Prairie Moon restaurant to close in preparation for relocation


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Prairie Moon, 1502 Sherman Ave. The restaurant will close its doors April 15 to move to a new location.

Catherine Henderson, Assistant City Editor

Restaurant and bar Prairie Moon will close its doors later this month and reopen at a new location in May in preparation for the Albion development, a planned 15-story apartment building in downtown Evanston.

Owner Robert Strom said the restaurant, 1502 Sherman Ave., will close April 15, 16 years to the day since it opened. Strom will open a new location in May as well as a different restaurant concept at Prairie Moon’s current location once the development finishes.

Evanston economic development manager Paul Zalmezak said Prairie Moon is a staple of the Evanston community.

“They were one of the original American restaurants that had craft beer on the line,” Zalmezak said. “That’s kind of common now but they were one of the first. I’m hoping they’ll reinvent and again be cutting-edge but maintain that original feel that people have grown to like.”

Aldermen approved the controversial Albion project in November. The new 15-story building is proposed to include 273 residential units, 6,800 square feet of commercial space and 200 parking spots. It will be erected on the lot formerly occupied by Tommy Nevin’s Pub and Prairie Moon.

Zalmezak said the development was necessary to provide residential density to support local businesses. He said the apartment complex is in a prime location, and he hopes residents will take advantage of the amenities downtown Evanston has to offer.

Strom said the development was a chance for Prairie Moon to grow with more kitchen space and to create a new restaurant at the old location. He added that he grew up in Evanston, and emphasized his connection to the community.

“I love Evanston,” Strom said. “(Prairie Moon is) locally owned and operated, and we’ve been a home for not just Northwestern, but obviously we’ve been a home for Evanston residents.”

Strom has seen the Evanston restaurant market change over his 30 years in the industry. He said when he started, there were few restaurants in Evanston, after it had been a dry city until 1972. Prairie Moon was the 13th liquor license issued in the city, he said. Today, there are more than 150.

Scott Anderson, marketing manager for Prairie Moon, said Strom emphasized holding onto his staff in the move, and most employees plan to join him at the new location. Anderson said most of the staff are NU students and Evanston residents.

“Prairie Moon has been a part of the fabric of Evanston and Northwestern for 16 years,” Anderson said. “The ownership lives in Evanston, grew up in Evanston. It’s an amazing part of the Evanston restaurant scene.”

Anderson said the restaurant would celebrate their last weekend with an “E-town get down” next Friday. With DJs, dancing and the “best of Prairie Moon,” he said it would be a party to celebrate the restaurant’s greatest hits.

Looking to the future, Strom said he was hopeful about the new location, though he could not reveal the address until the lease is confirmed. He said it would be closer to NU in downtown Evanston.

“So much of a restaurant is emotional. People want a good vibe,” Strom said. “They want to feel that they’re a part of something. The biggest challenge is to trying to retain the staff, retain the feel, the vibe, the continuity, to be able to grow into new areas.”

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