Restaurant Review: Evanston has Found a new classic

Lamb meatballs with a pistachio chimichurri yogurt sauce are a Found signature dish.

Amber Gibson/The Daily Northwestern

Lamb meatballs with a pistachio chimichurri yogurt sauce are a Found signature dish.

Amber Gibson, Columnist

Found, 1631 Chicago Ave., is exactly what Evanston’s restaurant scene has been craving. This is our answer to Lula Cafe, where you can have a nice meal for under $20, or splurge a little and cobble together your own tasting menu. It’s somehow perfect for just about any occasion, from a casual gathering with friends to a romantic date night.

I’ll admit it: I have a girl crush on proprietress Amy Morton, who’s impeccably dressed and absolutely radiant every night, floating from table to table chatting with her customers. You can tell Morton’s an old pro — her father owned Morton’s The Steakhouse — and her latest venture is effortlessly charming, decorated with reclaimed furniture and antiques.

Executive chef Nicole Pederson left C-House in the Gold Coast to join Morton at Found. “Food at a downtown hotel restaurant is very formal, more sophisticated and refined,” Pederson said. “Here, I can be more playful and serve homey, comforting food.” Yet the flavors are still complex and intriguing. There isn’t a dish on the menu I’m not excited to try.

Pederson is committed to sourcing from local farmers and small farms across the country, so her menu changes on a weekly basis to reflect available ingredients. Some of her most popular dishes, like the roasted Brussels sprouts with winter squash, whole roasted fish and lamb meatballs, will remain on the menu.

Clean preparations are where Pederson excels, like the whole roasted Gulf snapper, de-boned, with satisfyingly crisp skin and tender, fresh meat, served with vegetable chips and charred lemon. A simple kale and Swiss chard salad with cranberries and pecans is tastier and denser than you might expect.

A squash and mushroom open-faced sandwich with kale tofu pesto is served on satisfyingly chewy miche from Bennison’s Bakery, and better than anything vegetarians can get at Blind Faith Cafe. Meatless Monday becomes totally palatable when the creamy yolk erupts from a slow-cooked farm egg into a plate of pearl barley with mushrooms and arugula.

Not every dish was perfect though. Fried oyster tacos were underwhelming, with not enough tomatillos and slaw. Although the lamb meatballs are a signature dish, I was more impressed with the pistachio chimichurri yogurt sauce than the lamb.

The menu is meant for sharing, and there are enough options to satisfy every palate without losing focus. Of the three dessert selections, my favorite is orange pound cake with Meyer lemon curd. The pound cake is served warm, with toasted coconut gelato from Black Dog Gelato melting on top to balance citrus flavors that would otherwise be too tart.

Guests can take a seat in the library, recommended for more private conversations, or settle into loveseats overlooking the wood-fired oven. Families with kids might be more comfortable at one of the more spacious tables up front.

“We really want to be a part of the community,” Pederson said. Judging by the crowd waiting to get a table on weekends, and regulars (like myself) who’ve been back more than a dozen times in less than two months, they already are.