Hot from the Oven: Putting Blind Faith into plant-based food

Shveta Shah



This photo-audio story is a part of the Hot from the Oven series, a profile on local Evanston eateries to get a glimpse behind-the-scenes of their staff, clientele and history.

Blind Faith Cafe is a vegetarian restaurant that opened back in 1979. Founder and owner David Lipschutz talks about how the idea for a fully vegetarian restaurant came about, the concept of “whole food,” and how his business thrived despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

SHVETA SHAH: When you enter Blind Faith Cafe, you’ll immediately feel at home. The aroma of flavorful spices and seasonings fills the air and freshly baked pastries gleam in the glass cases of the bakery. People of all kinds fill in the tables and indulge in delicious food.

SHVETA SHAH: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Shveta Shah. This is Hot from the Oven, a limited podcast and photo series highlighting local restaurants and bakeries in Evanston. Today, we’re taking you to Blind Faith Cafe on Dempster Street. As a proud vegetarian, Blind Faith Cafe was one of the first places I went to with my parents after moving into my college dorm, and it’s known for being a popular spot for vegetarian families. The restaurant opened more than 42 years ago, but has survived the pandemic and remains one of Evanston’s most beloved plant-based restaurants.

DAVID LIPSCHUTZ: Blind Faith Cafe. It’s fresh, wholesome food. We’re part of the foundation of Dempster Street and Evanston.

SHVETA SHAH: That was David Lipschutz, owner and founder of Blind Faith Cafe. Running a business during the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t easy. But David is quite seasoned in the restaurant industry. I sat down with him to talk about Blind Faith, being vegetarian and the importance of fresh food.

DAVID LIPSCHUTZ: Blind Faith Cafe opened in 1979. And we’ve been here ever since, adding the bakery and kind of expanding into what you see now.

SHVETA SHAH: One of the things that makes Blind Faith so unique is its fully vegetarian menu. David said he was inspired to create a vegetarian restaurant because of his own lifestyle and values.

DAVID LIPSCHUTZ: I was a vegetarian. Back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, there was really nothing else like that going on. It was a reflection of what my lifestyle was and what I wanted to offer to the community.

SHVETA SHAH: To this day, David doesn’t eat meat. Vegetarianism is becoming more and more common — but that wasn’t always the case.

DAVID LIPSCHUTZ: It’s probably bigger and more commercially viable now today than it has been in 40 years in terms of people’s understanding of the relationship between diet and the environment and health and well-being.

SHVETA SHAH: David said his restaurant is helping people start conversations about how their food choices impact the environment.

DAVID LIPSCHUTZ: Most people don’t have the influence to impact things on a large scale. But one of the primary things you have control over is what you put in your mouth. I think it’s intangible because I don’t go around saying, “improve your community, save your environment, eat healthy at my restaurant.” It’s implicit to some degree.

SHVETA SHAH: Vegetarianism isn’t the only part of Blind Faith’s brand. David also prides himself on providing fresh food at his restaurant.

DAVID LIPSCHUTZ: We do all our own pastry. We do all our own breads. We bake everything right here fresh in the premises. My original tagline for Blind Faith Cafe was, “Evanston’s natural alternative for fresh whole foods.” I think that’s a good way to express it.

SHVETA SHAH: The restaurant also has a warm, homey atmosphere, which David thinks helps attract customers.

DAVID LIPSCHUTZ: I think people are just looking for good, fresh, homemade food in a comfortable environment. It’s harder and harder to find owner-operated restaurants.

SHVETA SHAH: What’s David’s favorite dish on the menu? He couldn’t seem to pick just one.

DAVID LIPSCHUTZ: It’s a toss up between the bibimbap rice bowl and the Thai peanut noodles. And the tiramisu.

SHVETA SHAH: David said one of the toughest parts of owning a restaurant is figuring out how to keep a steady flow of customers. This became especially difficult at the start of the pandemic, when Blind Faith had to shift its business model.

DAVID LIPSCHUTZ: Our model pre-COVID was 80% of our revenue was dine-in. 20% was carry-out and delivery. Now we’re doing 50-60% of our sales carry-out and delivery, which is a whole different kind of set of muscles when a restaurant is set up to do dine-in service.

SHVETA SHAH: Evanston recently issued a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for restaurants. Since then, David said dine-in has started to pick up again, along with takeout orders.

DAVID LIPSCHUTZ: You’ll have Friday nights or Saturday nights where it’s really busy in the dining room. And we’re still doing a lot of carry-out and delivery. The mix of carry-out and delivery versus dine-in was significantly different.

SHVETA SHAH: However, David never fully closed indoor dining at Blind Faith, a decision that he believes paid off. The restaurant’s sales in 2021 were on par with its 2019 sales.

DAVID LIPSCHUTZ: I made a decision to keep my dining room open. I wanted to keep my staff working. I wanted to keep everyone in the habit of coming in, and we’ve never closed the restaurant ever during COVID.

SHVETA SHAH: I asked him how people can continue supporting local restaurants.

DAVID LIPSCHUTZ: It’s as simple as voting with your pocketbook — supporting local businesses, tipping generously to the staff.

SHVETA SHAH: For any food lovers, vegetarian or not, David said trying Blind Faith is a must.

DAVID LIPSCHUTZ: If you haven’t been here and you haven’t tried our vegan chocolate cake or tiramisu, you just don’t know what you’re missing.

SHVETA SHAH: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Shveta Shah. Thank you for listening to another episode of Hot from the Oven. This episode was reported and produced by me. The audio editor of The Daily Northwestern is Will Clark, the digital managing editor is Jordan Mangi and the editor in chief is Isabelle Sarraf. Make sure to subscribe to The Daily Northwestern’s podcasts on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or SoundCloud to hear more episodes like this.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @shvetashah17

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