Belgian chocolate cafe comes to Evanston

Amanda Gilbert, reporter

From Burger King to Oceanique, Evanston has a wide range of dining options, but it has not attracted a chocolate cafe until now.

The city’s Site Plan and Appearance Review Committee on Wednesday approved a plan to bring the concept to Evanston.

Ari Backman, owner of Leonidas Chocolate Cafe, said his shop in Wilmette will move to 1907 Central St. in hopes of attracting more foot traffic.

“I think we will get a lot more customers,” Backman said. “A lot of our customers travel from the Evanston area.”

Backman said he must now receive the Evanston City Council’s approval and a business license before opening the cafe.

Leonidas is a premier chocolate brand from Brussels, Belgium. All of the sweets are flown in from Brussels regularly and are made without preservatives.

“We sell them fresh, so that’s what makes it unique from our competitors,” Backman said. “We have some masterpieces in our repertoire.”

Corporate sales president Marie Douailly said the cafe will offer more then just chocolates. Customers can buy espressos, pastries, gelato and crepes. The store also recently added Belgian waffles and croissants to the menu.

The cafe can serve as a gift shop or as a lounge in which students can enjoy meals, Douailly said.

“We will make things that are very different and very European,” she added.

There are three existing Leonidas Chocolate Cafes, located in downtown Chicago, Wilmette and Northbrook.

Douailly added the store will cater to Northwestern students by offering a WildCARD discount. It will recruit three NU students to work there starting in August. Students can buy chocolates, such as the Perle Coco and Perle Fine Orange Fondant, for less than two dollars.

“It doesn’t break the banks, and it gives students a nice European experience,” Douailly said.

Ald. Donald Wilson (4th) said the chocolate cafe will be a unique addition to the existing cafes in the city. The store’s hours are expected to be from 6:30 a.m. to around 8 p.m during the week.

“I love chocolate,” Wilson said. “Anything that is going to provide us with more chocolate options, I’m all for it.”