Alcove Evanston rebrands after over 20 years as Chef’s Station


Courtesy of Alcove Evanston

Alcove Evanstons serves customers indoors and on its outdoor patio. Its menu features upscale American cuisine.

Zoe Malin, Reporter

Rebranding a restaurant during the pandemic hasn’t been easy, said Michael Wathen, general manager of Alcove Evanston.

After deciding to create a new identity for what had been Chef’s Station since 1997, the restaurant closed in mid-February to begin renovations. Much to Wathen’s surprise, about six weeks later, the pandemic forced businesses across the Chicagoland area to close their doors for months.

“Everything was really up in the air for a while,” Wathen said. “But we continued construction throughout the pandemic, and since we’ve opened, guests have been very supportive.”

Alcove, located at 1625 Maple Ave., has been open since June, allowing guests to dine indoors and on its outdoor patio. The most noticeable change to the restaurant is its decor, Wathen said.

Chef Elio Romero purchased the restaurant from the original owner six years ago. He and Wathen have since wanted to renovate its traditional-looking interior. Now, Wathen said Alcove has a contemporary feel complete with hardwood floors, new furniture, artwork and lighting.

As for the menu, Wathen said it is very similar to that of Chef’s Station, which longtime customers are happy about. He said diners wanted a new look for the restaurant, but not a new take on the food. Romero crafted the menu around upscale American cuisine, featuring dishes like lamb meatballs, halibut and foie gras. Alcove is also one of the only restaurants on the North Shore to offer dessert soufflés, Wathen said.

Annie Coakley, executive director of Downtown Evanston, said she’s thrilled because of how well customers have responded to Alcove’s rebrand. Years ago, Chef Romero spoke to her about his desire to make the restaurant his own. Coakley said he has successfully done so with Alcove, between additions to the menu and cosmetic changes to the space.

“What Alcove added through its renovations will help them survive this craziness,” Coakley said. “It’s going to be tough for all restaurants, but these business owners are smart, and they know how to adapt.”

Dawn Tschiltsch Borchardt, an Evanston resident, visited Alcove with her husband when it reopened this summer.

The couple had previously dined at Chef’s Station, and were pleased to find that their favorite menu items – meatloaf and duck – are still being served. Borchardt said she’s happy to support local restaurants like Alcove during the pandemic.

“It was so nice to sit outside and have a great meal,” Borchardt said. “Restaurants have really stepped up to make customers feel comfortable.”

To prepare for the colder months ahead, Alcove is putting up a tent on the patio with heat lamps. Wathen said he hopes this extends the outdoor dining season, which has been very popular.

Overall, as the restaurant industry adjusts to a “new normal” with tables spaced six feet apart and uniforms featuring face masks, Wathen said he is excited to welcome guests to Alcove.

“We’re looking forward to the future, and we’re quite optimistic,” Wathen said. “Despite the ongoing pandemic, I’m anticipating a very busy restaurant.”

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