New Evanston cafe boasts healthy menu

Amanda Gilbert, Reporter

A new cafe opened this weekend on Oak Avenue, offering more than the traditional coffee and pastries common to the many shops already populating Evanston’s streets.

Prana Cafe is located in the Enterprise Building, 1840 Oak Ave., and offers a variety of fresh fruit smoothies, artisan paninis and French pastries. The store also has an espresso bar.
Griffin Cox, a 19-year-old University of Chicago student, said he and his father are currently the sole owner-operators of the restaurant but are hoping to hire Northwestern students soon.

He explained that they chose to name the cafe “Prana” because it means life force.

“Most of our food is nitrate-free and organic,” Cox said.

Cox said one menu option that has become a customer favorite is the turkey cheddar panini. The cafe also offers turkey and cranberry paninis and pear sandwiches.

“We made this menu on our own,” Cox said. “My dad and I have been cooking our entire lives and we are selling our best sandwiches.”

Cox said his unique sandwich combinations are only one of the ways his family is trying to make the cafe stand out among the many coffee shops and restaurants in Evanston. He added that they decided to add an espresso bar to the cafe after being trained by the Metropolis Coffee Company, a coffee producer company that aims to teach coffee brewing skills to businesses.

Cox said Metropolis taught them how to properly make and sell latte milk.

“A lot of times companies just use machines to mass-produce hot milk,” Cox said. “But we were trained to make latte milk that is creamy, foamy and whipped cream-like.”
Cox said because his family did not have any experience with desserts, they hired a French-trained pastry chef to bake the pastries every other day.

“My dad found this chef because it’s important that everything in this store is made with care and expertise,” Cox said. “It’s about a small business mindset. It’s not just about making the food, but about making it on time and in good condition for the customer.”

Cox said many of the cafe’s customers have been business traffic rather than foot traffic because the store is hidden in the Enterprise building. He said he hopes more college students will come because they recently added WiFi and a new work area where students can study.

Ald. Donald Wilson (4th) said he agrees that NU students should take advantage of Prana Cafe. He said each cafe in Evanston has its own niche or unique factor, and each is equally important to the community despite their great number.

“The cafes are all different,” Wilson said. “They are so popular because they are the new way to be social. They all add to the friendly ambiance Evanston has to offer in a separate way.”