Evanston Farmers’ Market opens season with spring produce and seven new vendors


Cole Reynolds/The Daily Northwestern

The Evanston Farmers’ Market opened its 2023 season Saturday. It added seven new vendors, including Mima’s Toast Bar.

Cole Reynolds, Assistant City Editor

The pop-jazz fusion music of Chicago-based band ~Nois echoing through the 1800 Maple Self Park last weekend could only mean one thing: The Downtown Evanston Farmers’ Market was back.

Saturday marked opening day for the weekly market, which had been on its seasonal hiatus since November. Over 50 vendors open shop at 7 a.m., though drizzly weather limited the initial turnout.

But as skies lightened and the rain dissipated, the crowd arrived, according to Chris Dudlak (Weinberg ’87), the manager and farmers’ market vendor of Evanston-based Old Town Oil. Once that happened, Dudlak said the products started to fly from the shelves.

Dudlak claimed her spot at the market, the one Old Town Oil has had since the COVID-19 pandemic, flanked by Great Harvest Bread Co. and El Molcajete Sauces. She said she enjoys seeing vendors return year after year. And many of the customers, she said, are regulars too.

“It’s a very faithful farmers’ market crowd, I’ve noticed,” Dudlak said.

Evanston resident and SESP Senior Advisor Christin Glodek said she’s been going to the market sporadically for 20 years. The root vegetables and aged cheddar cheese piqued her interest on Saturday, she said.

Saturday felt like a reunion of sorts for Myra Gorman, the farmers’ market manager. She said she enjoyed seeing familiar trucks roll into the parking lot before the market opened.

“When the vendors start pulling in, there’s a lot of hugs,” Gorman said. “I mean, we are one big family.”

While the majority of the stands are returning, the market also welcomed seven new stands this year.

They include Mima’s Toast Bar, WillPOWER Your Day, Inc., Green Cuisine, Insanely Awesome Bakery, LeMaster Family Kitchen, Kikwetu Coffee Company and Gracie Pie Apothecary.

To decide which seven would earn slots, all new vendors went through two rounds of tasting: one with the farmers’ market staff and another with a not-for-profit board, according to Gorman. For the first time in her 12-year tenure as market manager, she said, one prospective vendor — Mima’s Toast Bar — received every single first-place vote from tasters.

“In the past, everybody has voted differently. And then I just kind of average up all the points,” Goman said. “But I didn’t have to worry about averaging their points because all of their points were first place.”

The toast bar prepares avocado toast, grilled cheese and other toasted foods. During testing, Gorman said, founder Ramona Smith fried up grilled cheeses in a lower level of the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center while the tasters sampled her products above. Gorman said she was impressed with the simplicity of the Mima’s menu, especially kid-friendly items like toast and jam.

Mima’s started three years ago in a back kitchen at Katich Breads, Smith said. Dusan Katic, the Katich’s head baker, asked Smith to make avocado toast one day during the pandemic, and she’s been making it with Katich bread ever since. She expanded to Evanston this year at Katic’s urging. “Evanston’s going to make you famous,” Smith remembers Katic telling her.

Smith calls the stand her “retirement gig.” A teacher, Smith said a few of her former students now flip the toasts on the Mima’s flat top grill. 

The avocado toasts in particular, she said, were fan favorites on Saturday. One customer broke out dancing after their first bite, according to Smith, and other vendors have been receptive to her as well.

“(The Evanston market) is so diverse. That’s what I love about it,” Smith said. “You feel like everybody is welcome.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @charcole27

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