Downtown Skokie Dine-Around Feeds 400 Foodies
Brisk autumn weather couldn't keep away the 400 participants in Downtown Skokie's lunchtime restaurant hop.
It would be easy to assume a group of chefs were on a Halloween tour of Skokie yesterday afternoon as people all along Oakton street sported black aprons and bright orange bags. More than 400 people followed a trail of colorful balloons and live music for the first Downtown Skokie Dine-Around.
"Originally, we hoped to get two hundred people," said Ann Tennes Director of Marketing and Communications for the Village of Skokie. "The response has been incredible. Over 400 people registered. We never imagined we'd have to put a cap on it."
"We still have walkups today," said Johnnice Chew, one of the event staff who handed out wristbands and gift bags. "People love it."
The Downtown Skokie Dine-Around was created to introduce people who live and work in downtown Skokie to more local restaurants. A trolley hop linked nine nearby restaurants to places such as the Illinois Science and Technology Park, village hall, and Oakton Community College. The restaurants gave out free food samples to 400 people in a four-hour span. Participants also received a free commemorative apron, take-out menus for each restaurant, and a chance to win an iPod Touch or one of eight $25 restaurant gift cards.
Susan Mohan, one of the hostess for the event said, "It's good for both the restaurants and the residents. Sweetie Pies moved and wanted to make people aware of their new location. Subway has breakfast sandwiches and is now open at 7 a.m. Most people don't know that. It's not just to spark interest in local business but to give people information they might not have known."
The varied offerings reflected the diversity of downtown Skokie's resturant scene. Subway, the only chain restaurant, offered breakfast sandwiches. De-Jred Fine Jamacian offered jerk chicken, the venerable Pat's Place offered their signature milkshakes, Yolo Mexican had chicken mole tacos, Tub Tim Thai provided eggrolls and curry chicken, but the most impressive offering came from Annie's Pancake House, which had an entire buffet spread with offerings ranging from dripping beef sandwiches, to pancakes topped with fried apples, to their breakfast bake casserole.
Over at Sweetie Pies, owner Dana Kruger said she was thrilled the Village of Skokie organized this event. "We'd talked about doing something like this with the trolleys and different restaurants - like a grub crawl - with the Independent Merchants of Downtown Skokie. Then the village proposed this idea and we said it's perfect. The Village set up the trolleys and they're willing and able to make it run a little bit smoother. Sweetie Pies has been in this location for a year and we were down the block for two years, but we get new customers every day - like a lot of these people. Getting food in people's mouths is the best way to let people know what we're all about."
Kruger said she's proud of downtown Skokie's budding foodie community. "In the last three years we've seen a lot of growth. It reflects Skokie's diversity. We have Yolo Mexican around the corner, De-Jred, the Jamacian place, Tub Tim Thai - and that's just in a couple of blocks. We're proud to be the bakery in this area."
When asked whether there will be another Skokie Dine Around, the exhausted Ann Tennis laughed and said, "Ask me Thursday."