dishes will also be small and shareable, and everything will be less than $20 (except caviar, which Morton insists on keeping). Plates to watch out for include stinging nettle flatbread with shaved, paper-thin asparagus; roasted mussels in green curry; and a savory salad with halloumi and roasted beets. Morton also plans to re-focus the menu on Found’s huge wood-fired oven.
“Found will still stay Found,” Morton says. “The warmth, the quirkiness, the hospitality will always be the same.” Only now, there will also be Jell-O.