Wandering Cafe brings mobile, locally-sourced street food to Evanston

The+Wandering+Cafe+cart+is+still+serving+during+the+pandemic.+Customers+can+order+meals+throughout+the+week%2C+then+pick+them+up+on+Saturdays+in+front+of+Temperance+Beer+Co.

Photo courtesy of Molly Laatsch

The Wandering Cafe cart is still serving during the pandemic. Customers can order meals throughout the week, then pick them up on Saturdays in front of Temperance Beer Co.

Sam Lebeck, Reporter

A sustainable take on street food is pedaling to a corner near you. The Wandering Cafe, Evanston’s first licensed food bike, is working to support local farms and maintain a low carbon footprint with seasonal menu options.

Evanston residents Molly Laatsch and Daniel Trujillo (Weinberg ’17) founded the fully-mobile Wandering Cafe in early 2020 to provide the city with sustainable street food. In the midst of both the pandemic and a Chicago winter, they have turned their attention to pick-up orders.

Trujillo, a California native, was inspired by food trucks on the west coast and Northwestern’s own Brewbike to create the cafe with Laatsch, a Midwest native and private chef.

The cafe is unconventional compared to other brick-and-mortar restaurants in the Evanston area, but both Trujillo and Laatsch said a mobile business allows them to focus on environmental goals.

Laatsch said the pair wanted to provide street food in a more eco-friendly and accessible way than a food truck could provide. She said Trujilo did a lot of research on bike cafes and when he pitched the idea to her, she was all in.

Laatsch and Trujillo stressed the importance of community support — the cafe sources a majority of its ingredients from local businesses like Village Farmstand and smaller farms in the area. Laatsch emphasized that now is a great time to work on a local level and help boost community businesses and products.

“We’ve also had the fortunate circumstances that Evanston has really been a community that has looked back within the community to see like . . , what can I do to support the people that are my neighbors?” Laatsch said. “We’ve definitely seen a lot of people coming out in that spirit of ‘You’re our neighbor, we’re your neighbor, we want to support you, and we want to try your food as well.’”

Customers can pre-order items from a rotating seasonal menu throughout the week and pick up their orders outside Temperance Beer Co. The pick-up process, which takes place on Saturdays, follows social distancing guidelines and is mostly contactless.

Evanston residents like Ande Breunig expressed support for the cafe’s partnership with Temperance Beer Co., emphasizing the importance of shopping within the community.

“The fact that (Molly) has her customers pick up at Temperance gives people kind of an idea of, ‘Oh wait, this is another place that I can patronize that they might not have known about,’” Breunig said. “It’s great intra-marketing.”

Like most businesses owners weathering COVID-19, Laatsch and Trujillo plan to adapt to changes on a month-by-month basis. However, their long-term goal is widening the reach of the cafe throughout Evanston.

Trujillo said continuing collaboration with local businesses is important to the Wandering Cafe’s plans to expand.

“That’s something that we see moving forward as wanting to be the most mobile and accessible food vendor in Evanston.”

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Twitter: @sam_lebeck

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