Local women-owned bakery Hewn named among best bakeries in America


Angeli Mittal/Daily Senior Staffer

Hewn Bakery on 1733 Central St. Co-owners Ellen King and Julie Matthei opened the bakery in 2013.

Kara Peeler, Assistant Copy Editor

Ellen King, a classically-trained chef, was selling bread out of her own kitchen in an “underground bread club” for years. Her partner, Julie Matthei, saw the potential to expand.

And so they did: co-owners King and Matthei opened Hewn in June 2013. Through polar vortexes and the pandemic, the independent bakery has stayed in business, providing bread and other baked goods to the Evanston community. In January, Food & Wine Magazine said Hewn makes the best bread in Illinois, calling it “the region’s most inspiring.” 

Last year, the magazine named Hewn as one of the 100 Best Bakeries in the U.S. Wine Magazine. Hewn has also been named one of the best bread bakeries by Food Network and one of the best Chicago bakeries by Thrillist. 

“It’s always an honor to be mentioned among other really great bakeries throughout the country and in the state,” Matthei said. “It’s a testament to the hard work our staff does every day.”

With a rotating bread schedule, Hewn offers different selections daily, such as their blonde country loaf or their “Evanston Red” bread.  It also offers pastries and other desserts. Matthei said her favorite is the chocolate chip cookies.

Maggie Coyne,an Evanston resident and middle school English teacher, said she enjoys supporting local, female-owned businesses — and she thinks other residents do too.

“It’s great that a local bakery is honored, I think it’s good for Evanston,” Coyne said. “We’re trying to put money into businesses that we want to make sure stick around.” 

The bakery was formerly located on Dempster Street and moved to a larger location on 1733 Central St. in 2020. Matthei said Hewn’s new location draws more people from suburbs outside of Evanston than their last site did. 

Lia Wallfish, a second-year theatre graduate student, is a  Hewn regular. 

“I love going there because all of their stuff is super fresh and they use really great ingredients,” said Wallfish.

Walking in, customers can see that Hewn uses crafted or repurposed materials and furnishings, and the kitchen door’s wood paneling is sourced from old Michigan cypress pickle barrels. Wallfish said the bakery looks rustic and feels homey and warm.

Hewn prioritizes quality locally-sourced ingredients like organic flour and grains. Bakers also refrain from using commercial yeast, preservatives, chemicals and additives. 

Matthei said Hewn has wholesale partners in Evanston, Chicago and some Northern Chicago suburbs. Their largest client is Sweetgreen, a national salad restaurant chain, who stocks their products in all  Chicago area locations.  

Beyond business collaborations, Matthei said Hewn also aims to connect with the community. 

Hewn participates in the Neighbor Loaves program, a local organization started in Chicago that aims to support sustainable farmers and bakers. It also donates to local soup kitchens. 

Matthei said seeing customer reactions has been a highlight of her work. She recalled receiving a note from a customer who called Hewn her “happy place” and a child who did a happy dance because whoopie pies were in stock. 

“We want to create good food for ourselves, for the people in the area, as well as creating something real and authentic for the community,” Matthei said. 

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated Hewn’s current and former addresses. The Daily regrets the error.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @karapeeler

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