Since opening at Harper Court two weeks ago, vegan restaurant Native Foods Café has gotten a welcome reception from Hyde Park, with sales about 20 percent stronger than expected, according to one of the restaurant's owners.
“Our first two weeks have been great, which we didn’t expect since (University of Chicago) students are on spring break,” said Andrea McGinty, co-owner of the Chicago-based restaurant chain.
McGinty said the eatery at 1518 E. Harper Court is seeing a “very high level of takeouts” driven by dinner orders. However, in recent days, more customers have been stopping in for lunch and dining in.
Native Foods’ menu is 100 percent plant-based, includes gluten-free options, and is updated seasonally. Best-selling menu items in Hyde Park so far include the “Rockin’ Morracan Bowl,” “Native Nachos,” and “Native Chicken,” according to McGinty. The restaurant also features “Native Community Days” twice a month, where sales proceeds go to support local non-profit organizations that focus on animal rescue, educating kids about obesity, or community gardens.
“A lot of people were ready for a place like this,” said Jose Perez, a manager at the location. He added that many Hyde Park customers had previously frequented the Native Foods location in the Loop, where he was an assistant manager before the Hyde Park outlet opened on March 11.
The new restaurant is on the first level of the Harper Court complex, just south of the Hyatt Place hotel. Perez notes that the address is on a new street that was created as part of the redevelopment of Harper Court, so some people have had trouble finding it and it does not show up on GPS systems. He advises people who call to use the intersection of 53rd and Lake Park Avenue for navigation.
To draw customers, restaurant employees have been visiting other businesses on 53rd Street and giving away gift cards for $5 to $10. Current gift cards are good through March 31.
Starting in April, the restaurant will have two new offerings that it hopes will bring in even more customers. Customers interested in recreating the restaurant’s meals will be able to purchase a new cookbook called Native Foods Celebration Cookbook at the location. And on April 11, 12 and 13, the store will offer a new special menu item, the Crispy Avocado Crunch Wrap, which features avocado battered in coconut. The dish will be available for only three days and is part of a monthly promotion of special meals.
Native Foods is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.