Mensch’s pop-up deli opens in Evanston


Kunjal Bastola/The Daily Northwestern

The Mensch’s pop-up menu features a variety of bagels, including this avocado bagel with tomato and everything seasoning on top.

Kunjal Bastola, Reporter

As kids in Wilmette, Jack DeMar, Eric Kogan and Kiki Eliopoulos always dreamed of collaborating on a business. 

Mensch’s, a Jewish-style pop-up deli in Evanston, is that dream come true. 

“We actually all grew up together,” Kogan said. “We’ve known each other for 20-plus years at this point, and we’ve always been talking about a way to work together.”

The three grew up eating Jewish food and found themselves traveling quite far to find a deli that had the classic Jewish-style dishes they wanted. They also said the Jewish population within Northwestern and Evanston was a big factor in deciding to open up Mensch’s on Chicago Ave.  

“Being Jewish is a large part of my life, culturally speaking,” Kogan said. “We’ve been exploring this way of how we can bring that type of food to the community, and it feels like Evanston was a great place to do it.”

More recently, a trip to New York invigorated that desire to bring Jewish culture to the Evanston community. There, they visited 15 delis in the span of three days, making sure to try out various types of bagels that could inspire their own deli, DeMar said.  

The pop-up, located inside Evanston restaurant Picnic, opened April 15 and runs every weekend through June 11. 

The menu offers both sweet and savory bagels, as well as coffee and orange juice. Eliopoulos, who runs the catering business Kiki Bakes Pies, also makes pastries, including babka and carrot cake. 

“Getting feedback from people, it’s been really good,” Eliopoulos said. “I’ll be switching up the pastries throughout the pop-up while we’re doing it the next couple of months and seeing what is the most popular.” 

So far, she said, the chocolate babka is a hit. 

The trio chose to introduce Mensch’s to Evanston as a pop-up to incorporate a more interactive style of testing a new market. During the next few months, they hope to garner feedback from patrons. 

“Why wait till we have brick and mortar to get bagels to the people?” DeMar said. 

The bagels are sourced from the New York Bagel and Bialy Corporation in Skokie, a bagel shop the trio would frequent as children. Working with it is a “full-circle moment,” Eliopoulos said.

While the menu for the pop-up is currently limited to bagels and pastries, the co-founders hope to expand to classic deli sandwiches and Jewish staples like matzo ball soup and latkes by the time the Mensch’s storefront opens up. 

With lines out the door during the first weekend of the pop-up, Mensch’s has already attracted many NU students and Evanston residents alike. Many students flocked to Picnic to grab a New York-style bagel. 

“It was definitely worth waking up for,” said Medill freshman Erin Lee, who woke up early to get to Mensch’s at the 10 a.m. open time. 

Seeing the huge turnout was a highlight for the trio. 

With the pop-up open for another seven weekends, students and community members still have time to check out Mensch’s and indulge in a bagel, a cup of joe or a baked good. 

“It was good to confirm that people do indeed like bagels,” said Kogan. 

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Twitter: @kunjal_bastola

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