Big Bite Nite sees more students, vendors involved

Stephanie Louise Lu

From Oak to Chicago avenues, University Place to Grove Street, Evanston restaurants welcomed a purple crowd of Northwestern students to their establishments Sunday.The purple-clad torrent of hungry students was part of Big Bite Night, an annual event allowing students to try bite-sized foods from a variety of participating restaurants, and is meant to foster connections between NU students and the Evanston community. Along with ASG, this year’s event was sponsored by EVMARK, a private company that manages the downtown Evanston area, as well as Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions and Whole Foods.”I discovered a lot of new restaurants,” said Music sophomore Case Wiseman . “It’s a great opportunity to sample what Evanston has to offer. Free food – what more can you ask for?”Big Bite Night officially began at 4 p.m. on Sunday at the Rebecca Crown Center and Whole Foods , where ASG representatives handed out booklets containing a list of restaurants and coupons. A total of 39 businesses participated in this year’s Big Bite Nite, up from last year’s 28. Lulu’s restaurant owner Dan Kelch was instrumental in boosting participation, said Jilian Lopez, chair of ASG’s Community Relations Committee. She said Kelch used his connections with Evanston restaurant owners and convinced them to participate.Lopez added that the event was hectic, but she was happy with the turnout. “(Big Bite Night) started in 2005 originally as an event geared toward new students to help them get to know the area after they’ve had a few weeks to make friends,” the Weinberg senior said. “Last year we decided to push the event back a couple of weeks so that upperclassmen could also benefit from the event, and I think that’s where part of the increased turnout came from.”ASG handed out 2,000 booklets this year, but after 5 p.m., the booklets ran out. Lopez said she estimated at least 2,500 students turned out for the event.”Last year we made 1,500 bags and ran out within 30 minutes,” Lopez said. “We definitely were more prepared this year for a bigger attendance. One of the things we worked on was distributing the student traffic around the area.” Weinberg sophomore Abbey Thompson said trying new food was definitely part of the attraction. “Zoba Noodles had crab rangoon,” she said. “That was pretty exciting.”Sashimi Sashimi owner Jay Tanaka said his restaurant has participated in Big Bite Night since its inception. “A lot of our customers are students,” he said. “We get a pretty good showing (at this event), and the freshmen can get a taste of our meals.”Older students, like Weinberg senior Robert Hung, are familiar with restaurants in Evanston and have seen Big Bite Night develop, change and expand over the years.”Pretty much all the big restaurants are still in it,” Hung said. “Some of the smaller (ones) have dropped out. I do think some of the restaurants should be putting forth their trademark food, instead of chips and fries.”Overall, Lopez said she was proud of how the event turned out, especially with students’ positive response to compiling coupons in booklets instead of stuffing them in bags. “We made that decision because of the labor that’s involved, but also because it’s more efficient to get all the info out to the students,” she said. “This year’s Big Bite Night ran a lot more smoothly. Last year we had a lot of long lines, and some restaurants did not get much traffic.”[email protected]