A new restaurant called the Eating Hub is developing a following at the recently renovated Hawley Lake Plaza in Mundelein.
With a menu featuring salads, paninis, pizza and other dishes, the Eating Hub celebrated its grand opening at 404 Lake St. last week. It has been serving customers since a soft opening in March.
The Eating Hub joins In and Out BBQ, the Family Fishery and a Subway as the dining options in the shopping center, which is on the northwest corner of Hawley Street and Route 45. In and Out is fairly new, too, having opened last summer.
"People now have some variety (here)," said ChiChi Nnyamah, a manager at the Eating Hub.
And more choices are on the way.
A deli called Lucky Bernie's is coming to the center and should open in about three months, Village Administrator John Lobaito said.
The restaurants are part of an economic resurgence at Hawley Lake Plaza, which once was anchored by a Walgreens store until that retail giant relocated in 2001 to the southeast corner of Hawley and Route 45.
A yearlong renovation of the shopping center was completed in 2016. The project included the construction of a new facade and a repaved parking lot.
The work was partially funded with taxpayer dollars through a tax-sharing deal between village hall and the center's owner, TH Commercial Services of Chicago.
As part of the deal, the company will receive a percentage of the sales tax revenue the businesses in the plaza generate. It also will receive a percentage of the center's property tax revenue.
Lobaito said it's rewarding to see the village's efforts pay off.
"Hawley Lake Plaza is becoming a small enclave of unique restaurants in downtown Mundelein," he said. "It is another example of the partnerships the village has forged with the business community to build a stronger community."
The Eating Hub opened in a storefront that had been vacant since a restaurant there closed in the 1990s, Lobaito said.
Nnyamah boasted of the Eating Hub's fresh, homestyle cooking and the staff's refusal to use sugar or monosodium glutamate as ingredients. Honey is used as a sweetener instead.
The Eating Hub's dishes, Nnyamah said, are "healthy but still flavorful."
Entrees include rotisserie herb chicken and lemon pepper tilapia. Side items include corn, rice and chives and a homemade tomato sauce.
The restaurant's signature dishes, however, are its empanadas -- hot pastries stuffed with chicken, fish, turkey or vegetables. They're served individually or by the dozen or half-dozen.
"The fish and chicken ones are my favorite so far," said customer Nikk Strandbergo, of Mundelein.
Outgoing Mundelein Trustee Holly Kim is a fan, too.
"It's not just fast nibbles," Kim said. "It's a ma and pa experience you can feel good supporting."
The Eating Hub is open Mondays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. It's closed Sundays.
The Eating Hub hosts live jazz performances on Thursdays.
If the restaurant proves successful, the owners want to open additional locations, Nnyamah said.