Madison Smith/Daily Senior Staffer
Just seven weeks after Comida Cantina opened in January 2020, COVID-19 shut down the restaurant’s dining room.
Comida is a Central St. restaurant and bar specializing in Mexican and Latin American-inspired cuisine. During the pandemic, the restaurant made a variety of adjustments and recently launched a partnership with Northwestern’s Wildcard Advantage Discounts program.
“Our goal is good-quality food, moderate prices so you can bring the whole family out (and) a bit of a nicer atmosphere so you could do a date night or a celebratory dinner,” Jamie Chrobak, Comida’s catering and events coordinator, said.
Chrobak said Comida originally established its business around a dine-in experience. Its space was set up to feature a “neighborhood vibe,” and dishes were smaller in order to encourage sharing.
After closing indoor dining, executive chef Greg Carter said Comida added carry out options including family meals, tacos and enchiladas.
“We had to formulate the entire menu to be to-go and think about what dishes travel well, what doesn’t travel well and then create a menu of dishes that people understood,” Carter said. “At first, I think people wanted comfort food, they wanted things that they recognize and things that made them feel good because everyone was kind of afraid.”
Despite significant menu modifications and other challenges posed by COVID-19, Carter said he is remaining hopeful and is looking forward to sharing more creative dishes. He said he wants Comida to be a place people can regularly visit and enjoy.
Carter worked with Latin American chefs and tasted many cultural dishes as he researched for his menu. He said he tries to not only provide familiar dishes, but also expose customers to new cuisines and authentic street food. Revising the menu keeps Carter entertained, he said.
“For me, a lot of times, by the time I put a menu together and test it, I get bored of it,” Carter said. “I want to keep being inspired (and) keep being creative.”
To branch out to the NU community, Comida joined the Wildcard Advantage Discount this year; they now offer a 10% discount for Wildcard holders. Comida has also catered for NU, providing food for media outlets covering the University’s basketball games, Chrobak said.
Carter said he wants to start inviting Bienen students to perform at Comida as a way to give back to NU students and add more ambiance in the restaurant. Establishing a relationship with NU is even more personal for owner Fred Gale (McCormick ’92).
“I went to NU, so there’s certainly some Wildcat pride there,” Gale said. “Part of (the partnerships with NU) were about wanting to sponsor the sports teams, but (we) also gain visibility for our restaurant.”
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— Open Tab: Comida Cantina offers flavorful food, wherever you eat it
— Restaurant Revitalization Fund to replace lost pandemic revenue through 2023