Old Dixie Cafe scheduled to open June 1


Daily file photo by Lauren Duquette

Old Dixie Cafe, 825 Church St., is scheduled to open on June 1. The location, which formerly housed Dixie Kitchen, will be a similar southern-style restaurant.

Robin Opsahl, City Editor

Old Dixie Cafe is slated to open at the beginning of June in the former location of Dixie Kitchen.

The new restaurant, located at 825 Church St. in the Evanston Galleria building, was approved to open fall of last year, said Evanston economic development official Paul Zalmezak and is set to open June 1.

James Allen Lohse, one of Old Dixie Cafe’s contractors, said he knew Dixie Kitchen was a missed institution in the community, and wanted to establish an innovative business that still provided southern-style food to downtown Evanston.

“It’s a low-country feeling but an Illinois restaurant,” Lohse said. “We’re trying to put together an Evanston restaurant that makes everyone feel like we’re paying homage to those flavors, but really, we just want to be making good food for good people.”

Lohse said the goal of renovations wasn’t just to improve the physical accommodations of the restaurant but to expand on what Dixie Kitchen brought to Evanston.

“We wanted to maintain something that was in the same vein, except now we’re doing everything from scratch,” he said. “We aren’t the previous incarnation of the space. We’re trying to put forward a different version of it but the same style of food.”

The previous restaurant was one of three in a chain started in of Hyde Park, which became famous for serving then-Sen. Barack Obama. The Evanston restaurant closed last fall and the space has since been left vacant. Although the Hyde Park restaurant also closed, the location in Lansing, Illinois, is still in business under new ownership.

Zalmezak said he knows the owners have been thorough in renovating the property and updating the restaurant, but that Old Dixie Cafe will fill the hole that Dixie Kitchen left behind in the community.

“The new owners did an extensive cleanup of the property — same feel but more modernized,” Zalmezak said. “They freshened it up, streamlined the menu, but the spirit will remain.”

According to a report from the city manager’s office, the business was approved to operate in February and is currently in the process of acquiring a liquor license from the city, which is slated in the consent agenda for approval at the next City Council meeting on May 23.

Lohse said the building’s owner wanted to support Old Dixie Cafe occupying Dixie Kitchen’s space because it was a chance to improve on what the old restaurant was doing.

“The owner said, let’s just try to improve what was already going on in these two restaurant spaces,” Lohse said. “We’re trying to bring something great to Church Street.”

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Twitter: @robinlopsahl