Wilmette couple to open Latin American restaurant in Evanston
January 31, 2016
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After five years on wheels, the owners of La Cocinita Food Truck decided to anchor their Venezuelan-inspired cuisine business in a more permanent location — Evanston.
Culinary duo Rachel and Benoit Angulo, who are married and currently live in Wilmette, are preparing to open the Latin American restaurant in the city this March.
The Angulos met in New Orleans while working at a local restaurant. In 2011, they decided to start the La Cocinita Food Truck with a menu inspired by Venezuela, Benoit Angulo’s native country.
The menu also features items the Angulos said they feel are more familiar to general audiences, such as Mexican, Caribbean and Cuban dishes.
Rachel Angulo said she and her husband recently acquired their liquor license, so they will be able to serve alcohol upon opening the restaurant, which will be located at 1625 Chicago Ave., the former home of Greek Fire Grill.
“Most of the things that we have on the menu are things that I grew up eating, so it’s sort of comfort food for me,” Benoit Angulo said. “I realized that there was a small niche where there wasn’t really a whole lot of other Venezuelan places, so it made sense to go with that.”
When Hurricane Isaac hit New Orleans in 2012, the pair decided to expand the business to Rachel Angulo’s native Chicago, she said. She and her husband catered in Chicago for two weeks and said their food truck was a hit, so the pair ultimately decided to move to the Chicago area permanently and have trucks both there and in New Orleans.
However, Evanston law makes it difficult for food vendors to operate a truck in the city, Rachel Angulo said. To run a food truck, vendors must pay a license fee of $500 every year, and they must also own a “food establishment in the city, and must be affiliated with that establishment,” according to an Evanston ordinance.
After doing several special events in Evanston, the couple resolved to start its new endeavor of a storefront location here, Rachel Angulo said.
“We liked Evanston because it’s a small city that embraces diverse cuisines,” she said. “Venezuelan-inspired cuisine seemed to fit well, and we figured with the campus community, the students would enjoy the food a lot.”
She added she and her husband also hope to benefit from the Northwestern student population and bring their food truck to campus, granted Evanston law regarding food truck operations allows them to park the truck at NU.
“We’re hoping to (bring the truck) but there are a lot of restrictions on where food trucks can park in Evanston,” she said. “We’d love to park on campus if that’s possible, but we’ll have to find out, since it’s private property, if that’s feasible.”
Even if the Angulos are unable to bring the truck component of their business to Evanston, Rachel Angulo said they still have high hopes for the success of their restaurant. The La Cocinita truck in New Orleans, which primarily serves Tulane University’s campus, is very successful, she said, and they hope the restaurant will be just as prosperous in another college town.
Paul Zalmezak, an economic development official for Evanston, said he is expecting the city to benefit from a new business in several ways.
“(The new restaurant) attracts people to dine here, and it continues to make Evanston a dining destination,” Zalmezak said. “Having the space quickly filled so it’s not vacant and generating food sales is great.”