Libertyville restaurateurs to debut pop-up venture
The brothers who opened Chrissoulas restaurant in downtown Libertyville just over two years ago plan to debut a pop-up project Thursday.
Expansion has been on Nick and Theo Dimitriou's to-do list for awhile. But the timing and nature of West Side Ramen represents another resourceful twist as businesses continue to navigate the coronavirus pandemic.
Traditional Japanese bowls and appetizers will be prepared in Chrissoulas' kitchen but it will be a separate operation, according to Nick Dimitriou.
"We're marketing it as a completely new restaurant," he said. "Everything is different about this. The only thing it will share is the building."
Chrissoulas continues and will reopen for in-house diners when restrictions are lifted. Meanwhile, the new venture will provide a different takeout option for customers and allow for nearly full pre-pandemic staffing, Dimitriou said.
He said Chrissoulas' carryout business has been going "pretty well" but the ban on seating guests has provided the time and inclination to proceed the pop-up project. In a sense, Dimitriou said, the pandemic allowed them to try a concept they likely would not have pursued at this time.
"I would say this is the most unique 'pivot' we've seen by a downtown restaurant to date," said Jennifer Johnson, executive director of MainStreet Libertyville, a revitalization/promotional group.
"But that's not to say we haven't already seen restaurant owners innovate in downtown Libertyville," she added.
In addition to outdoor dining and heated patios and tents, for example, restaurants are offering dinners to-go, meal kits and boxed lunch services among other innovations.
Across the street from Chrissoulas, for example, Liz Turnbaugh's My charCUTErie, has been going great guns since opening in October.
"We're looking at another location because we're already outgrowing our space," said Turnbaugh, a Libertyville native.
Turnbaugh said she declined to move to Kentucky for her corporate job and took her side business from her kitchen to a storefront on Milwaukee Avenue.
Charcuterie, she explained, is an arrangement of meats, cheeses and spreads. Turnbaugh has been creating them for special events, such as birthdays and anniversaries, but can beef up the menu, so to speak. She also offers online classes and products.
"People still are going to want to celebrate life's moments even if they can't get together in big groups and gatherings," she said. "It took off so fast."
Meanwhile, Dimitriou said the established online presence for Chrissoulas has accelerated interest in West Side Raman.
"The feedback we've been getting so far has been pretty incredible," he said.
Johnson said continued restrictions on indoor dining do not bode well during a traditionally slow time for restaurant owners, and hurts foot traffic for other shops.
All businesses need a continuous revenue stream in January and February to see them through the crisis, she added, and urged the community to order take out, buy gift cards or donate restaurant meals to shut-ins or shelter residents.